Shaking off fatigue from exams and cross-country travel, the Blue Devils showed durability and focus in this weekend’s Women of Troy Classic in Los Angeles.
Duke’s first match-up came against CSU Bakersfield. Backcourt mates Tyonna Outland and Amber Williams helped the Roadrunners (2-12, 0-0 Ind.) keep pace early, but the Blue Devils extended their lead to double-digits midway through the first period. Head coach Joanne McCallie’s squad only improved as the game went on, and Duke coasted to a 97-63 victory, the 150th of McCallie’s career.
It was truly a multi-pronged attack for the Blue Devils as six of the 10 players who entered the game scored in double figures. Elizabeth Williams was the tip of the trident, tallying 21 points and eight rebounds. Haley Peters and Tricia Liston joined in the fray, adding 16 and 14 points, respectively. Playing in front of friends and family, at least 20 of whom were in attendance, Chelsea Gray barely missed a triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Although the junior point guard was not a leading scorer, McCallie was quick to recognize Gray’s effort after the game.
“I thought that Chelsea’s game was really steady,” McCallie commented. “[Gray was] very impressive in terms of her distribution of the ball, her ability to score, and her rebounding.”
Duke outscored CSU Bakersfield in the paint by 40, with 30 points coming off of turnovers. The Blue Devils shot a poor 40% from the free-throw line in the first half, but improved in the second half shooting 13-16 from the stripe.
There was little time to dwell on the first victory. Duke players and coaches convened for a late scout meeting after the game to prepare for Saturday’s opponent, Southern California, before turning in.
The Blue Devils’ second contest was less one-sided than their first. Power forward Cassie Harberts converted an impressive “and one” play early in the game to give the Trojans (3-7, 0-0 Pac-12) a 5-3 lead. While Harberts did go on to tally 17 points and four rebounds, Duke’s myriad talent once again proved too much for the opponent. Just four minutes into the game, the Blue Devils took the lead on a Haley Peters three-pointer and never relinquished it, going on to win 75-60.
Chelsea Gray had a phenomenal game. Gray had posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, adding five steals for good measure. Coach McCallie was quick to laud the point guard for her contribution to the win.
“I thought Chelsea’s double-double was critical for us,” McCallie said. “Again, Chelsea to me is the best point guard in the country. She is because she does everything. She almost had a triple double today, missed it by a couple of stat lines, and then today she had 10 rebounds, 18 points five steals.”
Gray was asked how it felt receiving such compliments not only from her own coach, but from the likes of Southern California coach Michael Cooper as well.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Gray remarked. “It also humbles me in a way to want to be the best and want my team out there to be the best.”
The Blue Devils were deadly from downtown, shooting 8-12 from beyond the arc. Tricia Liston led Duke’s long-range efforts hitting four of the team’s three-pointers and finishing with 14 points.
“We were getting good looks,” Liston noted. “We weren’t forcing things. We were moving the ball, and off ball-reversals we were getting wide open looks…it always feels good to make your shots.”
With its foreign environment, quick turnaround, and gritty play, Saturday’s contest had all the makings of a March tournament game. Coach McCallie was pleased with how her team measured up.
“It was a good physical game for us,” McCallie concluded. “I love the fact that we played back to back. That gave us good experience in doing that. I really liked how we controlled the tempo and did some pretty good execution along the way.”
As usual, McCallie remained cautious in her optimism.
“[There still is] a lot of work to do for us. We were out rebounded – thats not a good thing. We’ve got to tackle those issues when we come back from christmas, and we will. But this team deserves a nice Christmas break.”
Duke (10-0, 1-0 ACC) will face Monmouth Sunday, December 30th, before entering conference play in January.