by Mike Potter
Coach Joanne P. McCallie is looking for her 400th career victory, trying to beat a Trojan squad that has given the Blue Devils fits in the last two meetings including a 78-72 Duke win here last season.
Duke had it tough early in its season opener against Brigham Young before pulling away for a 15-point win, while Michael Cooper’s Trojans beat Gonzaga by six points on Friday night.
McCallie’s club is still working in the five-member freshman class that is touted as the best in the country.
Tonight the youngsters fit in well from the outset, as the No. 6 Devils roll to a surprisingly easy 75-50 win.
After some back and forth in the early going, Duke takes a 6-5 lead on a layup from Kathleen Scheer and almost never looks back, leading 40-22 at halftime.
The Blue Devils shoot 39.4 percent in the first half to 33.3 for the Trojans, lead the rebound battle 27-18 and commit three turnovers to USC’s six.
The second half is a bit more competitive, but the Trojans never get closer than 14, the last time at 49-35 with 13:24 to play.
Duke’s biggest lead is 25 twice, including the final points when freshman Chloe Wells hits the second of two free throws with 11 seconds to go.
Jasmine Thomas leads Duke with 14 points, followed by center Krystal Thomas with 11 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Haley Peters adds seven points with 13 rebounds in 19 minutes.
Briana Gilbreath leads USC with 12 points followed by Ashley Corral with 10. Christina Marinacci has six points to go with her 10 rebounds.
Duke shoots 41.7 percent to 31.5 for USC and wins the rebound battle 50-37. The Blue Devils commit 15 turnovers to the Trojans’ 17.
They said it …
McCallie: “I didn’t know (about No. 400). It’s great. I just hope there are many more. It was just a great game. It’s a fun team to coach and we’re just trying to get better. I think the team did great tonight in terms of hustling and playing together defensively, rebounding and just playing gritty basketball. I thought we did a great job of disrupting what they tried to do offensively. And I thought we had a lot of opportunities to do some really great things. Jas was steady in attacking as always. I thought Haley was very efficient with 13 rebounds in 19 minutes.”
Cooper: “’Mama said there’d be days like this; there’d be days like this, my Mama said.’ You’ve got to tip your hat. Duke has definitely reestablished itself as an elite team. We knew coming in here that we had our work cut out for us, and I thought we came in and had a good game plan. But again, it’s tough to deal with size. They had the size on us that they really utilized. 50-37 on the boards, if you get beat like that you’re not going to win many games.”
Jasmine Thomas: “It’s always good to know everyone is going to come in and contribute and play hard. For me, I thought it was interesting that they have a very similar team from the past two years but we have a very different team from last year with five freshmen who all play. It was good to see us play this well defensively, of course with things to work on, but just to see the difference for our team for this year from last year.”
Peters: “I’ve always tried to be a team player who tries to take advantage of what’s available on the court and what I need to get done to help our team. Something that we’ve been working on was the post, and that was something that was there for me today so I took advantage of it.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke is awfully solid early on, and that the Blue Devils’ depth seems to be developing quickly.
Stars of the game
1. Krystal Thomas.
3. Jasmine Thomas.
Play of the game
Richa Jackson’s layup from Chloe Wells to make it 15-7 with 14:24 left in the first half.
Duke leads 5-0.
Duke: Won 2.
USC: Lost 1.
Duke at Auburn, Thursday, 7 p.m.
USC vs. Long Beach State, Sunday, 2 p.m.