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Deep bench expected to shine in home opener

In their first two games of the season, the Blue Devils have relied on their bench to bring fresh intensity onto the court and to give the starters some rest.

When top-ranked Duke (2-0) takes on Fairfield (0-1) 7 p.m. tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium in its home-opener, head coach Gail Goestenkors said she expects to continue rotating her 13-person lineup that includes five freshmen.

"We are still in the process of seeing who plays well in certain situations and what combinations play well together," Goestenkors said. "When we get a nice lead, it gets easy for me to look at some different combinations. So, probably early on, we'll be seeing a lot of different people play together and hopefully, some good minutes."

In the Blue Devils' opening weekend, no Duke player saw more than 25 minutes of action in a single game and all 11 active players notched at least two baskets.

"We've got so many players that can come in, and we don't really lose anything off the bench," senior guard Jessica Foley said. "I think that we've shared the minutes around pretty well. So, nobody is getting really tired on the floor."

Off the bench, the Blue Devils were led by junior center Alison Bales and sophomore guard Wanisha Smith, who both started last season.

Against Penn State Nov. 18, Bales had 16 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of play. In the Blue Devils 93-56 win over Old Dominion Sunday, Smith led the Blue Devils with 11 assists and three steals.

"Wanisha and Ali have been very good off the bench," Goestenkors said. "Those are two people that started for us last year. They've had great experiences, and they are very comfortable in any situation."

Duke's depth has allowed it to play aggressively on defense and put a constant, full-court pressure on its opponents. This high-intensity defense has led to 26 steals in its first two games.

The Blue Devils will try to maintain their defensive pressure tonight against the Stags, who committed 21 turnovers in their 72-62 opening-night loss to Brown.

"We want to be a pressing team," Goestenkors said. "We want to be a running team that will utilize our depth very, very well. This team loves to run and press. We know that when each player in the game goes full speed and gives it everything they have, then they only need to play a couple minutes and someone will be ready to give them a rest."

In past seasons, Duke has been plagued by a lack of depth and injury woes. Already this season, freshman Keturah Jackson and sophomore Emily Waner have been sidelined with injury. Waner has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right foot and Jackson is recovering from a sprained right ankle.

With senior guard Monique Currie, last season's leading scorer, playing through a left-foot ailment, the Blue Devils will again utilize their depth tonight as they compete in their third game in just five days.


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