DURHAM, NC–Dequesha McClanahan closed out her career with a 22-point and six-assist effort against Duke in the first round o of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Blue Devils used their overwhelming size advantage to claim an 87-45 victory on Saturday.
With the loss, Winthrop, which was making its first ever NCAA tournament appearance, closes its best season in school history with a 24-9 record and its first Big South Conference championship. Duke improves to 28-6 as is now 22-0 all-time in NCAA first round games. The Duke win was also its 65th straight at home against non-conference opponents. Winthrop is now 0-2 against Duke who improved to 24-5 all-time against Big South Conference teams.
“I am proud of each player and all of my staff for the hard work they put in this year,” said Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook. “We are not going to let this game diminish in any way what this team did this season. They made history and have established a solid foundation for this program.”
McClanahan finished her career with 2,277 points and 744 assists and now stands as the school and Big South all-time record-holder for points (2,277) and assists (744). Samiya Wright also reached a career milestone as the red-shirt junior surpassed 1,000 career points with 1,011 after scoring 12 points against the Blue Devils.
The big story in the game was Duke’s domination in the paint where the Blue Devils outscored Winthrop 42-6; including 22-0 in the first half as they pulled away to a 41-17 lead at intermission. Winthrop’s only answer in the post against Duke’s size was Schaquilla Nunn, the Eagles’ 6-3 sophomore center, but when Nunn picked up her second foul with 12:32 left in the first period, Duke began to pull away as it outscored Winthrop 25-12 in the next 12 minutes.
Duke placed five players in double figures, led by Tricia Liston with 20, who connected on four of her team’s six three-pointers. Oderah Chidom came off the bench to score 17 while Kendall McCrae-Cooper also came in to record a double-double with 14 points on a perfect 7 of 7 shooting performance and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Winthrop shot just 20.7 percent in the first half (6 of 29) as the Eagles found it almost impossible to score inside against the taller Blue Devils. Duke had five blocked shots in the first half alone and finished the game with seven. Duke, on the other hand, had little difficulty getting the ball down low for easy baskets and finished the first half at 54.8 percent (17 of 31).
The Eagles did improve some in the second half as they connected on 34.6 percent, but finished the game with a season-low 27.3 percent (15 of 55).
In his postgame remarks, Cook answered a reporter’s question about Duke being able to bring a cavalcade of big people into the game and how Nunn’s second foul affected his team’s play by saying, “You’ve got that right. Cavalcade? It seemed like the French Foreign Legion to me. They were bringing them in waves. One of my concerns, was that Schaquilla [Nunn] would get into early foul trouble. In previous games, when she has picked up her second foul, we don’t like to gamble with a third—we stayed consistent to that. We haven’t had 6-4, 6-3, and 6-3 coming at you, so it impacted us greatly on the defensive end.”
“They crashed the boards really well,” said McClanahan, who also led Winthrop in rebounding with six boards. “They were a big group of girls and we expected that. We didn’t crash as well as we wanted to. I think that’s what separated us. They got a lot of second chance points and easy baskets.”
In the postgame media conference, McClanahan reflected back on what she and teammates Tiffany Charles and Wright brought to the program four years ago. “It’s clear from our history. The stats show it, the records show it how much time we’ve put into this program from our freshman year to now,” she said. “I’m just very proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve established. To leave a last impression, I wanted everyone to see our hard work and how far we’ve come.” Over the past four seasons, Winthrop has compiled a 75-55 record, including back-to-back 20-win seasons and a 45-21 record and two postseason appearances the last two seasons.
In the first six minutes-plus of the second half, Duke took its first 30-point lead at 56-26 on a pair of free throws by Chidom, but Winthrop went on a 13-4 run over the next three minutes to cut the deficit to 21 at 60-39, but the Blue Devils dispelled any hope of a Winthrop miracle comeback as they outscored the Eagles 16-0 over the next five minutes to take a 76-39 lead with 5:06 left to play.
Winthrop will celebrate its 2014 record-setting season and Big South Conference championship with an awards banquet on Friday, April 11.