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Duke finds freshman depth

For most of the season, discussion about the Duke women’s basketball team’s flaws has focused on its lack of depth. With Lindsey Harding out for the season and Caitlin Howe gone for at least the next month, the roster is down to eight.

Now, with Monique Currie a step slower because of a stress fracture in her left foot, it might seem like Duke’s bench just became a whole lot shorter.

But the Blue Devils’ second-half surge against Florida State showed that surprising freshmen—most notably Chante Black and Laura Kurz, who combined for 19 points off the bench—can alleviate many of these expected problems.

Throughout the first half, Duke looked to its regular strongholds to run the show—particularly Currie, who leads the Blue Devils with 18.2 points per game. When Duke’s proven guns weren’t firing before halftime, the Blue Devils trailed by as many as seven against the much smaller Seminoles.

After FSU held a one-point lead at the break, head coach Gail Goestenkors switched to zone defense and soon brought Black and Kurz into the mi., Point guard Wanisha Smith was already in the game, and during the key 18-0 run that began just a minute after halftime, the three freshmen combined for 11 points while Currie only netted four. Black routinely got position under the basket, pulling down four rebounds and opening the lane for Duke’s slashers.

“Chante’s been playing pretty well the last couple of practices and the last two games now,” Goestenkors said. “I think she is adjusting to the physical play in college, and it makes all the difference in the world when we have her coming off the bench giving us a spark.”

With Duke’s height advantage in almost every ACC contest, the league’s coaches come as ready as they can for the mismatches. Florida State heavily relied on outside shooting Sunday, taking advantage of its own offensive matchup problems.

Although the Blue Devils are able to get easy buckets because they are simply taller than their opponents, they won Sunday because players like Kurz and Smith gave the the team a second dimension from the outside. Kurz went 5-for-6 from the field for 11 points, almost all of which came from the perimeter. Meanwhile, it took Currie 14 attempts to make the same number of shots. Kurz’s shots came on open looks with teams focusing on Currie and the inside game.

“Anytime [Currie] puts the ball on the floor they’re double teaming her,” Goestenkors said. “We need some other players to step up, and I think we’re getting that, which is nice.”

This is where the freshmen Black, Kurz and Smith show that while Duke does not have strength in numbers, each of its eight has enough scoring ability to give opponents headaches.

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