CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM It’s the beginning of the final run for Duke’s senior class, which came in as the nation’s top recruiting group and hasn’t disappointed.
Tricia Liston, Haley Peters and Richa Liston enter their final NCAA Tournament hoping to get to their only Final Four, unfortunately with classmate Chelsea Gray on the bench with a season-ending kneecap injury and guard Chloe Wells no longer on the roster.
The Blue Devils (27-6) have a No. 2 seed — the selection committee did them a horrible injustice by putting them into the Lincoln Regional with Connecticut — and will take on Big South champion and No. 15 seed Winthrop (24-8) in the 11 a.m. game that starts the whole tournament.
The Eagles, who have freshman Carolina Friends School product Zoe Vernon as one of their top players off the bench, will be heavy underdogs.
This one is a romp from the start, as Duke never trails, takes a 24-point lead into the locker room and rolls 87-45.
The Blue Devils shoot 54 percent to Winthrop’s 27.3 and win the rebound battle 49-23.
Liston leads Duke with 20 points. She is followed by freshman Oderah Chidom with a season high 17 and freshman Kendall McCravey-Cooper with season highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Peters adds 11 points and Elizabeth Williams 10.
Dequesha McClanahan paces Winthrop with 22 points followed by Samiya Wright with 12.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “I just loved how the team continued to focus on what we were doing. 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 coach Kevin Cook: “(Duke’s post players) seemed like the French Foreign Legion to me. 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.”
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. This was the first game that we had — and the only game that we technically had — so that was a big thing for us.”
McCravey-Cooper: “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.”
Play of the game
Chidom’s layup from Peters to make it 19-8 at 11:53 of the first half.
Duke leads 2-0.
Duke: Won 1.
Winthrop: Lost 1.
Duke vs. DePaul, Monday, 6:30 p.m.