by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM It's another of those big Triangle rivalry games in women's basketball, and unfortunately the only time Duke and N.C. State will play during the regular season.
It's the first time first-year Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper has faced Duke, the team to which she lost in her final game as a player at Tennessee. That game denied her stated goal of winning four straight NCAA titles.
No. 8 Duke is holding its annual PinkZone game, wearing pink-trimmed uniforms and encouraging fans to wear as much pink as possible in an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer and research to combat the disease.
The Blue Devils will be heavy favorites and probably the toughest opponents the Wolfpack will play during the regular season. With 6-3 Tia Bell among three post players hurt, State has nobody who can come close to looking Duke's 6-5 freshman Allison Vernerey (pictured) or 6-4 Krystal Thomas in the eye. And the inside mismatches are a big factor as the Blue Devils cruise 70-39.
It's obviously going to be Vernerey's night almost from the opening tip. She scores the first basket of the game, and then with her team up 6-2 goes on a personal 8-0 run. That includes a rare right-handed shot under the basket for an 8-2 lead.
Duke leads 24-8 on a Vernerey jumper with 6:52 left in the first half, and leads 33-16 at halftime.
State shows some life with a run midway through the second, slicing the advantage to 46-33 with a 9-0 run as the final seven come from Marissa Kastanek. But Duke dominates the rest of the way to give the Wolfpack its worst defeat of the season.
Vernerey leads the Blue Devils with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Bridgette Mitchell and Shay Selby with 10 points each off the bench. Joy Cheek has 10 rebounds to go with her seven points.
Freshman Kastanek is the only State player in double figures with 14 points.
Duke shoots 46.8 percent to the Wolfpack's 24.0, wins the rebound battle 47-27 and forces 30 turnovers to 28 of its own.
They said it ...
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "I was really proud of our defense and our hustle, especially in the second half. I thought our pressure picked up. I think that we had a lot of opportunities on offense. I didn't think we took advantage of all the opportunities we had, but at the same time it's a good lesson for us about taking care of the basketball and that type of thing. Great job on the boards, terrific job by Joy rebounding and being strong with the ball. Terrific job by Alli as well in rebounding and attacking the basket."
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: ""Obviously I'm very disappointed in how our team performed today. Duke is a very good basketball team. They're quite a bit bigger than us and they use their length very effectively. We knew that rebounding was going to be a key point for our team. And we were unable to keep them off the boards. They did a nice job being relentless and finding ways to get second shots."
Vernerey: "I'm working on my right side a lot. My left side is strong, but obviously I'm working on my right hand to be able to play both. I work a lot with (assistant coach Al) Brown. Right now I feel more confident, and I feel like my teammates trust me and have confidence around me. That gives me confidence to shoot the ball."
Kastanek: "I thought it was pretty tough. Basically, the past two weeks I've been starting at point guard and obviously in high school I didn't see this pressure at all. Like [Kellie Harper] said, this defense was the toughest defense that we've gone against this whole season. I think the biggest lesson that I learned is that I can do it and that my teammates really have my back. I think that's the biggest thing I can bring from this game."
What does it all mean?
That Duke's defense is making it the best team in the ACC. And that the Wolfpack isn't quite ready for this kind of road upset.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Vernerey's right-handed layup to make it 8-2 with 15:26 left in the first half.
State leads 39-29.
Duke: Won 2.
NCSU: Lost 1.
Duke at Virginia Tech, Sunday, 2 p.m.
N.C. State vs. Miami, Sunday, 5:30 p.m.