DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 2 Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball team needed only five seconds to get its offense rolling in posting a 122-77 preseason victory over the visiting Glenville State College Pioneers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.
The tandem of guards Chelsea Gray (12 points, 14 assists, 4 steals) and Alexis Jones (20 points, 4 assists, 5 steals) along with work in inside from Elizabeth Williams (19 points, 15 rebounds) powered the Duke offense from the opening tip-off.
Even while putting up over a hundred points with six total players recording double-digit scoring totals, including Haley Peters (19 points, 4 assists, 5 steals), Tricia Liston (15 points, 2 assists,3 steals), and Richa Jackson (15 points, 2 steals), Duke’s focus on scoring overshadowed the defensive emphasis that head coach Joanne P. McCallie intended her team to work on during the game.
“I guess we should call that an offensive game,” McCallie stated.
“Glenville State played outstanding basketball without their leading scorer. If you add her points to 77, they’re in the 90’s – 95, 97 range. I would say kudos to them, they played their game, and nice opportunity for us to refocus ourselves, wake up a little bit, and understand the value of defense. We gave up 25 offensive rebounds to a team that’s five-eight, and we gave up 77 points to a team we shouldn’t have. So it’s great lessons for our team. We need a lot more defensive leadership on the court. It appears we like offense a lot.”
The Blue Devils quickly built up a 13-0 lead within the first two minutes of play and never looked back while the Pioneers ground out the remaining 38 minutes to keep the score as close as possible.
Duke was bigger and faster during the first half and caught Glenville State off guard, quickly pushing play up the floor, blocking shots, causing turnovers, and as a result of a 54-percent shooting performance, leading 68-35 at halftime.
Even though trailing by a significant margin, Glenville State regrouped and began the second half looking like a much more composed team and it subsequently stayed much closer to Duke than many watching expected them to do.
“Just get back to the basics,” Pioneers coach Charles Marshall said of refocusing his team for the final half.
“We wasn’t doing the basics, and to come in and start to have fun. We wasn’t havin’ no fun. On a legendary court for my girls – they wanna’ have this opportunity to play on this court – and I just wanted them to have fun and take in the moment and stick with the basics. That’s what we did to get back into the game a little bit.”
Pioneers guard Tiffani Huffman concurred with her coach.
“Coming into the first half in this atmosphere, you’re always gonna’ have those jitters especially being a Division 2 school,” Huffman said.
“You look forward to this game and you’re nervous, but when we started settling into our system in the second half – when we started doing the things we do at practice – that’s when it starts to fall into place. We let their size kind of intimidate us a little bit in the first half. We calmed down a lot in the second half.”
The Pioneers’ focus on fundamental play at both ends of the court allowed them to put up more points than they did in the first half, and exposed defensive areas that the Blue Devils should have tightened up on during the final 20 minutes of play.
“They were better,” McCallie said bluntly in describing her team’s defensive play in the second half.
“I don’t have any magic for you here. They were better. Our defense in the second half was absolutely appalling. There’s no other way to say it. We didn’t spot up the shooters, we didn’t contest shooters, we didn’t box people out on the O’ boards. We didn’t communicate, we weren’t aggressive enough. There’s a long list of things there.”
Not entirely devoid of defensive play, the Blue Devils led by Jones and Williams tallied 23 total steals and 12 blocked shots, mostly during the first half.
“It was more hustle plays, scattering everywhere, just getting to their players,” Jones said.
“You really didn’t know who you had at the beginning of the first because they were scattered everywhere. We were just basically trying to find the closest man to us and getting to the right players at the right time.”
Williams added how Duke took its size advantage for granted and its lack of proper defensive positioning allowed the Pioneers second-chance opportunities after three-point attempts, of which they put up a total of 41 during the game.
“We didn’t do a good job of hitting first and then boxing out,” Williams said.
“We thought that our size would just get us all the rebounds and they did a good job of crashing the boards. We also didn’t do a good job of spotting out – when there’s a long shot, there’s going to be a long rebound – and a lot of us crashed into the paint and the balls were just flying over our heads. That’s something we need to do a better job of adjusting to.”
McCallie’s synopsis of her team’s second-half play was that of being less focused and energetic than Glenville State, and that it must learn to become an attacking team not only in the offensive end of the court, but even more so in the defense half of it.
“These are good lessons for us – we’ll learn,” McCallie concluded.
“The ownership is really (the) key. The film tomorrow will be brutal. They’ll see it all.”