by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM One last time to protect the home court, then on to brighter lights.
That’s what Duke hopes to get accomplished on Tuesday night at 7 (ESPNU), when Oklahoma State visits for the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
Both teams got moderate challenges in the first round on Sunday, with the Blue Devils getting a noisy 67-51 win over MEAC champion Hampton and the Cowgirls topping DePaul 73-56.
The teams have played three times before with Duke winning them all, including a 73-45 result in Stillwater two seasons ago.
Duke is looking to improve to 18-0 in NCAA Tournament games at Cameron, and hasn’t lost at home to anyone but Connecticut in over five years.
“(Oklahoma State) is just an excellent team,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said of the challenge. “1-2-3-4-5 they’re very strong. They obviously have a fantastic player in (Toni Young), who can rattle off points quickly. Their point guard (Tiffany Bias) plays off the bounce, and she can shoot the ‘3’ also.
“(Liz Donohoe) is really key for them because not only can she shoot, she rebounds on the defensive and offensive side. I think the ‘X’ factor for them is (Kendra Suttles), the lefty who can shoot the trail ‘3’ and can also play off the bounce. And (Brittney Martin) plays a nice role for them. She’s very athletic, so she’ll get to the glass.”
OSU coach Jim Littell said playing at Duke challenging because the Blue Devils will have five offensive threats on the floor.
“I believe they can score in five different positions,” Littell said. “They’re very experienced, they’re long, they’re athletic and they keep people out of the paint.
“I think one thing they do extremely well is they know how to play the game. They don’t run plays as much as read what the defense does. … And I think I counted eight different defenses they played (in the first-round win over Hampton.)”
Duke guard Tricia Liston said Tuesday’s contest should be like an upper-level ACC game.
“(Assistant coach Al Brown) compared them to a Florida State-type team or any ACC team, but in the tournament every team is good,” Liston said. “We just have to come out prepared and play our way. They’re a very skilled team. They play well together and they have good players at each position that we’ll need to shut down on offense, then get back and rebound and get stops.”
Duke center Elizabeth Williams said she has been impressed with how the Blue Devils’ perimeter players have performed since the season-ending knee injury to All-America junior point guard Chelsea Gray on Valentine’s Day.
“Everybody has picked up some things,” Williams said. “I think everyone’s roles have changed a little bit, but I think overall it’s exciting just to play with each other. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn and grow in playing with each other.”
Duke forward Haley Peters said she’s happy to have one more game at home — this time without hundreds of visiting fans cheering when her team makes a mistake.
“I thought (Sunday’s) was an exciting atmosphere to play in,” Peters said. “They had a lot of fans and a lot of energy. I think it was good for our team. It was a different experience for us, but for the most part we handled it well. It was a good learning experience.
“We’re just focused on us tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll be too worried about what’s going on around us. After watching the (OSU) game yesterday and looking ahead to tomorrow, we have a lot of things we need to be keyed in on the rest of the way.”