COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Missing its best player, Duke didn't skip a beat in a surprisingly easy victory over a ranked conference foe.
Elizabeth Williams scored 16 points and the No. 5 Blue Devils shook off the absence of injured point guard Chelsea Gray to beat No. 8 Maryland 75-59 on Sunday, clinching its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title."It certainly is an honor to be the regular season champion," said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie. "I think that's the hardest one to win because it says a team has gone through a season -- again, with injury or other things happening -- and really been consistent. I think that's really a special thing for our team."Alexis Jones, Haley Peters and Tricia Liston each added 15 points for the Blue Devils (26-1, 16-0), who won their 10th straight game and completed a season sweep against the Terrapins (22-5, 13-3).Duke improved to 6-1 against ranked opponents and more than made up for the absence of Gray.The Blue Devils won their second straight game without Gray, the All-American who sustained a season-ending dislocated right kneecap Feb. 17 against Wake Forest. The win gave the Blue Devils a 40-39 advantage in the all-time series."This team has really grown tough and resilient," said McCallie.In the middle of Sunday's victory was Jones, a freshman called upon to fill in for Gray whose point total represented a career high."I wouldn't say (it was) a coming-out party," Jones said. "I've been really humbled and just learning from the juniors. ... Just take the role of listening to them and also feeding off my energy."McCallie said Jones "went to another level" against the Terrapins, scoring 13 second-half points."To have a freshman point guard come into this environment ... and do what she did is almost unheard of, really," the coach said.Tianna Hawkins had 16 points and nine rebounds for Maryland, which had won three consecutive games since a 71-56 loss at Duke on Feb. 11. Alyssa Thomas added 14 points.The Terrapins, who shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range entering the game, were 3 for 18 from beyond the arc.Four Blue Devils scored during a 9-0 run midway through the first half, when Maryland went cold from the floor, failing to score in more than 6½ minutes."We can't have the lapses that we had this game," Hawkins said, adding that the Terrapins weren't physical enough during that stretch. "We have to give maximum effort."Liston had 10 first-half points and Duke led 37-25 at halftime.What began as an up-tempo defensive struggle turned quickly after a baseline jumper by Hawkins put Maryland up 11-10 with 15:26 remaining in the first half.Richa Jackson's basket started the Blue Devils on a 9-0 burst, as the Terps missed their next six shots from the floor and committed three turnovers before Thomas' jumper halted the run.Peters nailed a 3-pointer, Williams dropped in a running right-side bank shot and Allison Vernerey followed up her own miss to conclude the decisive burst for a 19-11 Duke lead.Maryland finished the opening 20 minutes 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) from the field, including 0 for 9 from beyond the arc, and trailed by as many as 14 points."They made it really difficult for us to get easy looks," Thomas said.Hawkins scored eight of the Terrapins' first 10 points in the second half, with the teams swapping scores early on. Maryland twice got within eight points in the second half, but could not rally.