The Blue Devils will kick off a grueling stretch of games with a clash at home against their arch rival.
No. 5 Duke will take on No. 13 North Carolina Monday at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils will play four consecutive games against teams ranked in the top 14 and will be looking to kick off the stretch by continuing their recent dominance of the Tar Heels. Duke has won seven straight games against North Carolina.
This season’s Tar Heel squad is led by players who have yet to play against the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils’ poise and experience will thus be pitted against the Tar Heels’ athleticism and youth.
Three of North Carolina’s top four scorers—guards Diamond DeShields and Allisha Gray and forward Stephanie Mavunga—are freshmen. The trio leads a team that scores 83.9 points per game and forces 21.4 turnovers per contest.
The Blue Devils (22-2, 9-1 in the ACC) will try to use their experience to counter North Carolina’s athleticism and control the pace of the game. Duke starts three seniors—Tricia Liston, Haley Peters and Richa Jackson—but junior center Elizabeth Williams will likely be the X-factor for Monday’s contest.
Williams—who has scored just 10 points total on eight field goal attempts in her last two games—allows Duke to play inside-out when she is demanding the ball in the paint. Her ability to score against Mavunga and draw double teams could be huge against a North Carolina team that has struggled defensively.
The Tar Heels (17-6, 5-4) have lost three games in a row and have given up an average of 85 points per game during the stretch.
Duke’s ability to handle the Tar Heels’ fast-paced offense will likely hinge on its ability to take care of the ball. Since the season-ending injury to senior point guard Chelsea Gray and the recent shin injury that has kept senior guard Chloe Wells out of the last five games, Duke has struggled in that department.
The Blue Devils turned the ball over 15 times in the first half in their last contest against Clemson and saw the game slip away in their loss to No. 2 Notre Dame because of sloppiness with the ball. Like the Fighting Irish, North Carolina has the ability to punish Duke in transition if given the opportunity.