by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke plays its final exhibition game of the women's basketball season, and it looks as if the opponent might be capable of giving the No. 6 Blue Devils a strong challenge.
Alaska Anchorage, which is ranked No. 8 in the NCAA Division II preseason coaches' poll, went 31-4 last season and looks to have a big season in the far-flung Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Blue Devils' mascot is wearing a headband that says "Drill Baby Drill," a reference to the most famous female basketball player in Alaska history.
Duke is still playing without senior wing Keturah Jackson, who should be back to start the regular season. But none of that matters as the Blue Devils end up with a 100-32 victory.
With the recent "promotions" of North Dakota and South Dakota, UAA is the only flagship state university in the country playing at the Division II level.
The Seawolves are obviously coming into Cameron looking to make some history, following their closed scrimmage at Navy on Thursday night.
It's 10-10 following a Nikki Aden layup with 15:14 left in the first half, and when Tamar Gruwell knocks down her third 3-pointer in four attempts at 12:59 Duke is up only 18-13.
But that pattern doesn't hold. Duke leads 47-22 at halftime and wins going away.
Freshman Allison Vernerey, who finishes with 18 points and 10 rebounds, gets Duke the triple digits on an old-fashioned 3-point play. Jasmine Thomas leads the Blue Devils with 20 points to lead five in double figures. Karima Christmas adds 18 points and nine rebounds, while Joy Cheek chips in 14 and Alexis Rogers 10.
Duke shoots 52.4 percent to the Seawolves' 19.5, wins the rebound battle 45-19 and commits 19 turnovers to UAA's 33.
They said it ...
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "I liked a lot of things we did in the second half in particular in terms of intensity and position defense, which were better. Offensively, I liked the fact we were attacking all the time. It was a pretty good 40 minutes. We worked on different defenses and combinations, which was great. Early on, I think it was great to see a shooter come out like (Gruwell) did and right away grab your attention and increase the intensity. I thought it was good for us."
UAA coach Tim Moser: "The one thing you try to get out of this is to see the best. The pressure they put on us is something we wanted to see. There are teams at our level that do it with length and athleticism, so it's something we wanted to see. ... We have to be a little tougher because we have to do some road trips. Everyone in our league has to do (go to Alaska) once. But we have to do it (come to the lower 48 states) six times, so we've got to get used to that."
Jasmine Thomas: "I just like to see us play off of each other. In practice you don't always get to play with different people - like I don't get to run that much 'two' in practice. To come into the game and get put in with a different group of people, I think that's going to pay off for us in the long run."
Stars of the game
3. Jasmine Thomas.
Play of the game
Cheek's 3-pointer that made it 15-10.
Duke at Houston Baptist, Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Alaska Anchorage vs. Hawaii Hilo, Sunday, 9 p.m.