by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke is back into the nation's Top 10 in women's basketball, and tonight we'll see what the Blue Devils do to celebrate.
Defending Atlantic 10 champion UNC Charlotte (1-2) is in town, probably ready to provide tougher opposition than in the Blue Devils' last home game against Georgia Southern on Thursday night.
Duke, which comes into the game 2-1, moved up one spot from No. 11. The loser in front of them was Texas, coached by former Blue Devil mentor Gail Goestenkors.
The 49ers are looking to go to post-season play for their third straight season.
The two teams don't play very often, last squaring off in Charlotte in 2001. UNCC's last victory in the series was in 1983. And they don't get the upset tonight, as Duke wins 57-44.
But the 49ers come out with a serious demeanor, taking a 9-4 lead on an Amanda Dowe layup with 16:06 left in the first half.
That doesn't last long, as Duke gets aggressive and responds with a balanced 15-0 run as Jasmine Thomas and freshman Allison Vernerey each score four points in the spree.
That gives Duke a measure of control, as the Blue Devils are up 32-23 at halftime.
The Blue Devils threaten to turn it into a blowout, going up 54-34 on a Krystal Thomas layup with 6:50 left in the game.
But the 49ers don't let it happen, scoring the next 10 points before Jasmine Thomas' 3-pointer with 59 seconds left completes the scoring.
It's Duke's 16th straight home-court victory.
Charlotte native Cheek finishes with 13 points and 12 rebounds for her second double-double of the season and fourth of her career, while Jasmine Thomas adds 10 points and a career-high eight assists.
Erin Floyd scores 10 points for UNCC.
They said it ...
McCallie: "It was a good, physical game. I thought it was an interesting game for us. We had some really dominant moments and some inconsistent moments. I like 23 offensive rebounds, but I don't like 21 turnovers. I thought that Joy was absolutely stellar in her game in terms of rebounding and being very aggressive. We got better tonight, and now we get to go play some more games somewhere else."
UNCC coach Karen Aston: "Duke's an impressive, physical team. I thought they were on film, and they didn't do anything to make me think differently after seeing them in person. I thought we played well until the four-minute mark of the first half and then they really flexed their muscles."
Cheek: "I think we got a little upset at ourselves that we were turning the ball over and they were capitalizing on our turnovers, and they went on a run. So we just had to refocus. We knew we had to make the stops."
Vernerey, who had six points and seven rebounds: "I need to be ready all the time (at this level). You don't have time to take a 'timeout' during the game. You have to be ready all the time and stay focused and stay aggressive."
What does it all mean?
That Duke was able to beat a pretty good team without an efficient offense, and that everybody who played tonight will spend Thanksgiving surrounded by blue water.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Cheek's 3-pointer that made it 22-13 with 5:53 left in the first.
Duke leads 7-3.
Duke: Won 2.
UNCC: Lost 1.
UNCC vs. South Dakota State in Freeport, Bahamas, Thursday, noon.
Duke vs. Western Kentucky in Cancun, Mexico, Thursday, 7 p.m.