Duke heads to Charlottesville, Va. Friday to take on Blue Devil alum Joanna Boyle and her talented Virginia squad.
The No. 5 Blue Devils (20-1, 10-0 ACC) will look to continue their undefeated conference streak by containing the Cavaliers’ two primary scoring threats and improving on their rebounding performance.
“We only outrebounded [North Carolina] by five,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We haven’t been as dominant as I think we can be when everyone pulls their weight and does what they need to do. What I mean by that is—defensive boards, guards doing a great job boxing out and getting boards, and the offensive rebounds approaching more like 20 to 25, not 17. We are trying to build that number.”
Along with an emphasized focus on physical play on the boards, McCallie highlighted a pair of individual matchups crucial to beating Virginia (14-7, 6-4 ACC).
Junior guard Chelsea Gray will most likely draw the assignment for Cavalier junior guard Ataira Franklin, who leads Virginia in scoring with 13.2 points per game and also contributes three assists and more than two steals per game. Gray puts up similar numbers, averaging 12.9 points, 5.8 assists and 3.8 steals per game.
“Franklin is terrific on the wing,” McCallie said. “It’s a team effort to guard her. Chelsea will get the look first. But she’s terrific off the bounce. She does it all—rebounds and shoots the three. You have to limit her touches and make her work very hard on every possession.”
The second prominent matchup pits junior forward Haley Peters against Cavalier Telia McCall. The senior forward provides Virginia with a strong presence in the paint averaging almost 8.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Peters does it all for the Blue Devils. While often facing the opposition’s premier scorer or rebounder, Peters averages 11.9 points and leads Duke with 7.2 rebounds per game.
“McCall—Haley Peters draws that matchup, at least to begin with,” McCallie said. “It will be a team effort. She can really put the ball on the floor, right or left. She likes to score from the high post, she likes to take it to the rack hard.”
Defending Franklin and McCall, especially keeping them away from the foul line, will be of utmost importance to the Blue Devils if they want to continue their hot steak in the ACC.
“What’s important is limiting their touches and defending aggressively and then not fouling them,” McCallie said. “We don’t want either one of those two to go to the free throw line.”
Looking ahead to the fast-approaching NCAA tournament, McCallie is pushing her team to play harder and smarter, for longer stretches of the game. Duke’s main focus heading into the final leg of conference play: Put together a complete game at a high intensity level without slacking for long periods of time.
“We are just trying to play more minutes—more consistency and more minutes,” McCallie said. “We’ve had some great halves—the second half against Miami and the first half against Carolina. But the whole idea is trying to really put some special minutes together and extend it to 30 minutes. We haven’t played 30 minutes in any game, so let’s extend it to 30, and then maybe talk about extending it further.”