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.