Joanne P. McCallie didn't want her Blue Devils expecting an easy afternoon against a 15th-seeded team.DURHAM, N.C. – Duke coach
No matter what the final margin seemed to indicate, they certainly didn't have one.
Second-seeded Duke needed a late rally to pull away and beat Hampton 67-51 on Sunday in the first round of the Norfolk Regional.
Tricia Liston scored 20 points and Elizabeth Williams had 18 for the Blue Devils, who won their 17th straight tournament game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Freshman Alexis Jones added 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in her NCAA tournament debut.
But after Hampton cut their early 19-point lead to six, the Blue Devils (31-2) needed a late 21-8 run to secure their 20th straight NCAA tournament-opening victory. They will play seventh-seeded Oklahoma State (22-10) on Tuesday night in the second round.
"The last thing you want is to get the impression that things are easy, because they're just not," McCallie said. "This is a winners' tournament. They've won their tournament. They've won their league. They've won big games. ... You just have to know that, as we talk to the team, there's a competitor's mentality that is very different than a fan's mentality."
Keiara Avant had 18 points for Hampton (28-6). Avant's jumper with just over 10 minutes left capped a furious 27-14 rally that pulled the Pirates to 46-40.
They clawed back because they made a determined effort to attack the rim and work the ball inside, instead of settling for lower-percentage shots.
"We said we were taking too many jump shots. It was important that we get to the hole, try to get them in foul trouble," Avant said. "We knew if we could get inside, get them in foul trouble, that we definitely had a shot at coming back."
But Duke locked down defensively - forcing Hampton to miss 12 of its next 15 shots - and scored on five straight trips to regain some separation and end the Pirates' 19-game winning streak.
Williams hit back-to-back layups before Liston's scoop shot made it 52-42 and put Duke up by double figures for good.
"It was really important to get paint shots, especially in a game like this," Williams said. "We want to create contact, try to get to the foul line and try to get the easiest shots we can get."
Haley Peters finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, which shot 50 percent in the second half and overcame some early struggles on the boards to outrebound Hampton by eight.
The Blue Devils stretched their home winning streak to 19 games and improved to 7-1 since losing Atlantic Coast Conference co-player of the year Chelsea Gray to a season-ending knee injury.
Olivia Allen finished with 15 points for the Pirates, but Nicole Hampton - who averages 12 points - had just two on 1-of-15 shooting while playing through what coach David Six said was a foot injury.
Hampton came in leading the nation by allowing an average of 47.2 points, and Duke became just the third opponent to score more than 60 against the Pirates.
"They had great ball pressure and we had to do some things that we hadn't done in the past couple of games," Liston said. "This will really help us grow and prepare us for our next game."
Neither team believed Hampton - which has wins over three opponents from major conferences - deserved such a poor seed, with McCallie saying afterward that the Pirates "should have been a higher seed" based on those non-conference victories.
"I said that nothing this weekend would make me think I was a 15 seed," Six said. "My mind still hasn't changed. We weren't a 15 seed."
The Pirates certainly showed how far they've come in the three years since their last visit to Duke - a 72-37 loss in the first round three years ago in which the teams had the same seeds as this year.
For a while, it looked as though that was going to happen to the Pirates again after the Blue Devils used a Williams-fueled 16-2 run to open a 19-point lead and seemingly break the game open.
The Virginia Beach, Va., native scored eight points during the burst before Liston's layup with just under 2 minutes left made it 32-13. Three of the Pirates' previous five opponents failed to crack 30 in an entire game.
"It's hard when you double down and you make a good play and they reverse it and they get a 3," Six said. "It deflates you a little bit. That being said, I thought that in the second half, we got after them defensively and forced them to turn the ball over - if they can be rattled. I thought that they showed that our defense was affecting them a little bit."