by Mike Potter
The No. 2 Blue Devils had a very tough night less than 48 hours ago when they took an 83-61 drubbing in their long-anticipated meeting with No. 1 and defending national champion Connecticut.
Tonight’s opponent is Albany, a nice team from the America East Conference that suffered its first loss in nine games this season on Sunday at home against Quinnipiac.
The Great Danes’ coach is Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who was on Joanne P. McCallie’s staff when the current Duke mentor was at Michigan State.
Duke plays an awful first half but recovers easily, rolling to an 80-51 win.
Duke leads 34-26 at halftime after struggling mightily in the early going. Shereesha Richards, who scores Albany’s first 14 points, has 20 at the break while Haley Peters cans 11 for Duke. The Blue Devils outshoot Albany 51.9 percent to 36.7 in the first half, but the visitors lead the rebound battle 18-13.
The Great Danes lead 20-13 on a 3-pointer from Margarita Rosario with 7:53 left in the half before the Blue Devils finally get something going, tying it at 22 on a Tricia Liston 3-pointer at 4:57. A pair of Oderah Chidom free throws at 4:31 puts the Blue Devils ahead for good.
And the second half is all Duke. The Blue Devils’ biggest lead is 78-43 with 3:15 to play.
Peters finishes with 17 points while Chelsea Gray adds 12 points, nine assists and six steals. Richa Jackson comes off the bench for 12 points.
Richards finishes with 24.
Duke shoots 58.9 percent to Albany’s 36.5, wins the rebound battle 35-24 and commits 22 turnovers to the Great Danes’ 28.
They said it …
McCallie: “The first half was a little, well, slow. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I thought it could be. I thought the second half was a lot better. … The team picked it up. They got focused and I thought more aggressive. We got more steals and we created. I thought everybody off the bench was pretty key.”
Abrahamson-Henderson: “The first half was great. Obviously it was fun to watch (Richards) and the way she played and the way we competed. I knew in the second half what was going to happen just in terms of coaching with Joanne for four years. I knew what she was saying in the locker room, so I knew they were going to come out really hard.”
Peters: “If we’re not scoring, our defense should be sharper, and when our defense is sharper that should feed us on offense. We just weren’t focused, and I don’t know that it was because we were missing shots. I think it was just a general thing.”
Gray: “I think we just weren’t focused. Credit to (Richards) — she had 20 of their points in the first half. We had to pick it up defensively. I don’t think we were thinking about past games. We just weren’t focused on defending as well as we should have,”
What does it all mean?
That Duke eventually did a good job of responding to adversity. But a similar start against a better team could be disastrous.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Liston’s 3-pointer to tie it at 22-22.
Duke: Won 1.
Albany: Lost 2.
Duke leads 2-0.
Albany vs. Colgate, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Duke at Kentucky, Sunday, 3 p.m.