by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM No. 3 Duke has the only remaining unbeaten women’s basketball team in the country in Division I, but the Blue Devils (17-0, 3-0) should have a strong challenger tonight in front of its largest crowd of the season.
Duke has had the upper hand in this series, leading it by a whopping 53-7 including a 31-game winning streak over the Yellow Jackets. And the Blue Devils should be deeper, as every healthy player on the roster generally gets into every game.
And Joanne P. McCallie is seeking her 100th win as Duke coach.
She gets it in shocking fashion, as Duke gets a balanced effort and dominates every phase of the game in a 69-32 rout in front of 6,744.
It’s obviously going to be a defensive clinic from the start.
The Blue Devils get a scare 4:52 into the game when leading scorer Jasmine Thomas goes down with a sprained right ankle, although she makes a point of sprinting to the bench and plays 26 solid minutes.
Duke needs 8:15 to get its first field goal on an Allison Vernerey layup from Karima Christmas to cut the early Tech lead to 6-5.
That starts a 6-0 Duke run, during which the Blue Devils take a lead they never come close to relinquishing.
Duke’s largest lead of the first half is 24-12, on Chelsea Gray’s three-point play with 1:45 left in the period.
The Blue Devils lead 26-15 at the break behind five points from three players, while Tyaunna Marshall has six for Tech.
Duke shoots 28.0 percent in the first half to the visitors’ 25.0, leading the rebound battle 27-15.
The second half is a blowout from the start.
Tech trails only 28-17 following a pair of free throws — and the only two points of the night — from Alex Montgomery before the Blue Devils go on a 13-0 run and keep the momentum going.
Duke’s biggest lead is the final score.
In an odd statistic Duke center Krystal Thomas, who finishes with 11 points and 10 rebounds for her 10th career double-double, is the game’s only player in double figures. All 11 Blue Devils score.
Georgia Tech has three players finish with half a dozen points each.
Duke shoots only 36.1 percent, but 41.7 in the second half. The Blue Devils win the rebound battle 45-32 and force a whopping 32 turnovers to 17 of their own.
Chloe Wells has six of Duke’s 19 steals.
They said it …
McCallie: “It was just a great game for us to grow from. I really thought we were 11-for-11, for anybody who went in that game played incredibly tough, dove for loose balls and did all the little things. We’ve been trying to grow toward these types of games. The 43 points we had in the second half was outstanding. Eventually we’ll get to where we can possibly do that in two halves. … You never know the way a game’s going to break, you just keep playing. Tonight, I felt, we were really in the moment. I don’t even think people knew the score half the time to be honest.”
Tech coach MaChelle Joseph: “That was probably one of the worst games I’ve ever seen us play in my last 4-5 years. It started from the very first play when Alex Montgomery passed up a wide-open shot and it kind of went downhill from there. Great players make plays, and that’s why Jasmine Thomas is one of the top five players in the country. What she’s done here at Duke and throughout her career, she’s just a tremendous competitor. For us to get out-rebounded as badly as we did, shooting as poorly as we did, that’s going to make for a bad night.”
Krystal Thomas: “It’s easy to stay in the moment either way, whether a team is physical (as is Georgia Tech) or not. We have to go out there and win the game. We’re always trying to reach the goals we set before each game, so there’s a lot to focus on regardless of what the other team is doing.”
Wells: “I think being undefeated is good, but when we show dominance I think that adds to it. Winning is good, but we’ve got to keep it going so they know, ‘Oh, OK. I see Duke coming.”
What does it all mean?
Yes, the Blue Devils are just that good right now. And whether or not the night was a total aberration for the Yellow Jackets will be evident in a tough home game against Boston College on Sunday.
Duke leads 54-7.
Duke: Won 18.
GT: Lost 1.
Georgia Tech vs. Boston College, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Duke at N.C. State, Sunday, 5 p.m.