Boy were they ready for the NCAA tournament to start.
Reserve Jessica Foley scored a career-high 18 points to lead the top-seeded Blue Devils past No. 16 seed Northwestern State 103-51 in the first round of the Mideast Regional on Sunday.
Iciss Tillis had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue Devils (28-3), who scored the game's first 13 points and were never challenged. Duke advanced to the second round to face ninth-seeded Marquette, which beat No. 8 seed Old Dominion 67-64.
The Blue Devils hadn't played since beating North Carolina 63-47 for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship March 8. They didn't show much rust, shooting 49 percent and taking an 55-30 edge on the boards.
In addition, Duke held Northwestern State (24-7) to 28 percent shooting, blocked nine shots and scored 22 points off 19 turnovers.
Duke, a No. 1 seed for the fourth straight season, is looking to return to the Final Four for the third straight year.
"When you have those days off, it's like back to boot camp and back to the basics, which is good maybe from the coach's perspective," said All-American Alana Beard, who scored just eight points. "But from our perspective, it's like you've got to grind it out in practice every day.
"We were real anxious to get back out. We had a lot of fun."
Foley went 7-for-14 from the floor with four 3-pointers.
"I think the whole bench has been performing well lately and shooting well in practice," the sophomore said. "We're coming in ready to shoot our shots and contribute to the game."
The teams met Dec. 20 in a homecoming game for Beard, a native of Shreveport, La. Beard scored 19 points in that game and the Blue Devils won 105-53 in Bossier City, La.
On Sunday, Beard scored 12 points below her team-leading average, but also had eight rebounds, nine assists and three steals in 26 minutes.
The Blue Devils hardly needed her against the Lady Demons, using their superior size inside and athleticism on the perimeter to quickly turn the game into a rout.
The Lady Demons had no answer for the 6-foot-5 Tillis, 6-3 Mistie Bass (13 points, eight rebounds), and 6-7 reserve Alison Bales, who had nine points, six rebounds and five blocks in 18 minutes.
"When they're that big, that strong, that fast, and we're playing with 5-9 and 5-10 people on the back line, that makes it pretty difficult," Northwestern State coach James Smith said.
Bales helped offset the loss of 6-3 freshman Brittany Hunter, who has missed six games since injuring her right knee. Hunter averages 8.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, but had practiced only once since the ACC tournament due to lingering knee trouble.
"We knew not to count on Brittany, so we've been really focused on Ally knowing that we need more depth in that post spot," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I think there are going to be games where she can really help us."
Diamond Cosby scored 17 points to lead the Lady Demons, who were making just their second NCAA appearance and first since 1989.
After scoring 13 straight points to open the game, Duke used runs of 11-0 and 13-2 to take a 51-23 lead the break. They led by as many as 54 points in the second half.
Tillis scored 10 first-half points and drained a 3-pointer shortly after the break. She also played at the top of a trapping halfcourt defense that forced six straight turnovers in the first half.
"All I was seeing was numbers on jerseys," said La'Terrica Dobin, Northwestern State's 5-4 point guard who had seven turnovers. "I wasn't seeing faces."