– Duke's Elizabeth Williams is a freshman center who has played extensively for USA Basketball and is heralded as one the game's stellar posts.
UConn's Kiah Stokes is a freshman center who until Monday earned notoriety essentially by causing Geno Auriemma to use the word "exasperating" four times in one sentence after the Villanova game.
But hey, that's why they play the games, right?
With Tiffany Hayes groggy, Stefanie Dolson in foul trouble and UConn struggling with turnovers, it was Stokes, in the finest moment of this season, and UConn's defense, as suffocating as ever, that kept it focused in a noisy Cameron Stadium.
"I knew I had to step up, be aggressive," Stokes said. "I knew my part of this game would be defensive, get blocks and rebounds."
Stokes took only four shots and scored four points. But she had 12 rebounds and five blocks to help the No. 3 Huskies to a 61-45 win over No. 5 Duke.
"I would say she was the difference-maker," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Bria Hartley led the Huskies (20-2) with 15 points and Caroline Doty added 11, making each of her three three-pointers. Dolson had 10 points, but six came in the opening minutes before foul trouble sidelined her and made way for Stokes.
Duke (17-3) was led by Chelsea Gray (13 points) and Richa Jackson (11 points). The Blue Devils had won 11 straight and 34 in a row here, dating to UConn's last win in Durham two seasons ago.
But you can't win if you don't score, and the Blue Devils (17-of-69, 24.6 percent) missed 19 consecutive shots over a span of 12 minutes in the second half against the nation's top defensive team. Their only points during that time came from free throws.
Duke's dry spell began with 18:05 to play in the game after a layup by Williams that brought the Blue Devils to within seven at 34-27. It ended with 6:05 to play and a three by Haley Peters that made the score, 50-36.
"This was a defensive game, a physical game, a great battle, but also a great opportunity for us," McCallie said. "We took a lot of shots (69), but we didn't pass the ball well enough or connect with each other. … Eight assists? I am not happy with that. …This was a great lesson for us about what not to do offensively."
After scoring 68 points in her past two games – a UConn record – Tiffany Hayes scored just eight in 28 minutes. Late in the first half, she left the game after getting whacked in the face in a collision with Duke's Shea Shelby. She stayed on the ground for a bit after the collision.
"We have this thing on our team that you can't be laying on the floor like that and expect to stay in the game," Auriemma said. "You get up and keep playing or keep laying there and come out."
Hayes was sitting on the bench at the end of the first half, but soon was taken to the locker room by athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle for further observation.
But with 12:43 to play in the game, UConn holding a 42-29 lead, Hayes came back into the game. And in typical Hayes fashion, she crashed hard into the floor 33 seconds later trying to defend a driving Blue Devil.
After playing 11 games in the last 26 days, the Huskies now have a few days to breathe before Saturday's game against Rutgers. And then there will be only six games remaining in the regular season.
The Huskies had beaten the Blue Devils four straight since losing to them in overtime in the NCAA Tournament in Bridgeport in 2006. But there's more to it than that. They'd won those games by an average of 32.5 points, including a combined 71 in their two meetings last season.
"Clearly we were closer, but not close enough," Duke's Haley Peters said. "You need to play a team like this for the entire 40 minutes and we didn't."
And this year's team, much like UConn's, features a core of young players. Four of their five starters are sophomores. Not much has changed, however. Duke had to work hard for every point it scored and if not for Gray it would not have been within 31-23 at the half. Gray scored 11 of the points, but still shot just 4 of 11. But the remainder of the Blue Devils were just 6 of 23. They shot 29.4 percent from the floor in the half.
Not that UConn was any better. They committed 21 turnovers in the game and shot 23 of 51. The Huskies were 12 of 30 in the first half, just 1 of 9 from three to continue and errant trend that dates to their 4 of 20 performance against South Florida Saturday.
Mosqueda-Lewis, the six-time Big East freshman of the week, was 0 for 6 from the floor, 0 for 3 from three in the first half and finished with six points (2 of 10) in 29 minutes with seven rebounds.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun