Chelsea Gray kept putting passes on target, trying to one-up herself with each delivery.DURHAM, N.C. –
She succeeded in a big way.
Gray finished with eight points and a school-record 15 assists to help No. 4 Duke beat Clemson 82-45 on Thursday night.
"Chelsea is the best passer in the game, male or female, at the collegiate level," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "There's no question about this. I think it's important that people recognize that because most people would think that would be a man."
Elizabeth Williams scored 21 points for the Blue Devils (14-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who never trailed en route to their 32nd consecutive home victory against league competition.
Tricia Liston and Haley Peters added 14 points each as Duke shot 58 percent. Chloe Wells added 10 points for the Blue Devils.
Duke blew open the game with a 22-0 run early in the second half. Gray scored or assisted on eight of Duke's 10 baskets during the stretch, which began with Duke ahead 36-30.
"I felt a sense of urgency," Gray said. "We weren't playing the best Duke basketball at that point."
Aisha Turner scored 13 points to lead Clemson (4-11, 0-4) in its fourth consecutive loss. Nikki Dixon added 11 points for the Tigers, who shot 34 percent and committed 26 turnovers.
Clemson twice pulled within six early in the second half, but the Blue Devils answered with baskets assisted by Gray each time.
The second instance began a stretch in which the Tigers went seven minutes without scoring.
"I felt like in the first half, we had composure," Clemson coach Itoro Coleman said. "I felt like in the second half, we lost our composure. When you play against good teams, your margin of error is very slim."
Gray, meanwhile, turned the court into her personal playground as she broke the school record of 13 assists she set last season.
After assisting on a 3-pointer by Liston to start Duke's spurt, Gray made a pair of floaters to ignite a stretch in which the Blue Devils scored on nine consecutive possessions.
"Momentum shifted our way," Gray said. "It felt good, so I just kept going at it."
During one two-minute span of Duke's game-breaking spurt, Gray delivered three no-look passes to Williams that resulted in layups. The first came on a behind-the-back feed that gave the Blue Devils a 45-30 lead with 14 minutes to play.
The third came after Williams blocked a shot on defense and sprinted the length of the court to receive the ball in stride.
"It's always fun," Williams said. "Chelsea is the type of player that if you make a play on the defensive end, like when I got that block, she'll reward you. So it's always nice."
The Blue Devils scored the game's first seven points and delivered a 12-2 flurry after Clemson closed within 10-8, but they struggled to pull away.
Duke led just 34-26 at halftime despite shooting 52 percent. Williams and Peters combined to make 11 of 15 shots, but their teammates shot a combined 3 of 12.
Gray sparked Duke's efficient effort, tallying seven assists and no turnovers in the first half.
The Tigers, who entered the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the ACC, hung tough by making 4 of 6 3-point attempts before halftime.
"I felt like we played a good first half," Coleman said. "We did enough to be in the game. In the second half, Duke made a run, and we weren't able to bounce back from that."
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