by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM It doesn't have any fancier name this time than "The Battle of Durham," and indeed it is that.
No. 8 Duke is hosting N.C. Central in a women's basketball game, and the winner will be able to claim it's the best team in the city until they meet again. Duke is going to be a prohibitive favorite.
This happens to be the sport in which the Blue Devils and Eagles, who are in Year 3 of their five-year transition to championship competition in NCAA Division I, have squared off the most. It's the eighth meeting in the series and Duke leads by a mere 4 games to 3.
To be fair, all but the Blue Devils' 82-29 win two seasons ago were contested before any of the current players on either team was born.
The teams have played one common opponent this season and each came out victorious. Duke beat Houston Baptist 104-35 in its season opener on the Huskies' home court, while NCCU beat Houston Baptist 75-60 in the consolation game of South Florida's Tournament eight days ago.
The Eagles come in with a personnel handicap, as leading scorer and freshman guard Joanna Miller is out of the lineup - although in street clothes on the bench - for one game for an unspecified violation of team rules. And the result isn't surprising, as the Blue Devils control every aspect of the game in a 117-28 victory.
The 89-point spread is Duke's largest victory margin ever and NCCU's largest defeat margin.
Folks, it's not pretty. Duke ties a school record with 65 first-half points to nine for NCCU.
The Blue Devils place nine players in double figures, and each of Duke's 11 players finishes with at least two points, a rebound and a steal.
Joy Cheek leads the way with 16 points, followed by Karima Christmas with 15, Krystal Thomas 14, Jasmine Thomas and Kathleen Scheer 12 each, Keturah Jackson and Alexis Rogers 11 each and Allison Vernerey and Shay Selby 10 each.
NCCU gets six each from Durham native and Jordan High product Danielle DeBerry and freshman J'Mia Pollock, who has a team-high seven rebounds.
The Eagles stay respectable on the boards, pulling down 31 to the much taller Blue Devils' 43. But the other major stats are as lopsided as the score. Duke shoots 58.8 percent to the Eagles' 22.0, and commits 11 turnovers to the Eagles' 45.
They said it ...
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "There were some really good things for us as a team, trying to be focused and detailed. I thought everybody on our team did something very important. I thought we played two strong halves. I had never really seen a stat sheet like this in my 17½ years of head coaching, in terms of nine players in double figures. That's kind of unusual, and I think it's a credit to the team to share the ball like everybody did."
NCCU coach Joli Robinson: "I think our kids came out and were really rattled at the beginning of the game, then they kind of settled down. We have a long ways to go. They're one of the top teams in the nation and they gave us a big picture to see what we need to do. ... Playing against a good team like this allows your kids to see personally what they need to do as individual players, and also helps us prepare for our next game."
Cheek: "We came out focused and intense, and we had goals that we kept in mind. We just wanted to hold onto that and execute what we wanted to do defensively. We were coming off break so we hadn't played a game in a week, so we wanted to come out sharp."
DeBerry: "I've been looking forward to this since last year when I found out we were going to play Duke. This was the biggest game, probably, of my life. Me being from Durham and coming to many, many, many Duke games, and wanting to play for Duke - actually getting a chance to be on the court was a big honor for me."
What does it all mean?
That Duke has no way to "dump the bench" when it gets a big lead on an outmanned team. And that the Eagles really need Miller to keep things together against a quality opponent.
Stars of the game
2. K. Thomas.
Play of the game
Vernerey's steal and layup to put Duke ahead 31-3 with 11:50 left in the first half.
Duke leads 5-3.
Duke: Won 3.
NCCU: Lost 1.
NCCU vs. South Carolina State, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.
Duke at Temple, Thursday, 2 p.m.