Colorado, Duke show offensive upgrades in March Madness

DURHAM, NC (AP) – Colorado and Duke rode defenses to strong regular seasons.

Now they’re gaining more confidence on the offensive end, coming off a stellar shooting performance during their NCAA Tournament second-round appearance on Monday night.

“We know it’s time and I think everyone is really locked in and just focusing on their shots,” Duke guard Celeste Taylor said.

The third-seeded Blue Devils (26-6) broke from their offensive slumber in a first-round sweep of Iona on Saturday night. Sixth-seeded Colorado (24-8) sank a season-best 13 shots from 3-point range against Middle Tennessee.

It’s been five years since Duke has advanced to the Sweet 16, and even longer for Colorado – 20 years. The winner goes to the Seattle 4 Region.

The Buffaloes, who rank third defensively among Pac-12 teams, have grown comfortable at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“Before this last game, we talked about this gym being a shooting center,” Colorado guard Kindyll Wetta said. “And Jaylyn (Sherrod) came up to me during one of the timeouts and said, ‘It’s a shooting center.’

The Buffaloes were held to fewer than 50 points twice in the last five games before rolling past Middle Tennessee, 82-60.

Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team needs to be consistent “in our defensive discipline possession after possession after possession” and “try to make things difficult knowing they have a number of players that can make tough shots.”

Duke went three consecutive games without reaching the 45-point mark, capped by a season-low total in a 58-37 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinal loss to Virginia Tech. And the Blue Devils have gone seven games without scoring 60 points.

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Shooting 58.5% from the field in the 89-49 blowout of Iona was a welcome upgrade.

“Obviously it boosted our confidence with that (offense),” Duke guard Reigan Richardson said.

Duke has held opponents to 50 or fewer points 17 times, which is more than half of the games it has played this season. So naturally, the Blue Devils emphasize defense.

“I like offense a lot, believe it or not,” Lawson said. “You can watch us play some games and not think that I like offensiveness, but I do. But as much as I like offense, I like winning more.”


Colorado has been to the Sweet 16 six times, but the Buffaloes have never won a second-round game on the road.

Duke has been a frequent host of the tournament’s opening week, but has lost two of its last three home games in the second round, falling to DePaul in 2014 and to Oregon in 2017. Those defeats came at No. 2. Duke has never dropped a game in second round while holding a No. 3 seed.

“This is a game to go to the Sweet 16,” Lawson said. “This is a serious cut. This might be the most serious cut in the tournament when you think about it. Like going from 32 to 16. Like there’s no pretenders in the Sweet 16.”


Fifth-year Colorado guard Tayanna Jones is in her third season with the Buffaloes since transferring from Georgetown. She is from Smithfield, North Carolina, about an hour’s drive from Duke’s campus.

“It was a long way from home for her to come to Colorado, but I think we just made a good connection,” Buffaloes coach JR Payne said. “Really special to be here in her woods with her family just down the road.”

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Jones, a starting guard, scored eight points in the Middle Tennessee game for his second-highest scoring output since before Christmas.


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