Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
DURHAM, NC – The Duke Blue Devils dominated at both ends of the court, and outpaced the Iona Gaels 89-49 in opening-round play in the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
View: Highlights – Duke 89, Iona 49 (NCAA.com)
Cleaning up and then getting them to drop
The third-seeded Blue Devils in the Seattle 4 Regional, overwhelmed the 14th-seeded Gaels, shooting 59 percent from the field and dominating off the the glass by a 44-14 margin.
Led by 13 points each from Celeste Taylor and Elizabeth Balogun, coupled with 10 apiece from Kennedy Brown and Jordyn Oliver, Duke’s early 8-0 run caught Iona on its heels early.
“Obviously, I don’t think we got into a great offensive rhythm but that is a credit to them,” Gaels head coach Billi Chambers said.
“They are a phenomenal defensive team. They obviously scouted very well. They kept us off the three-point line and made it difficult for us to score the ball.”
Limiting opportunities like you know how to
Even while Iona’s Ketsia Athias posted 20 points, and 12 points from Juana Camilion kept the Gaels offense clicking at an acceptable 46 percent on less shot attempts, Duke’s dominance in transition in limiting only two Iona 3-pointers on 11 attempts and scoring 14 fast break points was too much.
Add to that, 25 second-chance points and 30 off turnovers, and the Blue Devils ended up topping more than 80 points for only the fourth time this season.
“You know, the defense throughout the year is something we put our hat to,” Oliver noted.
“We keep trying to get better and better, we knew coming in they were a good three-point shooting team. We knew that we would have to limit their three-point attempts to win the game. So we kept working on that.”
Duke head coach Kara Lawson added that her team has focused to work toward finishes like that throughout the season.
“I feel like most of the year we have generated quality transition opportunities,” Lawson said.
“We have just tried to work through the year to continue to get better at converting them. There have been some games where our conversion rate was very low. Just we have kept working on it. We have done transition work every day in practice. It was nice to see them have really good success in the transition game tonight. I thought a lot of people contributed. Ran the court hard. Passed ahead. Extra passes. Even down to the end of the game.”
Getting ready for the herd
Duke advanced to the Second Round and will face the No. 6 Colorado Buffaloes, 82-60 winners over No. 11 Middle Tennessee State in the day’s earlier game.
Duke and Colorado tip off in Cameron at 9 p.m. on Monday (Mar. 20).
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