Special to The Herald-Sun
DURHAM — No. 4 Duke improved to 6-0 with a 77-63 win over visiting No. 10 California at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
The Blue Devils simply overpowered the Golden Bears early on and had four players score 11 points or more while shooting 47 percent from the field.
Guard Tricia Liston led Duke’s scoring with 22 points and eight rebounds while guard Chelsea Gray (13 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds), center Elizabeth Williams (12 points, 5 rebounds) and freshman Alexis Jones (11 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds) also cracked double digits.
“It was a really good, physical game for us,” head coach Joanne McCallie said. “That was a feisty and quick game.”
The Blue Devils got off to a fast 4-0 lead within the first 35 seconds.
The Golden Bears offense was led by Brittany Boyd, who led all scorers with 28 points, and guard Gennifer Brandon who worked hard to earn 11 total rebounds against Duke’s overpowering lineup.
“Duke is really, really good,” Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They’re such a complete team.”
The Golden Bears hung with the Blue Devils early and assumed the lead for the first time at the 16:02 mark of the first half, but not for long.
Trailing 13-12, Duke’s defensive play began to dictate the tempo of the game as the Blue Devils went on a dominating 26-7 run to halftime.
“We started hot, and they were hot,” Gottlieb continued. “We missed a couple of shots and I thought that made us tighten up.”
The tightness that the Golden Bears felt was the pressure of Duke’s full court press and midcourt trap that prompted 26 transition points for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s zone defense forced Cal’s shooting into a downward spiral and forced them to rush shots while Duke was able to set up its offense to work the ball in and under the basket. Duke finished with 26 points in the paint.
At times, the Cal defenders weren’t sure where the eventual shot was going to come from, and they knew that Duke’s depth would pose a challenge.
“All five Duke players on the floor are a threat,” Gottlieb stated.
It was Liston in particular who took full advantage of the double-teams that the Golden Bears applied to both Gray and Williams, as both provided open looks for her to finish a 9-of-16 scoring performance from various areas around the basket.
When asked how the opposition’s focus on Gray and Williams enhanced her performance, Liston said, “That’s just opens up things for everybody on the floor, especially me. ... It helps a lot to have people on the floor who have such credibility like these two, it opens everything up.”
Knowing its back was to the wall, Cal came out with a much stronger performance during the second half and stayed within shouting distance, but never came close to overtaking the lead.
“We just kept fighting, kept battling,” Liston said of the Blue Devils’ ability to outdistance themselves from Cal, particularly during an early 9-0 run in the second half.
The key to the Golden Bears’ ability to play a better half was correcting mistakes on offense and challenging the Blue Devils with its own fullcourt pressure in an attempt to slow Duke’s transition game.
To date, Duke hadn’t been challenged to stretch its offense, but on Sunday it handled it well and broke Cal’s midcourt traps repeatedly.
“We love to be pressed ... ,” McCallie said. “Overall, I thought we did a great job breaking the press and scoring, or pulling it out and executing something. I think that should always be an advantage for us, if people press.”
Gray in particular took advantage of the open space created when breaking the press as she distributed the ball with many no-look and bounce passes to her teammates to finish with a game-high nine assists.
Hailing from Stockton, Calif., Gray played with many of the Golden Bears players growing up and she expected the game to be a challenging one.
“We knew it was going to be physical and be a blood bath out there,” Gray said with a smile.
With a decisive win over another Top 10 team, there is no doubt that the Blue Devils’ play at both ends of the court will continue to be challenged to improve as the season progresses.
The incremental addition of players like Williams, Richa Jackson and Chloe Wells, who are all returning from injuries, will increase Duke’s depth at executing its game plan against more challenging opponents.
“You can sub almost sub five in and five out, and when we’re fully healthy, we’ll have enough bodies to do that,” Liston said.
“I think the different combinations that we can make (are) pretty much hard (for anyone) to match up with.”
No. 4 DUKE 77, No. 10 CALIFORNIA 63
Percentages: FG .359, FT .733. 3-Point Goals: 6-11, .545 (Boyd 3-5, Clarendon 2-4, Pierre 1-1, Jemerigbe 0-1). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 4 (Brandon 3, Gray). Turnovers: 22 (Boyd 7, Clarendon 4, Gray 2, Jemerigbe 2, Caldwell 2, Brandon 2, Pierre 2). Steals: 15 (Boyd 7, Clarendon 4, Jemerigbe 2, Brandon, Gray). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .469, FT .875. 3-Point Goals: 3-8, .375 (Liston 2-5, Peters 1-1, Jones 0-1, Gray 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Williams 4, Gray 2). Turnovers: 19 (Vernerey 5, Jones 5, Gray 4, Liston 2, Peters, Williams, Wells). Steals: 9 (Jones 2, Williams 2, Gray 2, Moore, Liston, Peters). Technical Fouls: None.
California 20 43—63
Duke 34 43—77
Officials—Eric Brewton, Maj Forsberg, Kevin Dillard.
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