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Duke opens season with questions

Duke’s home opener will be a matchup between two squads starting uncertain seasons.

The No. 6 women’s basketball team takes on Davidson Friday at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first round of the preseason WNIT. The Blue Devils will be without starting point guard Lindsey Harding, who head coach Gail Goestenkors suspended indefinitely prior to Duke’s first exhibition game.

In the Blue Devils’ last scrimmage against EV1 Monday, Goestenkors tried three different players at the point. Junior Jessica Foley, freshman Wanisha Smith and junior Monique Currie all shared time filling in for Harding.

Foley struggled Monday, turning the ball over four times and scoring only six points. Despite her shortcomings at the point, Foley is listed as the probable starter for tonight’s game.

Smith, however, is the Blue Devils’ only true point guard besides Harding. The freshman scored 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench against EV1, going 5-for-10 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line.

Goestenkors will also have to carefully watch sophomore Caitlin Howe and senior Wynter Whitley. Both players missed most of last year with injuries, and are currently hampered by sore ankles. The two, however, are expected to play.

Davidson comes into the game with only one returning starter. The Wildcats finished third in the Southern Conference last season with a 16-12 record and are projected to be the fifth team in their conference. Davidson’s tallest player is 6-foot-2, which gives Duke a clear advantage in the low post.

Mistie Williams at 6-foot-3 and Chante Black at 6-foot-5 will likely be effective inside. In exhibition play, Black, a freshman, averaged 9.5 rebounds, 6.5 points and 3.5 blocks. If she earns the start, Black will only be the seventh freshman to start her first collegiate game for Goestenkors.

Duke has not appeared in the preseason WNIT since 1999, and Goestenkors is glad to give her inexperienced team an early challenge.

“We knew we’d be a young team,” Goestenkors said. “We wanted to find out early what we were made of and what we needed to work on. We wanted to get some early games under our belt, so we’re really looking forward to [the WNIT].”

If the Blue Devils advance past Davidson, they will face either South Florida or Middle Tennessee State Sunday at 2 p.m. in Cameron. Potential matchups in the semifinals and finals include top-25 powers Notre Dame, Arizona and Ohio State. Duke is scheduled to play No. 21 Penn State Nov. 19, which is between the semifinals and finals of the WNIT.

Goestenkors is excited for the potential challenge that the WNIT will provide her inexperienced squad.

“We feel good,” Goestenkors said. “There’s excellent competition at the preseason WNIT.”

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