Peaking Duke women's basketball side takes on Wake Forest, No. 16 Miami with regular season winding down
Having won five straight games by double digits, the Blue Devils have plenty of reasons to be confident heading to take on Wake Forest on the road Thursday.
But just a year removed from an ugly loss on the road against the Demon Deacons, don't expect Duke to take its opponent lightly as the regular season winds down.
The Blue Devils have won five straight games by at least 10 points and have five top-20 wins this year.
The No. 13 Blue Devils will travel to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., for a rematch with the Demon Deacons before returning home to host No. 16 Miami Sunday at 1 p.m. in their final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium this year.
Duke routed Wake Forest 71-43 at home Jan. 29 and owns an undefeated home record entering its final three regular-season games.
The Demon Deacons also excel on their home court, though, sporting an 11-3 home mark, and could catch the Blue Devils napping if Duke is looking ahead to another top-20 opponent later in the week.
“Teams, especially ones with lesser records, are playing their best basketball of the year right now. They’re playing like they have nothing to lose," Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We have to play just as hard.”
One of Duke’s few weaknesses this year has been its rebounding, with a margin of less than four rebounds per game, and McCallie has repeatedly stated how she wants her team to rebound better.
Fortunately for Duke (22-4, 10-3 in the ACC), Miami rebounds at about the same level, ranking at No. 91 in the country with an average margin of just 3.6 rebounds per game. Wake Forest (14-11, 5-7), on the other hand, grabs boards at a much better rate, averaging 41.5 boards per game to test forwards Leaonna Odom, Kendall Cooper and Oderah Chidom.
“Last time we played them we didn’t rebound very well—we got outrebounded by Wake [Forest] by nine,” McCallie said. “We can always rebound better, and I want to see us really stick to that.”
Although Thursday's matchup against Demon Deacons might test Duke’s frontcourt, the Blue Devil backcourt fueled by leading scorers Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell will look to spearhead the team's offense once again.
Duke will then face another formidable backcourt when it takes on the Hurricanes (19-6, 8-5). Senior guards Adrienne Motley and Jessica Thomas average more than 25 points per contest combined, and like Syracuse—which the Blue Devils recently trounced at home—Miami likes to fire away from long distance.
The Hurricanes shoot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc, and like Wake Forest knocked off Duke at home a season ago. Motley poured in 21 points in that game, and the senior guard will look to guide her team to its first win against a ranked team in ACC play.
Before closing out what has been a dominant home stretch, though, the Blue Devils and their 10th-ranked scoring defense will have to stay focused on the road. Duke is currently in line for a top-four seed in the ACC tournament, but one slip-up in its final three games could make its postseason road that much tougher.
“They have a very good home record, you can’t just look at their overall record,” McCallie said. “They’re a different team when they’re at home. It’s going to be tough to go in and get a win.”
Unlike Miami, Wake Forest often struggles from the perimeter and likes to work the ball inside. The Demon Deacons have four double-figure scorers and will likely try to focus on limiting Blue Devils other than Brown and Greenwell—no other Duke player scores more than 8.3 points per contest.
But Odom and sophomore Kyra Lambert and have been filling in nicely to support the Blue Devils' leading scorers in recent weeks, and Duke will look to keep rolling before wrapping up the regular season next week North Carolina.