DURHAM – The Duke Women demolished Clemson 92-37 to move to 6-0 in the ACC and 20-0 overall and they remain the only undefeated team in all of women’s college basketball. Of course, there next game is against Connecticut in Storr’s in a game that will certainly bring in more than a few casual observers.
Once again, Coach Joanne P. McCallie utilized her whole bench as she has done all season in an effort to build depth. And that’s one thing this years team certainly has as different freshman from a very talented class are stepping up.
Duke was once again led by their senior All American leader Jasmine Thomas who tallied 14 points to go with her game high 7 assists. She was one of five Blue Devils in double figures.
The Blue Devils rolled out to a 59-12 half time lead in the first half and that was more than enough as they coasted the rest of the way to an eventual 92-37 win.
“Our defense was terrific in the first half with the pressure we employed. Any time you hold a team to 12 points in a half, you’ve done your job,” said Coach McCallie.
Duke outscored the visitors by a 39-12 score off turnovers where they forced a whopping 36 of them. The Blue Devils dominated the paint as well where they held a 30-16 edge. And the deep bench McCallie is grooming scored 45 points to the Tigers 16.
“We found our transition game and that created easy buckets by our running the floor,” said McCallie.
The win was also the Blue Devils 20th straight in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke has won 18 out of the last 21 games with the Tigers.
The easy first half brought smiles to the players and staff who realized that they were clicking on all cylinders before their showdown with #2 Connecticut in a game that tips at 7:00 EST on ESPN 2 this coming Monday.
“It’s a focus game, a poise game.” stated McCallie when questioned on how to beat UConn. Then Thomas added it’s a great opportunity and that is indeed true. What McCallie was saying is that Duke must maintain their poise in a hostile environment with a team that has their ears pinned back.
If Duke can emulate their first half performance against Clemson, then they have an opportunity to gain a memorable road win, but as we all know, beating the Huskies in their house is a tall order. Still, if you are looking for a list of teams that could pull off that feat, these Blue Devils are at the top of the list.
DURHAM – Make no mistake about it, the third ranked Blue Devils win over tenth rated Kentucky wasn’t pretty to watch but the result was all roses for Coach McCallie’s troops. Much like the Xavier game, Duke fought hard on defense and hung on to defeat another top ten club while playing one the the nations toughest early season schedules.
An early 8-0 first half run put the Blue Devils up 16-10 but the Wildcats put it back together and went on a run of their own to tie the game up but Duke pulled ahead again with a late first half run giving them a 31-22 lead. That momentum was lost when Kentucky came out and outscore the home team 8-2, putting them back in the game.
Kentucky tied the game at 44 apiece on a Maegan Conwright free throw with 3:51 to go, but Jasmine Thomas, who led Duke with 24, knocked down a jumper. But Kentucky’s star Victoria Dunlap answered with two free throws on here own at the 3:13 mark.
Kentucky then took a late lead on a A’Dai Mathies lay in and the Cats were up 48-46 with under two minutes in the contest. That’s when Duke reached deep and Jasmine Thomas hit nothing but net from around the free throw stripe tying the game up with 1:33 left.
The Blue Devils defense then forced a turnover and found Chelsea Gray for a runner on the baseline which put the Blue Devils up for good at 50-48. Kentucky had a chance to tie the game after Thomas hit one of two free throws, but the senior guard recovered and made a key block on Mathies who then gave her a bit of a shove in frustration.
After that play the Kentucky Coach Mathew Mitchell was hit with a technical foul and Duke held on for a 54-48 win and in the process go to 14-0 on the season while Kentucky falls to 11-2.
Duke was as always led by their senior All American Jasmine Thomas whose season high 24 points were also a game high. Thomas has a way of rising to the occasion in close ball games of late and here block may well have been the play of the game. Thomas had three blocks over the last six minutes of the game.
Chelsea Gray added 11 points for the Blue Devils as their only other double digit scorer. Gray had a team high 5 steals.
Kentucky was led by Keyla Snowden with 15 and Victoria Dunlap with 10. Dunlap is Kentucky’s leading scorer and the Duke defense held here to her second lowest point total of the season, but the previous low of 7 points came when she went out with an injury.
In fact, as sluggish as the offenses were for both schools, the defense was stellar. Especially for the Blue Devils who held Kentucky to their lowest scoring output of the season, a team that averaged 80.6 ppg coming into the contest and was held 32 points shy of that average.
The Blue Devils were originally supposed to play this game on Monday night but ESPNU required them to shift the game to Tuesday. That means Duke has less than two days to prepare for rival Maryland and ACC play which begins Thursday evening. Tickets are still available for the game by visiting GoDuke or picking them up at the door on game night.
Sidebar – Duke held a 13-5 edge on 2nd chance points and a 22-2 edge off the bench. Kentucky outscored Duke in the paint 14-13 and 11-6 on fastbreak points. The 14-0 start is the best start for Coach P in her 19 years of coaching and she is now 48-4 in Cameron. Allison Vernerey had a season high ten rebounds but went just 1 of 10 from the field.
