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Duke sets for scoring storm

When the Miami women’s basketball team travels to Durham for the first time today, it will not only have to battle the legendary mystique of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Hurricanes will also have to contend with the fact that they are taking on a Duke squad ranked second in the nation and first in the ACC, a team that is undefeated at home and is in the midst of a seven-game win streak.

“It’s kind of like David and Goliath going at one another on Thursday night,” Miami head coach Ferne Labati said.

In spite of the impressive height and statistical girth of Goliath, however, David has one very accurate rock in his slingshot.

The Hurricanes (12-13, 4-8 in the ACC) boast the top scorer in the NCAA, Tamara James. A National Player of the Year candidate, James is averaging 23.2 points per game and tallied 27 in Miami’s 70-65 loss to Maryland.

The junior also leads the Hurricanes in blocks, averaging 6.8 boards per game.

“[James] is a tough matchup because she plays the four for them, but she shoots the three really well,” head coach Gail Goestenkors said. “She’s really a guard, but she posts up a great deal. She’s big, she’s strong, she’s smart.”

The Blue Devils’ own National Player of the Year contender, Monique Currie, has recently been slowed by injury. The junior’s point total was held below double-digits for the first time this season in Sunday’s 73-55 win over Georgia Tech.

Currie suffered two stress fractures in her left foot in Duke’s Feb. 3 victory at Miami and has averaged 11.8 points in the subsequent four games. In the eight games prior to her injury, the forward averaged 21.3 points.

“We need [Currie] to be effective,” Goestenkors said. “I think she’s becoming more comfortable with the shell and with the orthotic in her shoe, and I think she’s about ready to turn the corner for us.”

With their top scorer playing under duress, other Blue Devil starters and bench players have stepped up to fill the void. Junior guard Jessica Foley posted a team-high 19 points against the Yellow Jackets Feb. 20, sinking five three-pointers.

Freshman Chante Black has been averaging 7.8 points off the bench. Black and fellow reserve Wynter Whitley each recorded 11 points in Sunday’s contest.

“They have tremendous offensive balance,” Labati said of the Duke squad.

Point guard Yalonda McCormick will provide offensive depth for the Hurricanes. The senior ranks second in the ACC in assists with 6.29 per game.

Labati also named starting center Imani Dhahabu amongst Miami’s top players. Dhahabu’s performance has improved as of late. She has averaged 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in the last six games, well above her season averages of 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest.

“Their role players have really stepped up for [the Hurricanes], I think, since the first time we played them,” Goestenkors said. “They’re getting much greater contributions from all of their other players as well, which makes them very, very good and very dangerous.”

Miami has struggled on the glass in recent games. In the Feb. 17 contest, the Hurricanes were outrebounded 46-26 by the Terrapins. The Blue Devils grabbed 46 boards compared to Miami’s 30 rebounds in their 72-63 win.

“I think we have to do a better job on the boards,” Labati said. “We’ve got to play a great game against Duke just to be in the game with them.”

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