ATLANTA - With what was once a large lead trimmed to six points, the Duke womens basketball team turned to its top scorer to finish off Georgia Tech.
Tricia Liston scored six of her 16 points during a pivotal second-half stretch and Duke never trailed in winning the ACC opener for both schools 64-47 Sunday at McCamish Pavilion.
It was the 36th consecutive victory for the Associated Press No. 3 Blue Devils (14-1) in the series. Tech (10-4) last won in February, 1994.
Duke led by as much as 19 points when Chelsea Gray’s jumper made it 49-30 with 13:45 to play in the second half. But Tech didn’t quit and over the next five minutes stormed back into the game.
Nariah Taylor and Katarina Vuckovic each had four points during a 13-0 spurt that was capped by Vuckovic’s lay up with 8:41 left and made it a 49-43 game.
Duke reestablished its double-digit lead over a two-minute stretch. Liston had two buckets, Gray handed out two of her nine assists and the Blue Devils scored the next six points and were up 55-43 with six and a half minutes remaining in the game.
“I think we’re very good at reasserting ourselves,” said Duke coach Joanne McCallie.
While the Blue Devils got double-doubles from both Elizabeth Williams (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Haley Peters (11 and 15), the visitors from Durham also played excellent defense, holding Tech to just 26 percent shooting. The defense was particularly stingy against Tech’s top two scorers Kaela Davis (2-of-14 shooting) and Tyaunna Marshall (7-of-25).
“Just a great defensive game for us, our team’s been working really really hard,” McCallie said. “I thought we had everything to do with (Tech) shots being missed (and) I think for the most part we got a whole lot better as a team today.”
Davis, a highly-regarded freshman from Buford, knocked down a 3-pointer at the 16:38 mark of the first half, but Tech still missed 15 of its first 18 field goal attempts. Marshall had a put back of her own miss and added a lay up and the hosts trailed just 16-11 nine minutes into the game.
Davis had a nice feed to Shayla Bivins for a lay up and Marshall’s free throw made it an 18-14 game.
Duke controlled the remainder of the half.
Williams knocked down all six of her first-half shots and had 13 points, including three baskets during an 8-0 Blue Devils’ run that pushed the lead out to 26-14.
The shooting didn’t improve much for the Yellow Jackets the rest of the way. Davis and Marshall combined to make just 4-of-23 field goals - leading scorer Davis was 1-of-7 from three-point range - in the first 20 minutes, and the Yellow Jackets finished the half at 21 percent.
“Coming in we knew that (Davis) could really shoot the ball, and we also knew she was a freshman,” said Williams. “We tried to put a lot of ball pressure (on Tech), it was just a total team effort.”
Though Williams was the only hot shooter for the Blue Devils in the opening half, Gray had a steal for one of Tech’s 13 opening half turnovers, which led to a bucket at the four-minute mark, and Duke went into the locker room up 34-20. Gray, a senior guard, had her eighth game with at least nine assists and added nine points for Duke, which won for the fourth consecutive time since losing its only game to top-ranked Connecticut December 17.
“She had some really heady plays, her passing ability is quite something,” McCallie said of Gray. “She’s coming on strong, we’re very happy about that.”
Tech, which is winless in four games against ranked opponents, will travel to Clemson Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. game. Duke visits ACC newcomer Syracuse Thursday at 7:00 p.m.