by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke finally opens at home with an unusual noon game, a week after the No. 9 Blue Devils’ road victory at Brigham Young.
Nell Fortner’s Tigers are the best visiting team to come to the Triangle so far this season, going 16-16 and playing in the WNIT last season. Duke leads the all-time series 4-0 after winning 75-62 on The Plains last season.
No. 8 Duke gets a dominant game from freshman sensation Elizabeth Williams, using a big second half to roll to a 73-50 victory.
It’s obvious once things get going that the visitors don’t plan to be patsies today.
Duke bursts out to a 27-14 lead on a Richa Jackson follow shot at 6:26. But the visitors peck away at the advantage, with Najat Ouardad’s bucket at the buzzer trimming the halftime margin to 32-31.
Williams has eight points and seven rebounds at the half for the Blue Devils, while Hasina Muhammad leads Auburn with nine points.
Duke pulls away with a 16-5 run to start the second half, with Haley Peters’ layup making it 48-37 with 12:18 left.
Williams shows why she was the nation’s top recruit in her first home game, pouring in 18 points with 13 rebounds.
Chloe Wells chips in a career-high 14 points with three steals, while Peters adds in 10 points all in the second half.
Camille Glymph paces Auburn with 12 points while Muhammad chips in 10.
Duke outshoots the visitors 38.0 percent to 32.8, and outrebounds them 52-35 after a big second half. The Blue Devils commit 16 turnovers to Auburn’s 22.
They said it …
McCallie: “We’re really very pleased with our second half in particular. I thought Haley’s leadership and the way she played in the second half, that the team fed off that in a very, very positive way. I think to hold any team to 19 second-half points is a remarkable accomplishment, especially Auburn — a very physical team with a lot of talent and a lot of shooters. Elizabeth was aggressive and very powerful throughout her minutes, and it’s important to send that energy to her teammates.”
Fortner: “If it was a 20-minute ball game I would probably feel good about it, but it is a 40-minute game. The last 20 minutes were pretty tough for us. Elizabeth Williams is something else. She is a good rebounder and just a force. I was very impressed with her … We did some good things in 20 minutes and we just have to learn to play a 40-minute game.”
Williams: “I felt pretty comfortable with the way we started out the game. We were running the floor very well, making good plays and fed off that energy. I just tried to rebound hard and spread the floor. I tried not to change too much. I still wanted to be aggressive and become a solid defender. I just tried to keep playing hard.”
Peters: “I just tried to keep focused on the game. Sometimes it’s beneficial to me to see what’s happening on the floor from the bench. Coming out of halftime, I just wanted to be aggressive, attack the basket and look to make good plays.”
What does it all mean?
That Williams seems to be as good as advertised and Duke can have a killer instinct. And Auburn may have a chance to be good.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Wells’ layup from Chelsea Gray to make it 36-31 with 18:22 to go.
Duke at Western Kentucky, Sunday, 3 p.m.
Auburn vs. George Washington, Wednesday, 6 p.m.