With their backs against the wall Monday, the Blue Devils responded by routing a top-10 opponent.
They will try to continue the momentum Thursday against an in-state rival.
After losing two consecutive home contests by double digits to No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 11 North Carolina, the Blue Devils trounced No. 8 Maryland 81-63 at home Monday after a week off. Welcoming a fourth consecutive ranked opponent to Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 7 Duke will take on No. 10 N.C. State Thursday at 7 p.m.
Duke held the Terrapins to 32.4 percent shooting after allowing the Irish and Tar Heels to shoot better than 50 percent and combine for 177 points. A similar defensive effort will be required against the Wolfpack.
“It’s another test for us,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said on her weekly radio show. "[It’s] another test for us to be consistent, but more importantly a test for us to get better and take another step in our aggressiveness with rebounding and defense in particular.”
The Blue Devils (23-3, 10-2 in the ACC) will need another intense defensive performance against one of the best frontcourts in the country. North Carolina State’s Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke combine to average 32.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Gatling—who stands at 6-foot-5—also shoots 68.2 percent from the field to lead the Wolfpack (22-4, 9-3). Burke’s versatility stretches the floor to give North Carolina State great spacing and her fellow senior even more room to operate down low.
“It’s a super team,” McCallie said. “They’ve got a little bit of everything—a big strong post on the inside, [and] a very complementary excellent post Kody Burke. What makes her special is she’s a post player who’s just throwing threes up there, so you really have to contest her.”
Duke’s All-American center Elizabeth Williams will determine how much the Blue Devils can compete with the Wolfpack inside. The junior center had a career-high 28 points against North Carolina and had 17 points and 11 rebounds in Monday’s contest.
The ACC’s leading shot blocker will need another big game on both ends of the court for Duke to play inside-out like the Blue Devils normally do. Williams’ ability to get Gatling in foul trouble could also become a major factor in the game.
Duke will likely try to get its other primary frontcourt player—senior Haley Peters—involved in the offense. The versatile forward sets the tone for Duke’s defense with her versatility and communication, but has scored just three points in her last two contests.
Although the Wolfpack tend to look inside for scoring, Duke’s guards must make sure to find N.C. State’s major threat from the perimeter. 5-foot-4 guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman averages 10.8 points and three made 3-pointers per contest. The senior has made 77 3-pointers on the season.
“[She] really has the ability to throw up threes at the right moment for them,” McCallie said. “Their point guard is [also] solid. They all play a great role.”
Duke’s point guard Alexis Jones will try to lead another strong defensive effort by pressuring Goodwin-Coleman and the other Wolfpack ball handlers. Jones will also look to build off her best performance of the season after scoring 22 points and making five 3-pointers Monday. The sophomore’s ability to control the pace of the game as she did against the Terrapins could also give the Blue Devils a crucial advantage against their future opponents.
Duke had 12 fastbreak points Monday and freshmen post players Oderah Chidom and Kendall McCravey benefited from the faster pace of play. The duo combined for 11 points off the bench.
Although the Blue Devils were satisfied with their offensive performance against Maryland, they know that their success going forward will likely be determined by their defensive intensity.
“[The defense is] a work in progress,” McCallie said. “There are lots of lessons to learn. I feel like we’re climbing a ladder or a mountain because I view N.C. State as a very good team—perhaps to some degree even better than Maryland in many, many ways. We’re climbing on to the next step. ”