Duke hopes the third time is not the charm for Virginia.
When the No. 1 Blue Devils (15-1, 1-0 in the ACC) take on the Cavaliers (12-3, 2-0) Friday, will be the third year in a row that Duke has gone into Charlottesville as the top-ranked team in the nation, and in each of the previous two games Virginia has given the Blue Devils all they could handle before Duke prevailed.
Two years ago, it took 41 points by Alana Beard to escape with a one-point victory. Then in 2004, the Cavaliers led at the half, and Duke did not take a comfortable lead until it went on a run late in the second half. With these games in mind, the Blue Devils are not taking the unranked Caviliers for granted.
'They always play their best basketball when they play us at their place, so it takes one of our best games as well,' head coach Gail Goestenkors said. 'We are going to take their best shot. We need to be able to accept the challenge.'
Both teams come into their only matchup this season on a tear. Duke has won 13 consecutive contests, while Virginia has won eight in a row.
The Cavaliers" experience has been part of the reason for their recent success. The team returns four starters from last year and boasts a deep bench, as seven different players have led it in scoring for at least one game. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, will only dress eight players for at least the next month.
'They have great depth, and they have great balance, and on any given night different players have been stepping forward for them,' Goestenkors said. 'We need to make sure no one person has an All-American night for them.'
Duke will have a noticeable size advantage over Virginia, matching up sophomore Alison Bales and freshman Chante Black, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-5, respectively, against a the Cavaliers" 6-foot-2 Brandi Teamer and 6-foot-1 Jocelyn Logan-Friend. The Blue Devils will attempt to continue their dominance on the boards--they have outrebounded opponents by an average of 12.5 per game.
Virginia will likely try to slow down the Duke post players with a zone defense. Although her team has not played against a zone since early in the season, Goestenkors believes the zone"s focus on the Blue Devils" post players will open up opportunities for the perimeter shooters.
'We feel very comfortable attacking zones,' Goestenkors said. 'We have some good shooters, and we"ve been shooting the ball very well lately.'
Duke will also aim to cut down its average of 17 turnovers per game as it heads into its first ACC road game of the season. The players believe they are ready despite the team"s difficulty against the Cavaliers in the past.
'Whether we are No. 1 or No. 6, we are Duke, and people are going to come at us,' junior Mistie Williams said. 'We definitely are prepared for it.'
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