DURHAM – What a difference a half makes.
The No. 3 Duke women’s basketball looked out-of-sync offensively in the first half on Friday, shooting a miserable 28 percent from the field against Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils, though defending, carried an uninspired 26-15 lead into halftime.
Then the second half began and a clearly re-calibrated Duke team walked onto the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, storming to a 69-32 victory over the Yellow Jackets before an announced crowd of 6,744 – a season-high attendance.
Primed for a better shooting half, the Devils distanced themselves with a 15-2 run to start the second half, holding the Yellow Jackets without a field goal for 7 minutes, 21 seconds. Tech guard Metra Walthour knocked down a jump shot at 12:39 to end the drought.
Meanwhile, the Devils shot 41.7 percent and forced 22 turnovers in the second half – 32 turnovers overall, scoring 26 points off of those mistakes. They snapped Georgia Tech’s 13-game winning streak and limited co-leading scorer Alex Montgomery (14.5 point average) to two points in 20 minutes.
“Incredible defense,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
The Devils (18-0, 4-0 ACC) turned what was an ugly defensive scrap into a rout, handing McCallie her 100th program victory. She became the third quickest coach to reach that mark at an institution in NCAA history.
Duke remains the only undefeated NCAA Division I women’s basketball team in the nation.
It was the first ACC loss for the Yellow Jackets (17-4, 4-1), who were flummoxed by the Devils’ variety of presses and second-half offensive onslaught.
Duke senior Krystal Thomas scored a team-high 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, her third double-double of the season and 10th of her career.
Freshman Chole Wells secured six steals in 17 minutes, while freshman Chelsea Gray dished five assists and cleared eight boards.
By the time the Duke crowd called for the “Crazy Towel Guy,” the Devils had taken a comfortable 62-29 lead with four minutes remaining.
Tech had held teams to 51.8 points per game and started the game with a disruptive game plan of pressing and trapping in the half court.
It worked. The Blue Devils, shooting 28 percent from the floor, were hurried and missed shots, though they used a 19-6 run to close out the first period.
The Yellow Jackets shot 25 percent from the field in the first half, a result of Duke’s shuffle-slap-and-steal defense.
It was a tough start for Duke senior guard Jasmine Thomas, who was 0-for-3 from the field and had to overcome a hard fall early in the game.
After darting inside and delivering a pass, Thomas fell to the floor awkwardly at the 14:08 mark of the first half. She grabbed her right ankle in pain and pounded her fist against the court three times.
Thomas, the Devils' leading scorer, remained on the court for a minute before running off to the bench. There she had her ankle taped before re-entering the game at 12:12 of the first half.
Thomas finished the game with eight points in 26 minutes. She will play against N.C. State on Sunday. Her roommate, Krystal Thomas, picked up the slack.
“My last couple of games haven’t been really spectacular, so I was trying to come out and play the way I know I can play,” Krystal Thomas said.