No. 5 Duke beats Clemson 78-51
No. 5 Duke was only focused on Clemson, not on its last loss to powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference rival Notre Dame or the three-game test of top-15 teams over the next two weeks.
It's a strategy that worked perfectly for Duke, which won its 18th straight over the Tigers with a 78-51 victory Thursday night. The Blue Devils (22-2, 9-1 ACC) found the scoring touch they lacked last time out, an 88-67 loss Sunday to new league rival, No. 2 Notre Dame.
Peters, who led Duke with 17 points and three steals, said she and her teammates made sure they didn't let that contest affect them at Littlejohn Coliseum — or think ahead to what's ahead.
"This was a good game for us to get our energy and our focus back to where we want it to be," Peters said. "And re-establish who we are in the conference."
They can do that in a huge way the next three games. Duke takes on No. 13 North Carolina on Monday, then plays No. 10 Maryland on Feb. 17 before facing No. 14 North Carolina State on Feb. 20 — a stretch sure to test their staying power in the super-sized ACC.
"It's funny that people mention it because our entire schedule has been that way," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "So it's no different to us that we've got difficult teams on the horizon."
Still, McCallie feels better about things after this win. She thought her players understood the mistakes they made against Notre Dame and were ready to put that behind them. "Notre Dame plays at a high level and we didn't match that," she said. "That bothered us tremendously and I think that will be a driving force" the rest of the season.
Duke looked like it needed a boost in the first half of this one, trailing Clemson 23-22 with a minute left before the break. That's when the Blue Devils scored three straight baskets to begin what would be a 32-12 run to take control.
Tricia Liston had 15 points and 10 rebounds, her third game this season with double figure points and rebounds. It was Peters' first double-figure showing in three games.
"I think the biggest thing for us right is to take each game one at a time and take care of business in that game before looking ahead," Liston said.
The Blue Devils held Clemson's top scorer, Nikki Dixon, to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Dixon had been averaging better than 14 points a game this season.
First-year Clemson coach Audra Smith said her team didn't could not respond when Duke got going. "We've got to get out of the habit of folding," she said.
Richa Jackson had 13 points and Ka'lia Johnson added 10 for Duke.
Duke needed a soft place to land after its disappointing loss to Notre Dame and Clemson has generally been just that for the Blue Devils, all but one of whose 18 straight series wins have come by 14 points or more.
A year ago, Duke was coming off a defeat to top-ranked Connecticut and rebounded with a 60-46 victory at Littlejohn over the Tigers.
And this one started out like many of the others with Duke in charge.
McCallie groused about her team's lack of stops in the Notre Dame loss. There wasn't a similar drop off this time as the Tigers were held to 1-of-12 shooting the first eight minutes and Duke jumped out to an 11-2 lead.
Things changed dramatically after that as Clemson found its shooting touch and Duke struggled to hold on to the ball.
The Tigers took off on a 16-6 run to take an 18-17 lead on Dixon's steal and layup with 4:35 to go. Johnson came back moments later with basket in traffic and got fouled for a three-point play to retake the lead.
Clemson moved back on top on Nyilah Jamison-Myers inside basket, 23-22, with 1:17 left. That's when Duke turned things up to score three baskets in the final minute.
Alexis Jones started it with a straight-on jumper, Johnson drove the lane for bucket and Williams pulled off a reverse with 2.6 seconds to send the Blue Devils into the break ahead 28-23.
Not that McCallie didn't have plenty to shore up in the second half.
Duke, which had just 16 turnovers against Notre Dame, had 15 in the opening 20 minutes Thursday night. The Blue Devils are averaging 17 turnovers a game this season.
Whatever she said worked as her team tightened up and turned the ball over just six times in the second half.