DURHAM, N.C. – The seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball team overwhelmed the eighth-ranked Maryland Terrapins in an 84-63 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday.
Played as part of the Play4Kay initiative under a nationally-televised spotlight, the two teams met for the first and only time in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular-season play.
It was a game that the Blue Devils looked to use to rebound back from a tough 89-78 loss to the 11th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in Cameron a week earlier.
Guard Alexis Jones led all scorers with a season-tying 22 points, including a career-high five three pointers, to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
Forward Elizabeth Williams’ double-double performance (17 points, 11 rebounds) led the rest of the Blue Devils’ supporting cast of double-digit scorers that included Richa Jackson (19 points, 4 rebounds) and Tricia Liston (12 points, 5 rebounds)
Tipping off in the 80th game against Duke (23-3, 10-2) while riding a four-game win streak, Maryland, (20-5, 8-4) looked to earn its first win in Durham in six years, and a final one over the Blue Devils as a member of the conference.
Alyssa Thomas tallied her 20th double-double of the season (14 points, 12 points) along with eight assists in leading the Terrapins tenacious play at both ends of the court.
However, even with Lexie Brown (13 points, 2 assists) and Alicia DeVaughn (10 points, 8 rebounds) scoring points to keep within striking distance of Duke for the first 30 minutes, the Terrapins’ 32-percent shooting performance was eclipsed by Duke’s 53-percent work from the field.
“Obviously when you shoot the percentages that we did tonight and give up on both ends of the floor defensively, obviously we struggled,” Maryland head coach Brenda Freese said.
“I thought Duke was fantastic. I thought they showed a lot of character bouncing back and really shared the basketball and played with a lot of confidence, and made a lot of shots when they needed to.”
Also shooting 62 percent from beyond the arc, the Blue Devils held the Terrapins to a season low in shooting percentage and overall point total.
“Really proud of the team in our defensive effort,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“A great 40-minute effort for us defensively in all areas – that was fantastic.”
The start of the game was anything but graceful as both teams struggled to score and scrapped and jumped for shots, putbacks, and loose balls until Jackson dropped the first ball at 18:18.
From there, the each team converted opportunities and took advantage of turnovers to trade the lead back and forth up to eight times throughout the game.
With Maryland leading 27-26 with 5:13 to play, Duke put together a 12-4 run to end the half leading 38-31.
Williams led the Blue Devils defensively, making four steals and blocking 3 shots, while freshmen Oderah Chidom and Kendall McCravey-Cooper combined for nine rebounds and two blocks in addition to supporting the offense with a combined 11 points.
“They really did respond,” McCallie said of the rookie forwards.
“Oderah’s worked her way into a very special sixth-player role for us. When she goes in, she can go in for a variety of people and we kind of shift a little bit. She was very consistent, very confident out there. And I was really, really pleased with Kendall.”
With Liston sitting with three fouls following the first media timeout in the second half, Haley Peters converted on her first shot in two games – a long two that extended Duke’s lead to seven points, 46-39 with 15:23 to play.
Playing in her 100th career game, the senior added a free throw, three rebounds, a steal, and an assist to go along with praise from her coach on her defensive play against the Terps.
“I thought it was great to see Haley play multiple positions defensively,” McCallie said.
“She was an X-factor in the game. I know if you look at the stats you might overlook that, but she was absolutely critical in this game because of where she played and the timing of where she played.”
While Thomas worked to single-handedly keep the Terps close, Duke continued to keep its distance as back-to-back baskets from Liston and Williams kept the Blue Devils ahead 53-46 with 11:20 to play.
After Thomas hit a crucial three with Liston fronting her, the Duke guard matched it with a three of her own and started the Blue Devils on a 13-2 run that put the Terps into a deeper hole that they could never climb out of.
With Duke leading 66-52, every basket Maryland scored was matched by the Blue Devils.
Each team battled for the ball the same way they did at the start of the game with the only difference being that Duke was able to maintain its scoring consistency to eventually complete its 21-point margin of victory with an exclamation-mark three-pointer from Jones with one second remaining.
“We worked hard in practice this week,” Williams said of the team’s energy following the loss to North Carolina.
“We had a couple of days off, but also a couple of days to really go after it. I think one of the biggest things for us is to have fun and enjoy what we are doing. I think when we play hard on defense we have always been a solid defensive team. We just tried to relax and do what we do.”