by Mike Potter
Today’s opponent is Western Kentucky, which is 0-2 after a road loss to Louisiana Tech and a seven-point home defeat to Northwestern but should be a contender in the Sun Belt Conference.
No. 6 Duke has already played three name national schools in Brigham Young, Southern California and Auburn, winning the first two games by 15 points each and the third by 13.
It’s “Family Fun Day,” and there’s another noisy crowd in the house.
Duke steadily pulls away for 40 minutes and picks up its most comfortable win so far, 82-55.
WKU fights hard early but has a very hard time keeping up with the Blue Devils’ depth. Duke takes the lead at 6-4 on a pair of Krystal Thomas free throws at 16:07 and never trails again.
The Blue Devils lead 40-23 at halftime after forcing 19 WKU turnovers to nine of its own, and shoots 42.4 percent in the first half to the Hilltoppers’ 34.6.
Freshman Haley Peters finishes with a season-high 17 points for Duke while Jasmine Thomas adds 16 and Kathleen Scheer adds 10.
Janae Howard finishes with 15 points, LaTeira Owens 14 and Arnika Brown 11 for Western Kentucky.
Duke shoot 50.8 percent to 38.2 for the Hilltoppers, who commit 33 turnovers to 21 for the Blue Devils. Duke finishes with season highs of 23 assists and 17 steals.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “There were some good things out there. I thought everybody contributed and played hard. We worked on a lot of things today and went with a lot of different combinations. We’ve got an excellent passing team. The freshmen are playing very veteran-smart and they’re very hungry to get better. Haley was tough. She had an excellent game. She was very aggressive. I love how she goes after it every time she hits the floor.”
WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles: “If there is a positive in this game it’s that our basketball team has really struggled in our first two opening games with just starting a game. I thought today Western Kentucky was more ready to play, but against a team like Duke you’ve got to be more ready to maintain that kind of intensity and focus.”
Peters: “A bunch of people had great passes today. When the ball’s in their hands you have to be ready, and I’m just confident whenever they have the ball in their hands we’re in a good spot as a team. I just keep moving and our guards, especially today, do a great job of attacking and making the great pass. My first two baskets were wide-open layups that anyone could make. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Krystal Thomas: “I think the strong point of our team is we have so many people who can create different passes. We’re all trying to work on the different elements of our game trying to find each other.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke continues to be on track for a big start, while WKU has to be looking forward to a letup in the schedule down the road.
Stars of the game
2. J. Thomas.
Play of the game
Peters’ layup on a no-look drop pass from Shay Selby to make it 26-16 with 8:37 left in the first half.
Duke leads 4-0.
Duke: Won 4.
WKU: Lost 4.
Duke at Pittsburgh, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
WKU vs. Michigan State, Friday, 11 a.m., Orlando, Fla.