NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—With an overwhelming size advantage and scorers all over the court, second-seeded Duke coasted.
Tricia Liston had 22 points and the Blue Devils started strong and beat 15th-seeded Samford 82-47 Sunday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“We hadn’t had a game in a while so we were really excited and ready to play today,” Liston said.
Duke (25-5) moves on to face Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Four Duke players reached double figures against Samford. Chelsea Gray added 16 points, Haley Peters had 13 and Elizabeth Williams had 11.
“I think (balance) is very important, especially at this time of year,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’ve been a very balanced team pretty much all year.”
McCallie was very satisfied with Liston’s effort.
“(She’s) just a very heady player and a very talented player,” McCallie said. “She takes what the defense gives her and she doesn’t rush too much.”
Williams, the ACC defensive player of the year, also had three rebounds whole playing despite a stress fracture in her lower right leg. The freshman is Duke’s top scorer and rebounder.
“(My leg) felt good, but it started to get a little sore toward the end,” she said. “It’s going to be like that for the rest of the way, but it felt good playing on it.”
After Duke built its big advantage, Williams was able to come out of the game.
“The rest definitely helped,” Williams said. “It was nice to get out to that lead.”
Duke opened the game on a 23-7 run en route to a 40-22 halftime lead. The Blue Devils made nearly 52 percent of their shots overall and were 22 of 25 from the foul line.
The Blue Devils outrebounded Samford 41-23. Peters led Duke with seven boards while Shay Selby and Gray each had six.
“I think this definitely helps and it will definitely give us some momentum,” Liston said. “But we also need to move on and take next game and just play it from there.”
This is Duke’s 18th straight NCAA tournament appearance and 19th overall. The Blue Devils have a 47-18 all-time record in the tournament.
Taylor Reece led Samford (20-13) with 10 points.
“They are really big and that has a lot to do with it,” Reece said. “They are long and so on every pass there were hands in the passing lane every single time. They are going to get some steals just because of that, but I think we did the best with what we could.”
Samford made just its second appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs lost to Florida State 76-46 last year.
“We knew this would be a big challenge and they were an impressive team,” Samford coach Mike Morris said.
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