DURHAM — Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had said before the Blue Devils faced Hampton in the first round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament it wasnt going to be a walkover.
She turned out to be absolutely right.
Duke had to scratch and claw with the MEAC champions for over 30 minutes, finally breaking away down the stretch for a 67-51 win on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The win gave the No. 2 seed ACC champions (31-2) a second-round home game Tuesday at 7 against No. 7 seed Oklahoma State (22-10), which eased past No. 10 seed DePaul 73-56 in Sundays second game.
Duke is 20-0 in first-round NCAA Tournament games and has won 17 straight NCAA games in Cameron.
The No. 15 seed Pirates, who have won four straight conference titles, finished 28-6.
It was a pretty typical Duke team effort on the scoresheet. Junior Tricia Liston led the No. 5 Blue Devils with 20 points including 4-for-10 from 3-point range and scored her 1,000th career point along the way.
Center Elizabeth Williams, who finished with four fouls and played only 28 minutes, had 18 points with six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Haley Peters had 12 points and 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season, while freshman point guard Alexis Jones finished just short of a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and eight boards.
This was great for us, McCallie said. The last thing you want is to get the impression that things are easy because theyre just not. This is a winners tournament. Everybody thats in it is a winner.
And I really liked our focus when we were challenged. Ive been a mid-major coach (at Maine) and Im sorry for Hampton because they were trying to get their first tournament victory and they should have been a higher seed. They might be the most athletic team weve played, including our ACC teams.
Hampton, which had fallen to Duke 72-37 in the same situation in 2010, got 18 points from senior forward Keiara Avant and 15 from senior guard Olivia Allen. Senior forward Ariel Phelps finished with 10 rebounds to go with her eight points.
Im certainly proud of my ladies, said fourth-year Hampton coach David Six. We cut it back to six, and I felt like we gave Duke a moment of pause. Its tough. Theyre a great team.
I said nothing this weekend would make me think we were a 15 seed and my mind still hasnt changed. We werent a 15 seed.
Duke shot 45.2 percent to Hamptons 31.7 and won the rebound battle 44-36. The Blue Devils committed 18 turnovers to Hamptons 17, but had 21 assists to the Pirates 17.
Duke led 32-15 at halftime after shooting 40.6 percent to the Pirates 21.2.
I was pretty excited about my first March Madness game, said Jones, who replaced Chelsea Gray as the starting point guard following Grays season-ending knee injury on Feb. 14 and responded with an MVP performance at the ACC Tournament. I thought we handled the game well, we came out ready to play and I felt the energy we brought to the floor.
I just needed to calm down and slow the game down a bit, execute and take it play-by-play on the offensive and defensive sides.
The Pirates made a long second-half run, cutting the margin to six at 46-40 on an Avant jumper with 10:14 remaining to raise the intensity level of the already-raucous split crowd.
Hampton had two chances to make it a one-possession game before Duke responded with a 10-2 run to stretch it to 56-42 on a Peters layup with 5:46 to go.
After we were down (19), coming back to six we were high-energy, we were motivated and saw we had a chance to pull the thing through, Avant said. But we were just trying to play within our offense. There was no one person to say Hey, Ill take that shot.
Dukes largest lead was 19, the last time at 67-48 on a Liston 3-pointer with 1:17 to go.
Hampton is a great team, Liston said. They are very athletic, very skilled and they play hard. This was a good game for us and a good test for us, and this game will be good to challenge us for future games.
They had great ball pressure, and we had to do some things we hadnt done in the past couple of games. I think this will really help us grow.