Jan. 25, 2009
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Duke honored its first Final Four team, and then the Blue Devils played like they could get back there again.
Especially on defense, where the fourth-ranked Blue Devils claimed their 15th straight victory Sunday by forcing Georgia Tech into one of the worst offensive performances in school history. The result: a 60-34 rout of the Yellow Jackets.
“There’s a chemistry that’s almost brewing, like you can feel it getting stronger and better,” said Abby Waner, who scored 14 points. “We’re on an ascent, I guess you could say.”
Chante Black and Jasmine Thomas both scored 10 points for the Blue Devils (17-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). They never trailed, forced Georgia Tech into two extended field-goal droughts, and went on to claim a share of first place in the league with Florida State, the only other team unbeaten in ACC play.
Alex Montgomery scored 12 points and fellow sophomore Iasia Hemingway added 10 in their first visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium with the Yellow Jackets (14-5, 2-3). But Jacqua Williams, who averages 13.7 points, was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.
“We’re going as our freshmen and sophomores go,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. “It’s pretty tough when you’re on the road at Duke, you come in here and my 10 freshmen and sophomores have never played here before, don’t even understand this environment.”
Duke shot a season-high 50 percent and overcame its 24 turnovers by generating 26 takeaways while holding on for its 29th straight win in the series.
The Blue Devils’ overall streak is by far their longest since Waner’s sophomore season in 2006-07, when they won their first 30 games and spent much of the season at No. 1, but perhaps peaked too soon. A Final Four trip that year was a foregone conclusion, until they were upset in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.
“We haven’t peaked yet, except that we’re very, very strong,” Waner said of the current team. “We’re a dangerous team, but we’re still not playing at our best, and that’s different from the teams from the past that I’ve played with.”
Only once before had the Yellow Jackets scored this few points in a game: two years ago, North Carolina routed them 78-31. This was just the third time in Georgia Tech’s history that it didn’t crack the 40-point mark.
“We weren’t able to run. We weren’t able to get easy baskets in transition,” Joseph said. “That really stifled us a lot offensively.”
Georgia Tech came in on a roll after upsetting No. 2 North Carolina three days earlier. But Duke’s defense ensured that the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t sweep both top-five teams on Tobacco Road, and instead denied them their first win in the series since 1994.
“Emotionally, (the North Carolina game) was a huge game for us, and it took a lot of emotion out of us,” Joseph said. “It’s a tough swing anyways. … For a young team that’s never even been in Cameron before, that’s an even tougher challenge.”
The Blue Devils took control during a dominating first half in which they held Georgia Tech to 4-of-22 shooting – its best opening 20 minutes of defense this season. Three of those field goals came during a 4-minute stretch midway through the half, and the Yellow Jackets went 11 minutes between baskets.
This originally was planned as a joyous weekend for the Duke program, which at halftime introduced several of the players who 10 years ago helped the Blue Devils reach the Final Four for the first time.
Despite that, nobody’s thoughts ever seemed to stray far from Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach from nearby North Carolina State who died a day earlier after a two-decade battle with breast cancer.
A moment of silence was held in her memory before the game, and there were significantly more fans wearing N.C. State apparel than usual. Players wore pink shoelaces and wrote messages on their shoes to honor Yow, while coaches wore pink ribbons and the game officials’ whistles also were pink – the color of breast cancer awareness.
“The tremors of it are felt across women’s college basketball – it’s a very sad thing for one of the pioneers of the women’s game to pass away,” Waner said. “But it’s important for everybody to know what she left behind.”