DURHAM – Under coach Joanne P. McCallie, the Duke women's basketball team has often started a season slowly on offense, but found ways to win with ruthless defense.
It was no different in No. 7 Duke’s 64-53 victory over No. 13 Purdue in Thursday's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
As layups spun off the rim, and the Boilermakers drained 3-pointers to keep the game close through the second half, the Blue Devils (5-1) stepped in passing lanes for steals, pestered their opponents with half-court traps and zone defenses, slid into position for a charge and handed out the most knocks in a rough-and-tumble contest.
With eight minutes remaining, the Devils opened a nine-point lead on a layup by sophomore forward Richa Jackson. From there, they smothered the Boilermakers with a hit-the-floor effort their opponents couldn’t match.
“We were tenacious,” Duke sophomore guard Chloe Wells said.
Duke freshman Elizabeth Williams rejected a layup attempt by Purdue guard Courtney Moses with five minutes left that brought the crowd of 4,715 to its feet. In the end, the Devils forced 21 turnovers, collected 15 steals and seven blocks to overcame a streaky shooting opponent – 36.8 percent from the field.
“It was a great team defensive effort,” McCallie said.
Duke also out-rebounded Purdue 50-32. Williams collected a freshman record 17 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards.
“We failed to box out the whole game,” Purdue senior guard Brittany Rayburn said. “That’s what hurt us.”
Duke improved to 4-1 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge since the leagues started the event in 2007. The ACC has won the previous four Challenge titles.
Facing a two-on-one break, Duke point guard Chelsea Gray stepped into the lane for a steal with 2:46 remaining and was fouled. She hit both free throws to put her team ahead 57-49. A minute later, she raced down court for a layup. Fouled, she hit a free throw to hand the Devils a 12-point lead that put the game out of reach.
Rayburn lived up to her scouting report, knocking down 5 of 12 3-point attempts to finish with 16 points. Moses added a game-high 17 points for Purdue.
Duke forward Haley Peters scored a team-high 14 points, while Wells finished with 13 points, six steals and five assists in 37 minutes.
Gray, who guided the Devils in 36 minutes, scored 11 points and dished four assists, with four turnovers.
Duke played its first game without senior guard Shay Selby, who has been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules, McCallie announced on Tuesday.
Selby, a 5-foot-9 guard from Cleveland, Ohio, had started in five games this season, averaging 6.2 points in 23.2 minutes per game.
Duke sophomore guard Tricia Liston replaced Selby in the line-up. She has averaged 10.0 points per game this season.
McCallie said the Devils’ second-half effort made the difference.
“You have to hold down the fort and play great defense and rebound while you work on things – offense, your timing,” McCallie said. “We underachieved offensively in some areas. And that comes with time. It’s not something you can get upset about. You have to play with each other.”