Duke women’s basketball downs Iona in first round of NCAA Tournament, faces Colorado next

Duke may be a first-timer in the NCAA Tournament under women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson, but Saturday night against Iona in the first round it played like older siblings toying with their little sisters.

The third-seeded Blue Devils never trailed and raced to an 89-49 victory over the No. 14 seed Gaels in the Seattle 4 Region. They advanced to meet No. 6 seed Colorado, which beat Middle Tennessee State 82-60, on Monday in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke (26-6) showed the kind of offensive firepower it has rarely displayed all season. The game marked just the third time all year it scored more than 80 points and it’s the first time since a 100-49 victory at Richmond on Dec. 4.

Duke’s Celeste Taylor and Elizabeth Balogun led four players in double figures, scoring with 13 each, combining to shoot 10-for-14 from the field and make four 3-pointers. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 58.5 percent from the field and showed no signs of having postseason jitters.

When they did miss, they overpowered the Gaels (26-7) on the boards with a 44-14 rebounding advantage. Duke turned 18 offensive rebounds into a season-high 25 second chance points.

It didn’t help Iona’s upset formula when point guard Juana Camilion, who was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, picked up her second foul just six minutes into the game. When she left the game, the Gaels trailed 10-6. By the time she re-entered with 8:27 left in the second quarter, their deficit ballooned to 16 points.

Part of Duke’s run was sparked by its full court pressure. Iona seemed disoriented without Camilion on the floor to direct its press break. The Blue Devils full court pressure began to overwhelm Iona, forcing 13 turnovers in the first half, which led to 24 points.

Taylor suffocated Camilion when she was in the game. Camilion averaged 14.2 points, but didn’t make her second basket until 8:38 in the third quarter. Although she finished with 12 points, most of them came once the Blue Devils had firmly put the game out of reach.