DURHAM — Nobody can say Duke wasn’t ready for its first game in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Tricia Liston scored 20 points to lead five players in double figures as the Blue Devils, seeded No. 2 in the Lincoln Region, crushed No. 15 seed Winthrop 87-45 in the first round on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke (28-6) will take on No. 7 seed DePaul (28-6) – a 104-100 winner over No. 10 seed Oklahoma on Saturday – in the second round here on Monday at 6:30.
It was the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for The 15th-seeded Big South champions, who finished 24-9. Winthrop’s previous worst loss of the season was 69-56 on Jan. 4 at Gardner-Webb, and the Eagles fell to South Carolina – the No. 1 seed in the Stanford Regional – only 69-61 on Dec. 20.
Duke’s freshmen Oderah Chidom and Kendall McCravey-Cooper both excelled on Saturday, Chidom scoring a season-high 17 points in just 14 minutes and McCravey-Cooper putting up season highs in points with 14 and rebounds with 10 in 17 minutes.
Haley Peters added 11 points with six rebounds, six assists and five steals, while Elizabeth Williams chipped in 10 points with eight points and three blocked shots.
“I just loved how the team continued to focus on what we were doing,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “The best stat we had is 21 assists. That’s got to be some kind of world record with no (true) point guards on the floor. We’ve gone from no point guards to all point guards, so I’m just proud of the team for passing the ball.”
Winthrop got 22 points from Dequesha McClanahan and 12 from Samiya Wright.
“(Duke’s post players) seemed like the French Foreign Legion to me,” Winthrop coach Kevin Cook said. “They were bringing them in waves, and that was one of my concerns. We haven’t had 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 coming at us, so it impacted us greatly on the defensive end.”
The Blue Devils shot 54.0 percent to Winthrop’s 27.3, and won the rebound battle 49-33.
Duke dominated from the start, leading 41-17 at halftime behind 12 points from Liston.
“We had the mentality coming in that we had to win all the hustle plays and had to stay with the little things, the intangibles and rebounding,” Liston said. “This was the first game that we had – and the only game that we technically had – so that was a big thing for us.”
Duke, which never trailed, led 29-17 following a 3-pointer from the Eagles’ Zoe Vernon – the freshman out of Carolina Friends School – with 3:47 left in the half.
But they closed the period with a 12-0 run that pretty much put it away. McCravey-Cooper had three rebounds and hit a jumper during that span.
“I just went out and did what I had to do,” said McCravey-Cooper, who was 7-for-7 from the floor. “We each had to carry each other, so the early success came from knowing my team needed me and I needed to do something.”
Duke outscored the visitors 42-6 in the paint and 36-6 off the bench.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” Chidom said. “Our coaches and our other teammates have been implying that some other players need to step up, and that just gave me an opportunity to be comfortable. My confidence has grown since I’ve been given the opportunity to play more.”