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With Currie hobbled, Duke preps for Terps

After a week off, a well rested but banged-up Duke team will travel to College Park to try to complete a regular-season sweep of Maryland Sunday at 3 p.m.

The third-ranked Blue Devils (22-2, 8-1 in the ACC) are hoping that Monique Currie, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her left foot a week ago, can continue her run at national Player of the Year honors.

Head coach Gail Goestenkors said Currie first felt pain in her foot during the Miami game Feb. 3.

“After the game I asked her what was going on,” Goestenkors said. “She said her foot was bothering her—she never complains about anything. She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever had. I knew when she said her foot was hurting something was going on.”

Currie has been fitted with an fiberglass orthotic and a steel shank to stabilize the foot. To fit all this equipment, Currie has been wearing a size 11.5 on her left foot and her normal size 10 on her right.

Playing with the new equipment is a challenge for Currie, who said it was “uncomfortable” during Sunday’s game against Florida State. The injury is similar to one Lindsey Harding had two years ago. Goestenkors said Harding became accustomed to the brace after two weeks and was able to play just as hard as before.

The week off certainly came at a fortunate time for Duke considering the injury. Currie has been held out of practice this week and is wearing a protective boot. To maintain her conditioning, Currie is using an exercise bike as well as an underwater treadmill.

The week of rest also has allowed the Blue Devils to recuperate and re-evaluate after an extremely tough stretch of games. Duke faced four top-25 teams over the previous two weeks.

“We’ve gone through a really tough stretch in the schedule,” Goestenkors said. “I think we really need this week off so that we can focus on our own team and get back to basics.”

Ball control has been a problem lately with freshman Wanisha Smith especially struggling with turnovers. The team has used the extra time off to step up its intensity in practice. Goestenkors has asked Harding, who has been practicing with the team while suspended, to pressure Smith in drills and game situations in preparation for the Maryland game and thereafter.

Against Maryland Jan. 27, Smith played a strong game, scoring 14 points and dishing out five assists. Currie won that game on a final-minute jumper to give Duke the 60-57 victory.

“We were extremely competitive in the last game,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “We want to do the same thing this time that we did last time. We had a good game plan, we just have to execute better and fine-tune.”

Since facing Duke, Maryland (17-5, 6-4) has been playing its best basketball of the season. The Terrapins beat Arizona in Tucson in overtime, then defeated Georgia Tech in College Park and Clemson on the road.

“That week gave us a lot of confidence,” Frese said of playing Duke close and then winning in Arizona. “Being so young—we have three freshmen and two sophomores who play a lot—it’s nice to see in February that kind of chemistry coming together.”

Duke will look to contain Terps center Crystal Langhorne, who was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the fourth time last week, as well as the sophomore guard duo of Shay Doron and Kalika France.

Maryland is expecting a big crowd for the game, with 13,500 tickets already sold and a large number of walk-up fans expected. Frese said they are hoping to break the ACC record for attendance at a regular-season women’s game, which was set at 14,500 at Cole Field House for a 1992 tilt between Maryland and Virginia.

“It’s fun because it’s starting to develop into a real rivalry like on the men’s side,” Frese said.

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