DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Ninth-ranked Iowa never looked like itself playing a road game in front of a hostile crowd in its return from a COVID-19 pause.
“We were out of sorts,” coach Lisa Bluder said.
And Duke — playing with a confident aggression built through an unbeaten start — pounced to give second-year coach Kara Lawson the biggest win in her brief tenure.
Freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson scored 19 points and the the Blue Devils frustrated Iowa star Caitlin Clark in Thursday night’s 79-64 win, leading by as many as 18 points to extend the program’s best start in eight years.
“Our expectation is to compete with everybody that we play,” Lawson said. “That’s the expectation. I don’t know that we’ll beat everybody we play, but the expectation is to compete.”
Celeste Taylor added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who didn’t trail after midway through the first quarter in this Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup. Duke shot 44% and won despite shooting 6 of 21 from 3-point range.
The Blue Devils stuck to the key points Lawson pushed before the game:
— Keep the high-scoring Hawkeyes off the foul line (Iowa shot 10 free throws).
— Attack the glass (Duke finished with a 45-35 rebounding advantage, including 16-10 on the offensive glass).
— Focus on defending 1-on-1 without needing help that would leave open shooters. (Iowa finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range).
When it was over, Day-Wilson shared a high-five near midcourt with multiple teammates then motioned for the “Cameron Crazies” to get louder as she headed toward the locker room.
“It was an amazing feeling, but there’s still some work to be done within our team,” she said. “And this is only the beginning. So just get ready, there’s going to be more big wins. We just have to stay locked in and keep it rolling.”
Clark had 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Hawkeyes (4-1), with most of that production coming on a brutal shooting night after Duke had built its big lead. The preseason Associated Press All-American, who entered averaging 21.5 points, shot 9 of 27 from the field and 1 of 13 from 3-point range.
Monika Czinano had 21 points while providing a reliable post presence, but Iowa’s outside shooters offered little balance.
The Hawkeyes hadn’t played since beating Southern on Nov. 17. Three games were canceled, first a home matchup with Drake followed by dates with Seton Hall and USC in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.
“How much is due to our COVID break? I don’t know,” Bluder said. “We haven’t played in two weeks and a day, missed three games that were supposed to be prepping for this game. … But certainly this was not an Iowa performance that we’re proud of.”
Iowa: Bluder had been most concerned coming in about details like how the interruption would impact timing on passes and cuts. Iowa got a quick start by feeding Czinano in the paint for a 6-0 lead, but the Hawkeyes could hit nothing reliably outside as Duke kept stretching its lead. Iowa got no closer than 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Duke: The Blue Devils were playing their second game against a ranked opponent under Lawson, whose debut season amid the pandemic lasted just four games when the program opted out of the rest of the season at Christmas last year. Now they have their first 7-0 start since opening the 2013-14 season at 10-0, with much of their success coming from their rebounding work and scoring 19 points off turnovers.
CLARK’S ROUGH NIGHT
Clark missed 12 of her first 14 shots with Day-Wilson and Vanessa de Jesus leading the defensive effort on her. One of those was an early airball, drawing heightened heckling from the Crazies the rest of the way.
After missing a contested 3 against Day-Wilson with the shot clock winding down, Clark threw her head back in frustration. Other 3s came in transition from NBA range.
“She took some really hard 3s though,” Bluder said. “And she’s got to be smarter when they’re not falling, get to the rim a little bit better. You know, quit taking them. And she just kept going and going.
“You want to have shooters to have short memories, but that might have been a little too short tonight.”
Iowa: The Hawkeyes host Michigan State on Sunday in their Big Ten opener.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Penn on Sunday, then have an extended break before facing top-ranked South Carolina on Dec. 15.