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Colleges

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Duke routs Winthrop 87-45 in NCAA tourney opener

DURHAM, N.C. – Maybe it’s not entirely accurate to say Duke doesn’t have any point guards.

“I guess we’re all point guards,” coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

The Blue Devils had 21 assists – their most in two months – in an 87-45 rout of Winthrop on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

McCallie has had to tweak her lineup after season-ending knee injuries to Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones left Duke with no true point guards.

In this game, everyone got into the act: Six Blue Devils had multiple assists, led by Haley Peters with six and center Elizabeth Williams with four.

“We’ve gone from no point guards,” McCallie said, “to all point guards.”

Tricia Liston scored 20 points and freshman Oderah Chidom added a season-high 17 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (28-6).

They didn’t miss a beat in their first game in nearly two weeks: They never trailed, shot 54 percent from the field and led by double figures for the final 331/2 minutes in winning their 21st straight NCAA tournament opener.

Next up: No. 7 seed DePaul, which beat Oklahoma 104-100, on Monday night in the second round.

In giving the 15th-seeded Eagles (24-9) their worst loss of the season by far, Duke built a 49-23 rebounding advantage and held them to 27 percent shooting – 21 percent in the decisive first half – to advance in the Lincoln Regional bracket.

Referring to Duke’s superior depth, especially in the low post, Winthrop coach Kevin Cook said it “seemed like the French Foreign Legion to me.”

“They just keep bringing them in,” Cook said.

Big South player of the year Dequesha McClanahan had 22 points to lead Winthrop in its brief first NCAA tournament appearance.

“Cinderella wanted a couple more dances,” Cook said, “but unfortunately, we’ve got to go back to Rock Hill (S.C.) and begin anew for next year.”

Samiya Wright had 12 points for the Eagles, whose previous worst loss was by 11 to Liberty.

They kept it within eight points against eventual No. 1 seed South Carolina, but were no match for a Duke team that improved to 21-1 in NCAA tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium with 20 straight wins there.

Freshman Kendall McCravey-Cooper added a season-best 14 points and 10 rebounds. Peters had 11 points and Williams scored 10 for Duke, a No. 2 seed for the fifth straight year.

In each of the last four tournaments, the Blue Devils lost in the regional finals. If the seeds hold, they will face a rematch with undefeated and top-seeded Connecticut with the Final Four on the line.

Then again, it’s always dangerous to peek too far ahead in a bracket, and there was a visible reminder of that Saturday in the Cameron crowd: Duke men’s forward Rodney Hood, who has more free time than expected after his team was knocked out a day earlier by Mercer.

McCallie’s team – which had been off since its 69-53 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament final – was never in danger of joining the men in going one and done.

“Coming in, we had to win all the hustle plays,” Liston said. “This was the only game that we technically had, so that was a big thing for us.”

Duke shot 55 percent in the first half and used an early 15-3 run – jump-started by consecutive 3s by Liston less than a minute apart – to push its lead into double figures for good. The Blue Devils then erased all doubt by closing the half with 12 straight points after Winthrop had crept within 12.

Richa Jackson’s steal and layup with 33 seconds left before the break made it 41-17.

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