by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke plays its last game before the ACC portion of its women's basketball schedule, and once again it looks like a tough challenge.
Big East member Providence comes in with a 9-3 record, so it's something like an ACC-level game.
The No. 8 Blue Devils are coming off a couple of very comfortable victories against what were two of the least gifted teams on the schedule in Maine and N.C. Central, so confidence is running pretty high.
Providence (9-3) will be a handcuffed going into the game, as Mi-Khida Hankins, the team's leading rebounder, is out for her fifth straight game with an injury.
Duke gets off to a quick start, and ends up rolling to a surprisingly easy 88-63 win.
The Blue Devils jump to a 10-0 lead behind four points from Jasmine Thomas and four from Joy Cheek, and then later in the half Krystal Thomas (pictured) - who did not start for the first time this season - gets rolling. The center scores 11 straight Duke points in one stretch to make it 28-16 and the margin is never again in single digits.
Duke shoots a season-best 66.7 percent in the first half en route to its 22nd straight victory at Cameron.
Krystal Thomas responds with a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, her second double-double of the season. She also has four blocks, giving her 100 for her career.
Jasmine Thomas adds 18 points including four 3-pointers, and Karima Christmas adds 15 points including three 3-pointers and six-for-eight shooting from the floor.
Tiffany Hurd comes off the bench to lead the Friars with 15 points, followed by Trinity Hull with 11 and Chelsea Marandola with 10.
Duke shoots 56.3 percent from the floor to Providence's 35.9, and dominates the boards 45-29. The Blue Devils commit 18 turnovers to 15 for Providence.
They said it ...
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "I think playing more minutes consecutively is the most important piece for us right now. We've had some great moments of offense at times, but it might not be for extended periods. I really felt like our team was so focused defensively that it really relaxed them on offense, I really believe that about today's game. We've really been on this team about stances, leaving their feet, being out of position, help-side, and I felt that everybody was really, really intense and getting on offense was a relief, so to speak. Sort of like 'OK, let's play a little offense.'"
Providence coach Phil Seymore: "Playing here at Cameron (contributed to the slow start). I don't think any of my players have played here before. ... And they do have a very aggressive pressure defense. I know (Duke) shot the ball great. They did a great job of getting the ball inside, and they did a good job against our pressure."
Krystal Thomas: "Definitely coming off my last performance (no field-goal attempts in 25 minutes at Temple), which was probably my worst ever, I just really had to come out here and pick it up tonight and really play the way I know I can play."
Jasmine Thomas: "I think we're still growing, we're still learning. As far as going through a good schedule and playing different types of games, I think that's where we have our experience and that's what's going to help us. The ACC's always competitive because you play the same teams all the time. We're just ready to compete."
What does it all mean?
That Duke has plenty of momentum heading into conference play. And that Providence must be a much more competitive team with Hankins on the floor.
Stars of the game
1. K. Thomas.
2. J. Thomas.
Play of the game
Krystal Thomas' layup from Bridgette Mitchell that makes it 24-14 with 11:20 left in the first half.
Duke leads 3-1.
Duke: Won 5.
Providence: Lost 1.
Providence at Villanova, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Duke at Clemson, Thursday, 7 p.m.