UConn hands Blue Devils 1st loss of season

By Ben Cohen The Chronicle

November 26, 2007

Durham, NC (CSTV U-WIRE) -- In head coach Joanne P. McCallie's rookie season, almost every game will provide a first for Duke. On Sunday night against No. 2 Connecticut, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils had a chance to garner their first win over an elite opponent in their first marquee matchup of the year.

Instead, the Huskies dealt Duke a more sobering first: the first loss of the McCallie Era.

UConn (5-0) raced out to a 16-point halftime lead en route to a 74-48 win over the Blue Devils (5-1) in the championship round of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Junior center Chante Black paced the squad with 16 points, but no other player scored more than six in Duke's first regular-season loss since 2006.

The defeat was also the team's largest since Nov. 21, 1998, when the Blue Devils lost 84-57 at Notre Dame.

After the game, McCallie was quick to point out the month of the loss: November, rather than March, when the Blue Devils dropped their only two contests last season.

"It's what I would categorize as very important lessons to be learned in November," McCallie said. "UConn proved they're the better team right now. These are just great lessons. Adversity reveals character. Character is not about games being easy. It's revealed when things are hard."

And things were certainly hard Sunday. Leading scorer Abby Waner, playing for the first time in four games, finished 0-for-7 from the field on a bum ankle. Senior Wanisha Smith, battling a broken bone in her hand, posted only two points. Connecticut outrebounded Duke 31-22 and outshot the Blue Devils from the field by more than 16 percentage points.

After scoring the game's first two buckets, Duke surrendered 13 unanswered points. The Huskies, led by Tina Charles' 13 points and eight rebounds, enjoyed their biggest lead, a 64-37 advantage, with less than six minutes remaining in the game.



In spite of the loss, UConn's first win in the teams' last three meetings, the Blue Devils have plenty of positives to take from their time in the Virgin Islands.

After all, they reached the championship round with a more positive first: the first win over a ranked opponent Thursday when they beat No. 22 Purdue 53-41. The Blue Devils followed that initial triumph with a 64-53 win over Temple.

Freshman guard Jasmine Thomas led Duke in the first game, scoring a career-high 15 points to make up for Waner's absence. Black, a 6-foot-5 red-shirt junior posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds-the first of three times she scored in double figures in the tournament.

Black and fellow forward Carrem Gay led the Blue Devils in scoring Friday against Temple. The two posts each tallied 13 points, while Gay added 12 rebounds to secure her first double-double of the season.

Still, Black was far from pleased with her offensive production in the face of a loss.

"This isn't a pleasant feeling," Black said. "Every game, we have to prove ourselves and be ready to play. But we're going to take these lessons and move forward."

In the last five minutes of Sunday's game, the lights in the arena dimmed to the point where the two teams were almost playing in darkness. It was a fitting end to the tournament-the Blue Devils left their loss in the dark.

(C) 2007 The Chronicle via CSTV U-WIRE