DURHAM – A marquee match up between third ranked Duke Blue Devils and the fourth ranked Xavier Musketeers took place in Cameron Indoor Stadium in a game which oddly had no television coverage. With a partial band and lack of cheerleaders due to the Christmas break, the team had to at times reach for emotion and that made the Blue Devils homecourt edge less intimidating.
But in the end, there was plenty of emotion as Duke made a fuirous late 6-0 comeback run down the stretch to defeat their game opponent 46-45. Duke is now 12-o on the season while Xavier falls to 10-1.
Duke senior Jasmine Thomas blocked a shot at the buzzer to secure the win and Cameron which went nuts as did Xavier Coach Kevin McGuff who had to be restrained by another coach as security moved in. The refs then went to the scorers table to check the monitor and afterwards they called it a game and Duke escaped with an exciting win.
“That is truly one of the best plays I have ever seen in 19 years of coaching. As we got back and we all went, apparently for the ball – I’ll have to look at it on film to really know – it’s a good lesson to staying matched up in transition. Of course, they got it deflected out, which of course was a tremendous benefit to them, and all of a sudden you see this lightning bolt out of nowhere block a great shot,” said Duke Coach Joanne McCallie
The Blue Devils had no answer for Amber Harris who ended the game with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocked shots but they made up for it with 21 steals filling the passing lanes all night.
During the post game press conference, Coach McCallie admitted it was an ugly game and that her team which went for almost 7 minutes in the second half without a point struggled to find good shots. But she then made this statement, “If you find a way to win ugly, you can win them all.”
After a back and forth first half where there were five lead changes, the Musketeers defense kicked in and Duke which started hot went cold from the field. As the second half started Duke scored just two points in the first five minutes before they fought their way back into the game after going down by eight points.
Duke tied the game back up on a Krystal Thomas lay in at 40 apiece with 9:00 to go, but Xavier star Amber Harris answered putting the Musketeers back up and the two teams then grinded it out defensively where neither team could find the basket. But then Harris scored inside and was fouled and Xavier clinged to a 43-40 lead. Another Harris jumper made it 45-40 with just 2:42 to go but that’s when the Blue Devils woke up and found their groove just in the nick of time.
Jasmine Thomas cut the lead to three after a lay in and Duke then forced a turnover where Allison Vernerey made a key steal and then Duke found Krystal Thomas under the basket and she was fouled, making one of two and tying the game at 45 all with 31 seconds left on the clock. Karima Christmas then tipped the ball out and Jasmine Thomas came up the ball on the baseline and was fouled with 2 seconds left and hit 1 of 2 free throws giving Duke a single digit lead.
That’s when an amazing sequence took place. Xavier set up a great play and the ball went to a wide open Special Jennings and Jasmine ran full speed from about the scorers tabel recovering to block the shot which set off an emotional outburst from the Xavier as we mentioned. After the dust cleared, Duke walked away with an ugly but substantial victory.
Coach P, Jasmine Thomas audio below – Just press play.
Sidebar - The point total was the lowest for Duke since they lost to Purdue 62-45 in 1999 yet they still won. Duke outscored Xavier 22-9 off turnovers and the lead changed 6 times although it seemed like more. Duke shot just 26.8% from the field a season low and held Xavier to 1 for 12 from the three point stripe. Duke won it’s 14th straight game in Cameron and 14th straight over Atlantic 10 teams. Jasmine Thomas 2 steals moved her to 6th place on the all time list. Coach P is now 46-4 in Cameron since she arrived. Duke will next play Temple at home on December 30th.
DURHAM – The fifth ranked Duke Women’s team settled in after a slow start to defeat a pesky Brigham Young team 69-54 in the season opener for both teams. Karima Christmas led the way offensively for the Blue Devils tallying 20 points to go with 7 rebounds.
Jasmine Thomas started the game 0-7 from the field but hit the first two buckets of the second half and the rest of the Blue Devils played off her spirited play. Thomas finished the game with 14 points and scurried her way to a team high 11 rebounds.
Duke opened up a double digit lead early in the half, but BYU refused to fold cutting the lead to 6 with just over 12 minutes to go. But Chloe Wells and Jasmine Thomas sparked a run and suddenly Duke was up 60-43 with 4:04 to go. That sealed the deal for Duke who coasted to a win after wearing down the visitor.
The Blue Devils dominated the paint where they out-rebounded the Cougars by a 52-37 margin and 28-2 scoring edge. Duke also got help from Kathleen Scheer who scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. She switched positions in the off season and looks at home in the power forward slot for Coach P’s team.
Sidebar -The Blue Devils are nursing several injuries and Shay Selby sat out the contest. Coach P was pleased with her teams defensive effort during the post game press conference and the play of true freshman Chloe Wells. Duke next takes on Southern Cal this coming Monday in Cameron Indoor Stadium with seat available. Coach P said that aggressive play and making things happen would earn players time on a deep team. Coach also said that Duke will be better against the press as the season progresses and that she was excited about this teams potential.
