DURHAM -- Early in the second half, Duke guard Richa Jackson read the pass seconds before it arrived and stepped in front of N.C. State’s Marissa Kastanek to steal the basketball near the right arc.
Jackson jumped into the passing lane and raced to an easy layup to extended her team’s lead. The No. 7 Blue Devils (12-2, 3-0) performed in such aggressive defend-and-score fashion for much of Sunday’s contest, proving a step quicker than their old rivals in a 83-59 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I thought we made their shots very difficult in transition and also throughout the second half,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “And so as long as you’re in an attack mode, you’re in a good place.”
Switching to a 2-3 match-up zone, Duke made a key defensive move to slow down State, which had stormed on a 15-8 run to pull back into the game in the second half.
A 3-pointer by State sophomore point guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman cut Duke’s lead – which had swelled to 17 points in the first half – to eight points with seven minutes, 57 seconds remaining. A layup by redshirt sophomore Lakeesa Daniel cut Duke’s lead to 60-54.
The Pack, known for its grinding defense and never-done mentality, remained in the contest and pushed the Devils, though eventually dropped its third consecutive contest.
Rebounding and converting in the half-court, Duke pushed back with a 9-0 run and sealed the game. Two consecutive jump hooks by junior Allison Vernerey and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Tricia Liston pushed Duke ahead 69-64 with 4:46 remaining.
Two minutes later, sophomore guard Chelsea Gray picked clean State’s Goodwin-Coleman on the wing and converted a layup. Jackson followed that steal-and-score play with a 3-pointer from the right arc to give Duke an 80-57 lead.
Five Duke players scored in double figures. The Devils forced 24 turnovers – 19 in the second half –and outscored State 37-16 off of them.
Jackson scored a career-high 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and collected five steals in 35 minutes. She scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game, heeding the advice of McCallie to penetrate and score.
“Richa was always in attack mode,” McCallie said. “She was always trying to look and see how she could break things down. Her attacks down the lane early were real important to break down their defense.”
Gray added 12 points and eight assists with just three turnovers. Sophomore Tricia Liston finished with 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds – her first career double-double.
In its first week of ACC play, the Pack also fell to Georgia Tech 76-66 and to No. 12 Miami 78-68. State entered its sixth game in 12 days on Sunday.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” State coach Kellie Harper said. “We just played the three most physical teams in the league.”
Harper said she doesn’t want her team to accept the loss with heads low.
“You never accept a loss,” she said. “That’s just a loser’s mentality. But at the same time, you can’t walk out of here thinking that you’re the worst team in basketball. It has to be somewhere in the middle. You have to realize that you can be better, but also that you can be really good. That takes a lot of faith, a lot of belief in the system and each other.”
Players said they were frustrated, but not worried.
“We’re really positive right now,” said Kastanek, who along with senior Bonae Holston scored a team-high 12 points. “We have to come together. We have decided what we want for the season, instead of just playing without a goal in mind. ... These last three games, we’re trying to get a name for ourselves.”