Duke has yet to play in a close game this season. In their most recent contest, the Blue Devils overpowered then-No. 10 California to notch their sixth-straight victory to begin the year. But with conference schedules slated to begin this week, a number of new challenges lie on the horizon for the Blue Devils.
In its first ACC contest, No. 4 Duke (6-0) will match up against a familiar opponent , Georgia Tech, Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After a loss to No. 8 Georgia earlier this week, the Yellow Jackets (3-4) will meet an energetic Duke squad that has displayed its depth on both ends of the floor in the early-going.
The Blue Devils will focus on defensive intensity and consistency on the court. After holding California to 21.9 percent from the field in the first half of Sunday’s contest, Duke allowed the Golden Bears to shoot 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from beyond the arc in the second half. Although the Blue Devils still coasted to an easy win, head coach Joanne P. McCallie stressed the significance of consistent defensive effort throughout practice this week.
“We’ve been working on a lot of pressure defense, press defense and some man defense,” junior forward Tricia Liston said. “They’re a quick team. They like to pick up the ball full-court with some traps. But we’ve been working on keeping composure and breaking the press, then getting into our offense from there and also rebounding. Our rebounding is going to be huge in this game.”
Duke’s matchup with the Yellow Jackets will largely depend on its ability to stop the scoring trio of Tyaunna Marshall, Dawnn Maye and Brittany Jackson. The trio have combined for more than half of Georgia Tech’s offensive output this season, averaging a combined 39.5 points per game. In order to defeat the Yellow Jackets, Liston and her teammates will need to be committed on the defensive end and on the glass for all 40 minutes of play.
“We definitely need to try to put two halves together, especially in this game, and start off the ACC strong,” Liston said. “We need to have the same focus in the first half and in the second half, whether the score is up 50, down 50 or a tie game. We just need to make sure we have that kind of same consistency throughout both halves.”
Liston turned in a career performance against California with 22 points, shooting 9-of-16 from the field Sunday. Her success was not limited to the offensive end. Pulling down eight rebounds, Liston asserted herself on the glass as well.
“I took what I got last game and my teammates put me in great positions to score. Something you can always do every game—whether you’re shooting well or not—is rebound. So that’s a big focus of mine for this season as well as game-by-game,” she said.
As the Blue Devils prepare to open their conference slate, the team remains confident in its ability to stall opposing offenses and score in bunches. They see these as the keys to placating Georgia Tech’s high-tempo offense and physical style of play.
“I feel well prepared, especially having played California last game. That was a great game to play before Georgia Tech and coming into ACC play,” Liston said. “Its always fun. We’re excited and we’re ready to play. I think that’s when things will really come together for us. I think that we’ve put in the work in the offseason and I think that we’ve had a couple good games to get us to where we need to be and I think we’re ready for some tougher games.”