CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke has had a couple of moderate challenges in its last two games, but today the No. 4 Blue Devils get their first big one of the season.

Duke guard Tricia Liston

The visitor is No. 10 California, in the first of a two-game series that will give Duke guard Chelsea Gray her “homecoming” trip to Northern California next season as a senior.

Gray will be facing off with Cal guard Afure Jemerigbe, the duo having won a California state 6A title for Stockton St. Mary’s during their senior year in high school.

It’s a rare matchup, as the teams are 1-1 in a series that hasn’t been contested in 19 years.

Duke has a huge first half and plays the Bears even in the second, holding on for a 77-63 victory.

The Blue Devils lead 34-20 at halftime, outshooting Cal 48.5 percent to 21.9 over the first half. Tricia Liston scores 10 straight points in one stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers, to put Duke up 32-15 with 5:37 left in the half.

Cal makes a pair of second-half runs but can never get closer than 10, the last time at 62-52 on an Eliza Pierre 3-pointer with 4:27 to play.

Liston finishes with 22 points and eight rebounds, followed by Chelsea Gray with 13 points, nine assists and eight boards. Elizabeth Williams adds 12 points and Alexis Jones 11.

Brittany Boyd leads the Bears with 28 points while Layshia Clarendon chips in 13.

Duke shoots 46.9 percent to the Bears’ 35.9, wins the board battle 41-37 and commits 19 turnovers to Cal’s 22.

They said it …

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “It was a real good, physical game, and obviously in a lot of ways that was really good for us. I really liked Chelsea Gray’s leadership. I thought she dictated the aggressiveness on the floor, and that’s very important to us. And from Tricia’s perspective anytime she gets eight rebounds in a game like that that tells her she can get rebounds anywhere. … I really do like our overall grit, savvy and toughness.”

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb: “We scheduled this game at Duke with a lot of intent and a lot of purpose. Duke is really, really good. They’re such a complete team. They showed that when Elizabeth Williams got into some foul trouble (two in the first seven minutes) and they were just as dangerous.”

Liston: “I think we just kept fighting and battling and (Cal) got a little tired. We had some transition buckets right in a row and I think they kind of got down a little bit after that. … We tried to push the tempo a little bit and run our stats, and we were getting good shots.”

Gray: “We knew it was going to be physical and it was going to be a bloodbath out there. We just had to focus more on rebounding and getting stops when we needed them, and being protective of the ball a little bit more.”

What does it all mean?
That Duke has enough depth to hold off a big-time opponent firing on all cylinders in the second half.

Stars of the game
1. Liston.
2. Gray.
3. Boyd.

Play of the game
Williams’ layup from Gray to make it 45-28.


Duke: Won 6.
Cal: Lost 1.

Duke leads 2-1.

Up next
Duke vs. Georgia Tech, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Cal at CSU-Bakersfield, Friday, 7 p.m.