by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke is back in action following Monday night's blowout loss to No. 1 Connecticut, and it's a good chance to see how the Blue Devils recover.
Tonight's opponent for the No. 6 Blue Devils is Virginia Tech, which was picked to finish last in the ACC but had one of its most impressive wins in recent memory a week ago when it shocked then No. 10 UNC 79-64 in Blacksburg.
The Hokies have a local connection in Northern Durham alumna Utahya Drye, and a Duke connection on the roster in Abby Redick, younger sister of Blue Devil legend J.J. Redick.
None of that matters much, as the Blue Devils recover from a slow start to win 69-38 and hold the Hokies to their lowest score ever in an ACC game.
It's obvious from the beginning that it's going to be a defensive battle, as the Blue Devils lead 8-2 after 9 ½ minutes and it's only 24-15. The 15 points are also the lowest the Hokies have scored in one half of a conference game.
Duke gets better in the second half while the visitors don't. The Blue Devils put on an offensive highlight show at times and score 47 points after the break, more than the Hokies get over the 40 minutes.
A 14-2 run to start the second half, ending in a steal and layup from Jasmine Thomas at 16:53, sets the tone and the Hokies never recover.
Krystal Thomas (pictured), starting for the first time in five games while Karima Christmas began on the bench, finishes with 17 points to lead all scorers followed by Jasmine Thomas with 14 and Joy Cheek 10.
Brittany Gordon, the only Tech player who has a good shooting night, finishes with 14 points while Drye chips in eight.
Duke shoots 41.5 percent after a brilliant 60.0 in the second half, while the Hokies finish at 25.5. The Blue Devils win the rebound battle 41-34 as everyone on the team pulls down at least one. Duke commits 15 turnovers to 26 for the Hokies, the same number Tech had had in its previous two games combined.
They said it ...
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "I was proud of the team at halftime. I had no problem with the fact that we had defended and held a very good team to 15 points. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in, which is OK as long as you're defending. That was the most awesome defense, in terms of holding a team that's so powerful in transition, a team that has scored so many points against other opponents, I was pleased."
Virginia Tech coach Beth Dunkenberger: "I think Duke did a great job with its defense. Again, they're the No. 1 defensive team in the league. They run a lot of different things at you and really, it's hard. We had one good day to prep, because we've got three games in seven days this week so we had to take a day off somewhere along the way. There's a reason Duke is Top 10. They're not a good defensive team but a great defensive team, and we saw a good example of a team on a mission after playing the No. 1 team in the nation."
Cheek: "We learned (from the UConn game) that when we executed, we did well, and when we stopped executing we didn't. With a team like that, you can't make mistakes. We thought about that and knew we needed to come out with a better mindset. We were going to take our frustrations out on the next team we played."
Krystal Thomas: "We kept shooting in the second half. We were getting great looks. They were in the paint, so they were very easy, convertible shots. We kept attacking and never stopped, and so we just kept going with what was working and the shots started to drop in the second half."
What does it all mean?
That the Blue Devils know how to bounce back from a rough night under bright lights. Whether or not the Hokies' win over UNC was a one-hit wonder is yet to be seen.
Stars of the game
1. K. Thomas.
2. J. Thomas.
Play of the game
Bridgette Mitchell's layup with 12:31 left, on a touch-pass from Shay Selby, to make it 43-21.
Duke leads 14-2.
Duke: Won 1.
Virginia Tech: Lost 2.
Virginia Tech at Miami, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Duke at Maryland, Sunday, 8 p.m.