CHAPEL HILL – Duke kept knocking down shots, earning defensive stops and harassing its biggest rival into a series of turnovers that led to a steadily expanding lead.
By the time it was finished, the No. 5 Blue Devils were celebrating another lopsided win vs. No. 11 North Carolina.
Chloe Wells scored a career-high 18 points and Duke dominated the first half on the way to an 84-63 win Sunday, the Blue Devils’ fifth straight in the series.
Tricia Liston added 15 for the Blue Devils (20-1, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who jumped all over the Tar Heels to take the drama out of this one early. Duke blew the game open with a 29-3 run over 10 minutes, led by 31 at halftime and was up by as many as 33 points to deny UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell her 900th career victory.
“I’ve liked where their heads have been starting back against Miami (on Thursday) and then (Sunday),” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I think we’ve had a pretty good focus – a little bit older-acting, to me. ... I just think we’re starting to understand more, and players are talking more and becoming more vocal about what we need to do. That’s important, especially playing in environments that can get kind of crazy.”
The win came almost a year to the day after Duke’s 40-point rout of UNC at Cameron Indoor Stadium. And for a time Sunday, it looked like the Tar Heels (20-3, 8-2) were on the way to an even uglier loss on their own home court. They finally played with some fight after halftime to avoid that, though they got no closer than 18 points.
Hatchell was trying to become only the third coach in women’s basketball to reach the 900-win milestone, along with Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt. Instead, she was forced to burn three first-half timeouts in a futile effort to slow the Blue Devils.
“I don’t know what it was – we started out like we were intimidated,” said Hatchell, who is in her 27th year at UNC and 38th in coaching. “I hate to say that, but I’m just being honest. Maybe we need to go in the gym next door and play some pickup for about 15 or 20 minutes and then come and play the game, and get going. These kids, they love to compete, but at the start of the game, we were not competing.”
Duke shot 56 percent, hit 7 of 9 3-point attempts and kept adding to the lead by cashing in on turnovers or the offensive glass in the first half. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, shot just 22 percent and had twice as many turnovers (14) as field goals (7) in the half.
“We just came out really focused,” said Duke center Elizabeth Williams, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. “I think we were making all the right decisions, making the right passes and getting good shots off that. And defensively, we were getting stops, and that led to our offense.”
The Blue Devils hit 11 of 18 3-point tries for the game. Duke also had 24 points off turnovers and 25 second-chance points.