Azura Stevens was just about unstoppable for Duke, and that was the main difference in the Blue Devils’ victory over archrival North Carolina.
The 6-6 sophomore out of Cary had her 22nd career double-double with 26 points and 14 rebounds as the Blue Devils rolled 71-55 in ACC women’s basketball on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The win, Duke’s third straight, improved the Blue Devils to 15-6 overall and 4-3 in the ACC; the Tar Heels fell to 12-10 and 2-5 with their fifth straight loss.
Rebecca Greenwell added 16 points and Oderah Chidom 15 with a career high five steals for Duke, which got a career-high 16 rebounds from Amber Henson.
“I loved the game for our team because it was hard-fought and very physical,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “North Carolina is a talented team, a very talented team. There are quick first steps on those guards, and to hold them to 55 points and a poor shooting percentage was very good for our team. So we got better.”
Jamie Cherry led the Tar Heels with 16 points, Stephanie Watts added 13 points and 10 rebounds and N’Dea Bryant 10 had points and 12 rebounds.
The game marked the first time neither of the storied teams had been in the Associated Press Top 25 in over 24 years (Jan. 15, 1992).
“I’m really proud of how hard our team played,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “They scrapped and fought out there. We matched them off the boards, and that’s pretty good considering the size we have. If you make ’3s’ you beat Duke, and were 5-for-34. These kids fought hard all the way, and we look forward to playing them again in four weeks.”
Neither team had a single bench point.
“Whenever they were coming back, it was in our minds to stop whatever run they went on,” Stevens said. “We could not continue to let them get hot. They had a little run, but we had to find a way to get it whether it was a stop or an offensive board or anything and I think we did a good job of that.”
UNC is 0-3 since senior post Xylina McDaniel’s college career was ended by a torn right meniscus and ACL.
Duke shot 41.5 percent for the game to the Tar Heels’ 26.3, had 48 rebounds to the visitors’ 47 and 19 turnovers to UNC’s 14.
Duke was up 51-40 after three periods. Stevens already had 20 points and 10 rebounds at the break while Cherry led the Tar Heels with 13.
“Who wouldn’t want to play 40 minutes?” said Cherry, who never left the floor. “That’s everybody’s dream. Last year I wanted to play, and now I’ve got the opportunity to play, so I’m not complaining at all.”
The Blue Devils led 36-34 at halftime behind 16 points from Stevens, who hit the layup to put Duke ahead for good with 32 seconds left in the half. Cherry had nine at the break for UNC.
Duke led 18-10 after the first quarter, with all the points coming from Stevens, Greenwell and Henson.
“I was more aggressive and committed, and I did not leak out before going to the board,” said Henson, whosed brother John starred for the Tar Heels. “In games before this I haven’t really performed on the boards as I should. This game, I really wanted to focus on crashing.”
Duke played without freshman guard Angela Salvadores, who missed her third straight game with a sprained ankle.
Notes: UNC leads the all-time series 49-43. ... Duke visits Pittsburgh on Thursday night before returning home on Feb. 1 against Notre Dame. ... UNC’s next game is on Sunday at N.C. State.