Blue Devils Run Down Lady Vols
Duke is the one.
At least for now.
The second-ranked Blue Devils (19-0) made that abundantly clear Monday, routing top-ranked and previously unbeaten Tennessee, 75-53, here before a sellout crowd of 9,314 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Junior point guard Lindsey Harding led five Blue Devils in double figures with 15 points. She was even stronger on defense, gathering a career-high eight steals and directing a team that forced 22 Tennessee turnovers.
“I’m just really pleased with our overall effort,” Duke Coach Gail Goestenkors said. “[But] Lindsey was amazing. I said it after the game, if there is a better defensive player in the nation I’d like to see her.
“My biggest surprise? The margin of victory. I was expecting it to go down to the wire.”
Pat Summitt has seen her Lady Vols humbled before, having gone through numerous battles with Connecticut. But, even with the knowledge she was playing a strong and deep team, Summitt could not have foreseen this Tennessee squad being handled so easily.
“It was very apparent tonight that Duke wanted this game, and they went after it in a much more aggressive and determined way than we did,” Summitt said.
“Bottom line, defensively, they disrupted us and we did not disrupt them.”
The feeling-out period was a long one. The teams were tied, 14-14, after the first nine minutes. Touted Tennessee freshman Candace Parker, who had a game-high 17 points, established a formidable presence in the low post, working over the Duke defense for a variety of layups and short jump shots. But Duke also realized its backcourt of Harding, Monique Currie and Wanisha Smith had a decided edge in speed and quickness against the taller, heavier Tennessee guards.
Harding, Currie and Smith exploited that, repeatedly driving on the Lady Vols, showing no hesitation, even if their shots were blocked. It also became evident that Duke could run its fastbreak on Tennessee, but the Lady Vols (18-1) could not outrun the Blue Devils back down the court.
“Every time I touched the ball I was pushing it as fast as I could,” Harding said. “Our wings were getting out, our posts were running the floor. We had so much depth, we were able to keep it going and going and going, and it seemed like we never got tired.”
At halftime, Tennessee trailed, 30-23. The Lady Vols’ total represented their fewest points scored in a first half this season, and the margin was their biggest deficit after a first half.
What adjustments would they make?
None that worked.
Duke came out, spread the floor with their offensive sets and exposed Tennessee’s lack of speed even more. The Blue Devils, who shot 64.3% in the second half (18 for 28) and 53.6% for the game, ran layup drills via backdoor plays or going over the top of Tennessee’s frontcourt.
The Lady Vols grew frustrated at being outrebounded (33-26), outhustled and stifled by Duke’s defensive pressure.
The lead mushroomed from 10 points to 20 to Duke’s biggest margin of 27, at 73-46, with 3:49 left.
As happy as she was with the victory, Goestenkors warned Duke that there was plenty of season left, especially with third-ranked North Carolina -- the only other unbeaten team left at 18-0 -- playing here Sunday.
“We knew, win or lose, that this was just one game,” she said. “It was an opportunity to test ourselves, to find out how good we were in this particular situation on this particular day.”