|Duke guard Chelsea Gray (12) drives past Western Kentucky forward LaTeira Owens (31) to score during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game at the E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Joe Imel)|
Western Kentucky can't match No. 8 Duke's pressure
BOWLING GREEN, Ky.—Western Kentucky coach Mary Taylor Cowles bluntly summed up No. 8 Duke's defense.
"The pressure was just very, very intense," she said.
Reserve Tricia Liston scored a career-high 22 points after going scoreless in her first two games this season and the Blue Devils forced 35 turnovers against Western Kentucky in an 80-54 rout on Sunday.
"It was a great learning experience," Cowles said. "We need that opportunity -- to see that and experience that so we know what it's going to take for us to get where we want to get to."
Chloe Wells added 13 points and nine assists and Chelsea Gray scored 11 for the Blue Devils, who used relentless pressure as Western Kentucky (0-3) committed mistake after mistake.
"It was really tough to relieve the pressure not only on the point guard, but everyone," Western Kentucky guard Chaney Means said. "They were making it hard for everyone to get open and get where we needed to run our offense."
Duke (3-0) used a 14-0 run late in the first half to open up a 22-point lead just before halftime. The Lady Toppers are winless in five meetings with Duke and hadn't hosted a team ranked as high as the Blue Devils in 11 years.
Duke, under coach Joanne McCallie, is back in the top 10, but has a young team with four starters that are sophomores or freshmen and five more coming off the bench, including the sophomore Liston.
Wells had back-to-back baskets early and pressured Western Kentucky's backcourt with four of her five steals in the first half.
Shay Selby's 3-pointer gave Duke a 17-7 lead before Western Kentucky cut it to five at 22-17 after consecutive 3-pointers by Means.
But Liston, who had missed her first 12 shots of the season in Duke's first two games, scored the next eight points as Duke went on a 14-0 run to open up a big advantage.
Western Kentucky, which was picked third in the East Division of the 12-team Sun Belt, committed seven turnovers and missed four shots during Duke's run and went 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal in its first matchup at home with a team ranked this high since hosting Louisiana Tech on Jan. 23, 2000.
By the time Alexis Govan ended the drought with a 3 in the final minute of the first half, the Lady Toppers trailed 40-21 at the break. Danay Fothergill and Chasity Gooch scored 11 each for the Lady Toppers.
"They're a great team. I honestly think they can be going for the championship this year," Means said. "We want to get to a point where we can play with those kinds of teams."