Published Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm / Updated at 9:53 pm
BASKTBALL
Duke is expecting a stress test from Nebraska’s offense
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 6 Nebraska
When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.
TV: ESPN2

LINCOLN — Her team firmly on the ropes in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Duke women’s basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie told her players about the fun they were about to have coming back from a 13-point halftime deficit.

The second-seeded Blue Devils then turned a 34-21 hole into a 68-59 win over No. 7 seed Oklahoma State to advance to the Sweet 16. But how they did it — with defense — might have been most pleasing to coach and players.

“That’s the best defense we’ve played all year in any half,” forward Haley Peters said. And though Duke has allowed opponents only 53 points per game this season — holding Virginia Tech to 26 for a whole game — defense has been a consistent challenge, Peters said.

McCallie agreed. Defense is what has her concerned as Duke prepares to play Nebraska, which scored 73 and 74 points in its first two NCAA tourney games. NU has a “terrific” and “durable” point guard in Lindsey Moore, McCallie said, and forwards Jordan Hooper and Emily Cady “can pop 3s quicker than you can say ‘boo.’”

The Huskers’ ability to spread the floor, draw defenders out of the paint and get layups at the basket is the “big challenge” to defend, McCallie said.

“They run a great motion offense,” said McCallie, who’s led her team to three straight Elite Eight berths. “They screen well and they’ll go back door on you.”

And while the Blue Devils have one of the nation’s best shot blockers and rim protectors in All-ACC center Elizabeth Williams, they no long have the defensive energy of point guard Chelsea Gray, who dislocated her knee in mid-February. She led the team in steals with 3.56 per game.

“Her loss has been significant on the defensive end in terms of steals, deflections and even rebounds,” McCallie said. After Gray’s injury, Duke lost 69-65 to Miami (Fla.).

“We didn’t defend anybody at Miami,” Peters said. The Hurricanes shot only 36 percent in their win, but got to the line 24 times.

Gray’s replacement, Chloe Wells, averages nearly two steals per game this year. And shooting guard Alexis Jones has handled some of the point guard work as well. McCallie said both have played well recently.

Though Gray also pitched in 12.6 points per game, Duke’s high-octane offense hasn’t been affected since her injury. The Blue Devils have averaged 71.5 points in the nine games Gray has missed. All but one of those games were against NCAA tournament teams.

McCallie points to Duke’s overall “balance” for why the offense is so tough. Including Peters, Duke has three shooters making more than 40 percent of their 3-pointers. The Blue Devils get to the free throw line 18 times per game and shoot 74 percent there. And they have a dependable low-post scorer in sophomore Williams, who draws double teams and kicks passes out to open shooters.

“We have lots of kids who can do different things, so when we get the ball in the right places, we can score,” McCallie said.

So can the teams still left in the Norfolk, Va., region. If Duke gets past NU, it likely plays No. 1 Notre Dame, which scores 78 points per game. The Blue Devils have been able to reach the Elite Eight in recent years, but haven’t beat the nation’s best teams, losing twice to Connecticut and once to Stanford.

Peters said the team’s talked about what it would mean to make a Final Four — and what it will take to do it. Peters and McCallie agree that a key is “playing in the moment.” Ignoring the big picture and winning each possession.

“I think you have to see the puzzle, but more for how each piece fits together,” Peters said. “Nebraska is that next piece.”

Contact the writer:

402-202-9766, sam.mckewon@owh.com, twitter.com/swmckewonOWH

Contact the writer: Sam McKewon

sam.mckewon@owh.com    |   402-219-3790    |  

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him. Follow him on Twitter. Call him.

Read more related stories
PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >