Coming off of two road wins to open conference play, the Blue Devils will return home for their home conference opener seeking their 800th win in program history and 40th consecutive home win in ACC play.
No. 3 Duke will take on Boston College on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils will look to continue employing the stingy defense that has sparked their latest five-game winning streak since their only loss of the season to No. 1 Connecticut. Since the loss, Duke is allowing just 55 points per contest.
“I just think we’re getting better,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “[We’re] working on defense, improving our ball pressure and our quickness in transition in stopping the ball. That’s important to us, regardless of any win or loss. We’ve got to become a great defensive team, and I think we’re making progress.”
In conference play, the Blue Devils (15-1, 2-0 in the ACC) have continued to tighten the screws defensively, allowing Georgia Tech and Syracuse to score just 47 and 53 points, respectively, and holding the teams to 27.0 percent shooting from the field combined.
The Yellow Jackets and Orange were also a combined 9-of-55 from 3-point range, a trend Duke hopes will continue on Sunday against an Eagle team that is not afraid to pull the trigger from outside. Led by senior forward Kristin Doherty and sophomore guard Nicole Boudreau, the balanced Boston College offense averages eight 3-pointers per game and shoots the three at a 38.1 percent clip.
“These games have a similar challenge in shot contesting and attacking the 3-point line,” McCallie said. “Without question, we’ve done some good work there. Now we’ve got to apply that intensity to Boston College.”
In addition to timely outside shooting, the Eagles (10-6, 1-1)—who enjoyed a seven-game winning streak before losing their last contest to No. 2 Notre Dame by 42 points—will likely count on senior center Katie Zenevitch to combat Duke junior center Elizabeth Williams so Boston College can compete with the Blue Devils inside.
Williams has had one of the best stretches of her career recently, notching double-doubles in three consecutive games for the first time in her career. The junior’s double-doubles, her first of the season, have also coincided with more aggressiveness as a shot blocker—Williams has blocked four shots in two of her last three games.
“She’s doing a great job of playing with great energy and intensity,” McCallie said. “At the same time, [she’s] taking her time on offense on the catches in the paint, locating the defense and looking for the best option available.”
Because of the recent success of Williams and senior forward Haley Peters inside, Duke’s guards, led by senior Tricia Liston, will likely look to punish Boston College’s zone defense just as they punished Syracuse’s—by establishing control inside before kicking passes out for open jump shots. Boston College has struggled to defend perimeter players this season, allowing the most 3-pointers of any team in the ACC.
“We’re always going to play from the inside out,” McCallie said. “[We’re going to] feed our posts, be aggressive doing that, and also control the tempo and push the tempo. Creating our own tempo is important to us.”
The Eagle starters will have their hands full against the Blue Devils, but Boston College’s bench players may shoulder even more of the burden on Sunday. In their 42-point loss to the Irish, the Eagles’ bench was completely overmatched, getting outscored 55-8.
Although Duke’s bench is not as deep as Notre Dame’s, the Blue Devils still have one of the best second units in the country led by senior guards Chloe Wells and Richa Jackson and freshman forward Oderah Chidom.
“I love our bench,” McCallie said. “We’re coming on strong and we’re learning what we need to do out there together as a team. I appreciate our bench very much and we’re trying to grow our bench—it’s important to do that.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing towards a Duke blowout on Sunday, the Blue Devils know they cannot take any opponent—especially a conference opponent—lightly, especially after falling behind 13-4 in the first 2:20 of their last game and committing 20 turnovers.
“[Boston College obviously] struggled at Notre Dame,” McCallie said. “It was a new place for them to play and they didn’t play well. They’re going to play a lot better than that against us…. We’ve got to be a resilient team and ready to play any time, any place and anywhere. That’s just the ACC.”