Duke takes another dive against UConn

January 21, 2013 - 11:14pm
Kelly Faris put up 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as No. 3 UConn put together an impressive second half performance to defeat No. 4 Duke by 30 points.(File photo by Kelly Kline)

Kelly Faris put up 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as No. 3 UConn put together an impressive second half performance to defeat No. 4 Duke by 30 points.(File photo by Kelly Kline)

(3) UConn 79, (4) Duke 49

The last five times Duke and UConn had played, Duke had lost by an average margin of 29 points.

So as Joanne P. McCallie headed into the locker room at halftime, trailing by just a point, even her most negative thought would have been something like “Well, at least we won’t lose by 29.”

And the Blue Devils didn’t – they lost by 30.

In an epic second-half collapse, previously unbeaten No. 4 Duke unraveled like a cheap shirt, leaving nothing behind but shattered egos and yet another hammering at the hands of the unforgiving Huskies.

Of course, UConn is No. 3 for a reason – well, actually many reasons, but one of them is depth. In this game, for example, the Husky bench outscored the Duke bench 23-9; and two of the Blue Devil starters combined for four points.

Now it wasn’t surprising that one of the two-point scorers was Tricia Liston, who would be hard-pressed to break into UConn’s top 11, but the fact that Chelsea Gray was held to one of six shooting and forced into four turnovers was the shocker. Then again, Gray has never had to deal with a defender like Kelly Faris, who cemented her first-round draft status by making one of the best collegiate point guards in the country simply disappear.

At 5-10, the extremely athletic Faris is no more and no less than a basketball player – which means she does whatever it takes to win. Given her skills, usually she’s asked to guard the opponent’s top perimeter player and not worry about scoring too much. So Faris only averages 10.8 ppg, but that’s on 55.1 percent shooting, and doesn’t take into account those 82 assists (to just 29 turnovers) and 5.0 rpg.

In this game, she really shone, as aside from turning Gray from an All-American to a second-half spectator, she made six of 10 shots en route to 18 points, had six assists and added 12 rebounds (seven offensive).

Oh yes, rebounding. UConn did hold Duke to 35.7 percent shooting, but the real damage was done on the boards, where the Huskies had a 44-25 edge, including 14 offensive rebounds.

But what happened in the second half? First, Connecticut quit turning the ball over. As a result, the Blue Devils got no cheap baskets and wound up completely frustrated on the offensive end.

Consider: It was 32-30 UConn at the half, and 34-32 with 19 minutes left in the game. When Elizabeth Williams (who was exposed by Stefanie Dolson as an undersized post with a lot of work to do) managed a follow shot with 16:09 left, it was 43-37.

Fewer than eight minutes later, after Husky reserve Brianna Banks slashed to the basket virtually unopposed, it was 65-39. And much of that time, Dolson was on the bench, leaving Connecticut’s post play in the hands of freshman Breanna Stewart – who scored 13 points in 22 minutes and blocked three shots. Duke’s reserve post, Allison Vernerey (the team’s only senior) had one point and no rebounds in seven minutes.

Chloe Wells did come off the bench and hit two three-pointers for the ACC’s best, but Richa Jackson was one of six from the field. Freshman Alexis Jones had a brilliant first half and finished with 14 points on five of 12 shooting, while Haley Peters scored 11, but those were pretty much all the positives Duke could muster.

On the other side, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led everyone with 21 points (four of eight three-pointers) and even though Bria Hartley made only two of seven shots, she offset those numbers with nine assists.

So after the latest annual spanking, the question has to be asked: Is it a good thing that all but one of Duke’s players will return to face UConn again next year, if not in postseason? It’s been six games in a row, so statistically speaking, the 30-point average defeat is not anything like a fluke; it’s a reflection of reality.

Now whether the reality is that Geno Auriemma is a way better game coach than McCallie, or that Auriemma recruits way better players, or that there’s some kind of old Yankee curse that’s been cast on the Southerners, is pretty much irrelevant.

For whatever reason, when Duke plays UConn, it’s like the varsity is playing the JVs. This time, the varsity wasn’t really into it for the first half, but then woke up and put the upstarts in their place.

By 30.

As usual.