Game Notes – Duke won it’s 19th straight season opener and improved to 2-0 all time against BYU. Jasmine Thomas posted her third career double-double. Kathleen Scheer got her first collegiate start and had a career high 8 boards. Chloe Wells and was the first Duke freshman since Abby Waner to start as a true freshman. Karima Christmas scored 20 or more points for the 4th time in her career. All five members of the #1 rated recruiting class played in the game for the Blue Devils.
One has to wonder how long it will take the Cameron Crazies to call Elizabeth Williams “Queen Elizabeth,” for on the basketball court the 6-3 Virginia Beach prospects game evokes thoughts of royalty. Interestingly, Williams attends “Princess” Anne High School as well. Williams is ranked by many as the nations top girl prospect and she made Duke her official destination after being courted by the best of the best in the world of women’s college basketball. The center prospect picked Duke over Tennessee in the end and she told Blue Devil Nation that she was happy with her decision and glad the process was behind her.
Williams shot 61 plus percent from the field in a recent FIBA tournament where she helped lead her team to a Gold Medal and she played for the Boo Williams Elite team over the summer. Expectations are high for Williams but she seems more than grounded enough handle the hype and challenges to come. But it is perhaps Williams shot blocking ability that has Coach P and the Blue Devils most excited. Here is another BDN interview with Duke’ s latest star recruit where she shares her thoughts on the process and more -
So, why did the nations top ranked women’s prospect end up choosing Duke?
It was a combination of things. I just thought it was the best place for me and I had prayed about it a lot and Duke was the best and it had everything I was looking for in a school.
You had an official visit to Duke a short time ago. Who did you have the most contact with from the Duke coaching staff and when was that visit?
Coach Trish and Coach P were both there for me and had visited Duke on my official for the women’s Blue-White game. I probably talked with Coach Trish the most and she made me feel comfortable. It was a great environment and a great school with great people and I knew it was right for me.
Can you talk a bit about the recruiting process? Did you enjoy the process?
I wouldn’t say it’s something I enjoyed because some times I would be really tired or drained and just didn’t feel like taking phone calls or constantly thinking about it. But at the same I learned so much from the process about each school. I talked with so many people and so many different views that it was kind of adventitious to actually do that.
You are ranked #2 by ESPN and #1 in other prospect ratings and I suppose the hype brings about a lot of questions. Was it tough dealing with the media and such?
Um, not so much that. Girls talk more and listen to other players and hear where they are going and if you build a relationship with them it’s tempting to go where they are.
For those who’ve never seen you play, how would you describe your game in words?
I’m a smart player and I think I’m a team player so I try to help my team be successful and I try to lead by example. So if you combine that and athleticism that’s me.
And what do you feel like you need to work on with concerns to your game?
Just be more versatile and in the college game I think that will help a lot so I’ll concentrate on that.
Has Duke told you how they might use you in their system?
Yes they have and with Krystal Thomas graduating only is a real center Allison Vernereyat this point so I will be able to play down there a lot but as I get older I would play more on the outside.
You’ve been listed as a forward and a center by recruiting services. Do you see yourself as a dual position player?
Yeah, I do but on most teams I end up playing center, so …
And what is Elizabeth Williams like off the court?
I think I’m a bit layed back. I like to play guitar hero and hang with friends but I’m not super outgoing but at the same time, I’m not really shy. On the court I try to lead by example but I kind of get reprimanded because I don;t get on my team as much when they make mistakes but I plan to be more vocal and by the time I’m in college it will pay off.
Do you pattern your game after anybody or have you tried to pick up on what some players do and try and emulate their game?
I really like Tim Duncan and I like the Spurs as a team but Duncan does everything in a smooth manner and is so fundamentally sound. He’s definitely one of my favorite players to watch.
When did you actually make the decision to attend Duke?
I actually made the decision last week. I actually told my best friend first and then I told my sister, parents and little brother. It was the combination of a good medical program, basketball and school and the proximity played a factor as well. The combination of good coaching a good team and good team chemistry were key factors. I want to do pre med and talked with Doctor Friedman at Duke but I’m not sure what kind of doctor I want to be yet only that Ill be one.
It came down to Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee for your services?
Yes, it was those schools and Penn State. My final two ended up being Tennessee and Duke and obviously I picked Duke.
Now, Duke has some other good recruits coming in as well making it one of the nations top classes if not the top class. Have you an opportunity to get to know or play with any of them?
Yeah, definitely because Whitney [Knight], K.J. [Ka'lia Johnson] and myself played together this year and last. And Amber Henson – we had know each other at camp and she was at the USA Trials and that’s our recruiting class now.
Duke and USA Basketball go hand in hand of late with Coach K and Coach P being a part of the program. What was your experience like?
It was amazing and all of July … just to play for your country and win Gold was an honor. You look at basketball in a different perspective and what you can do coming together as a team.
Thanks for your time Elizabeth and good luck with your upcoming high school basketball season.
Sidebar - Duke currently has the nations 4th best class according to ESPN, but many think that is too low. Duke is still in contention with 11th rated Betnijah Laney. Here addition would give the Blue Devils the top rated class in the land. BDN will continue to focus in on the women’s recruiting efforts so bookmark us now.