by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke puts its No. 5 ranking and unbeaten mark on the line tonight against a team that’s unfamiliar to the Blue Devils, but a coach who’s quite familiar to coach Joanne P. McCallie.
The Great Danes were the last opponent added to the Duke schedule, and Duke is the first ranked team Albany has played this season.
It turns out to be an easy one, as the Blue Devils roll to an 83-48 victory for their 37th straight December win.
The Great Danes compete very well for the first 15 minutes, trailing only 25-15 following a Felicia Johnson jumper with 4:49 left in the first half.
But Duke, which has all 11 players see action in the first 11 minutes, scores the last nine of the first half to set up the rout.
McCallie plays all five members of Duke’s highly-touted freshman class together beginning at 11:45 of the second half and continuing to the 6:10 mark. The young ones respond, as the Blue Devils lead 53-27 when the span begins and 67-34 when it ends.
Duke’s largest lead is 38, on a 3-pointer from Chloe Wells at 4:51 that makes it 72-34.
Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston — who hadn’t scored a point since Nov. 21 and had three DNP-CDs in the last five games — led Duke with 15 points apiece as each of those freshmen got her season high. Jasmine Thomas added 11 points and a season-high six steals, while freshman Wells chipped in a season-high nine points.
Johnson led the Great Danes with 18 points, followed by Ebone Henry with 10.
Duke shoots a season-high 58.9 percent to 38.3 for Albany, wins the rebound battle 32-21 and commits 18 turnovers. Albany turns it over 25 times, 19 of those off Duke’s season-high steals total.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “It was a good game for us to learn some things and practice some things and take good lessons. It’s really important to play the game the same regardless of who you play. It matters what Duke does. Chelsea did some very nice things on the floor, and the fact that Chloe could come up with seven assists in 19 minutes is significant. It’s about a lot of different component parts coming together. The freshmen were outstanding when they were out there together. They hustled and played hard and had fun playing off each other. Tricia Liston really answered the bell in terms of what she did.”
Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson: “I’m very honored and privileged to come back here and see Joanne again and see her team. That jump-ball play, that first play of the game I was like ‘How did I not know she was going to run that play?’ So it was a lot of fun, a lot of fun to be here in her new environment. I just really wanted our team to come in and play hard and make Joanne proud of me again. It’s tough to play two really good teams (Syracuse and Duke back-to-back) and to have our young ladies be able to compete at this level. We have a lot of great clips.”
Gray: “It was excellent to be out there with all of the freshmen. We’ve been getting hyped up, but we try not to feed into that too much and just play out game, so it was good. Haley Peters pointed out that ‘Hey, it’s the five freshmen together’ and we knew we had to go.”
Wells: “When we (freshmen) first got in there we huddled up and said, ‘We’ve got to make this happen.’ Because there’s a lot of hype on us and we wanted to show them it’s not all hype, we can actually play. Our teammates kind of encouraged us in a way to get it done so we went out there and made it happen.”
What does it all mean?
That the Blue Devils’ five freshmen are a pretty impressive unit together.
Stars of the game
2. Jasmine Thomas.
Play of the game
Krystal Thomas’ layup from Jasmine Thomas off the opening tip.
Duke leads series 1-0.
Duke: Won 10.
Albany: Lost 2.
Duke at Oklahoma State, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Albany at Niagara, Dec. 18, 2 p.m.