STILLWATER - No. 4 (or 5 depending on your poll preference) Duke came into the Stillwater to face off against undefeated Oklahoma State.
And they made a statement. Of quiet dominance.
Spectators didn't leave the arena ooohing and aaahing and begging to see more basketball. But when you looked at the box score, when you thought back to some of the hustle plays and lockdown defense, you had to be impressed.
Duke shot 46.2 percent from the field, outrebounded the Cowgirls 51-22, outscored OSU in the paint by a clip of 28-10 and held OSU to just nine first half points. Now the Blue Devils move to 11-0 and head back to North Carolina to prepare for a four-game homestand that wraps into the new year.
"I'm really proud of our team's effort," Duke head coach Joanne McCallie said. "That first half, the most dominant half we've played all year. A fantastically intense and immediate 20 minutes of basketball, I was just really proud of our team."
The Blue Devils aren't shy in telling the world about their three all-American candidates in Jasmine Thomas, Karima Christmas and Krystal Thomas in their nifty media flipbook. McCallie says of Karima and Krystal, "Karima's strength and conditioning is truly outstanding ... Krystal's strength has been, and continues to be, phenomenal."
That strength was evident as they contributed to the overpowering of the Cowgirls.
Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke saw that focus, intensity, strength and leadership staring the Cowgirls square in the face and almost scaring them into submission.
"You can practice against your boys team all you want, but they're not going to bring the intensity of what Duke brings, the physicality of what Duke brings. You can't simulate it in practice," Budke said. "It's hard to play this game when nerves are involved and we definitely had nerves involved today."
Christmas had a team-high 16 points, got to the line eight times and added four defensive rebounds to the Blue Devils' 32 defensive boards. Krystal chipped in six points and nine rebounds for Duke. Jasmine had seven points, four rebounds and three steals in the game. Almost mundane numbers for the trio of senior starters.
When the Duke bench can add 27 points on their own, you don't necessarily need big numbers. When the Duke defense holds their opponent to 28.6 percent shooting and an anemic 14.3 percent in the first half, you can toss out just about anyone in a Duke uniform and clean the floor with your opponent. When you hold Oklahoma State to nine first-half points - a record-low for points in a half for OSU - you don't need just a couple of feature scorers. You can rely on the entirety of the bench.
"That first 20 minutes we were a very deep team, the focus and intensity," McCallie said. "I just think it was a team energy, great leadership across the board."
The deep bench was rewarded with a little post-game face time as Allison Vernerey got to chat about the game after her 12 points on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and six rebounds.
"Allison plays so hard and just gave us all sorts of energy," McCallie said. "Great moves and finishes and also some very good defense and presence in the paint which of course contributed to some dominant rebounding. All good."
"I think we started the game ready," Vernerey said. "We were focused, we played hard on defense which is definitely what started us, we were pressing hard. I think the offense kind of got together by itself by playing hard defense."
Other names made some noise for the Blue Devils. Chelsea Gray got her fifth consecutive double-digit scoring effort and new career highs in rebounds (8) and assists (7). Tricia Liston's 11 points marked her second straight double-digit game. And back to the big guns - even though she only put in seven points, Jasmine Thomas moved up to 13th on Duke's all-time scoring list with 1,317 career points.
Along with the highlights above for the Dukies the tale of the tape is just basic domination in all facets of the game aside from two things - Duke lost the turnover battle 25-23 and lost the second half 36-35. But that's it. Everything else flowed the way of the Blue Devils and deservedly so.
"We knew how good they were going to be," Budke said of the Blue Devils. "When you start three freshmen, this is something at some point in time they have to live through. This is where you want to get your program to at this level. Big, strong, athletic, veterans on the team and it's just a very solid team that's got a chance to go to the Final Four."
"I have noticed they're very professional," McCallie said of her squad that's contributed to her winningest start to a season in her 19 years. "We had a 7 o'clock shootaround and to me that's when I thought they were ready to play well, I think it started at seven this morning and carried over."
I would say it started way earlier than 7 o'clock on December 12th, and they have a 11-0 record to prove it.