Vanderbilt was feisty and Duke was struggling. Chelsea Gray couldn’t care less.
Teaming with Tricia Liston and Alexis Jones, Gray took over on offense, opening up the court and spreading the ball around to the tune of 12 assists in the Blue Devils’ 88-69 victory over the Commodores on Thursday night. She would finish with 14 points, 8 rebounds, a block, and a steal in addition to her 12 assists in what was just another marvelous performance from the senior.
Recovering from any type of knee injury is tricky from both a mental and physical standpoint, so I’m sure we would’ve understood if Gray was a little sluggish or hesitant when she returned from the dislocated kneecap that ended her junior season back in February. If there has been any type of setback, though, she sure as hell isn’t showing it.
Through four games, Gray has averaged 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. She has also shot 51.4% from the field and 82.4% from the free throw line.
She’s been incredible, to say the least, and whether she remains incredible will mean everything to a Duke team trying to take the next step and earn a trip to the Final Four, and possibly a national championship.
She possesses rare talent on both ends of the court, playing every bit of feisty and wise on defense as she does on offense. Her hustle and swagger often set the tone, and this was as evident as ever without her down the stretch last year.
It didn’t take long for her to remind everyone of this, as she finished with 22 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in the season opener, a 70-58 road victory over No. 9 Cal.
Of course, Duke’s success hasn’t been all on her.
There is no denying that this year’s team is a special one. With Tricia Liston knocking down jumpers from everywhere on the planet and Haley Peters and Elizabeth Williams shooting up the stock of Windex and Alexis Jones playing her Gray-lite role phenomenally and the bench being as reliable as any bench in the country, this team has what it takes to put together a strong season, with or without Gray.
With a healthy Gray, though, this team is elevated to a whole different level. With her, this team flows and goes about their business almost effortlessly, having the comfort of knowing she’ll make the correct play almost every trip down the court. Without Gray, they’re sweet-sixteen contenders. With Gray, they’re national title contenders.
We are only four games into the season, but it appears they are exactly that.