Despite winning its first five games by an average of 43 points, Duke is losing its grip on the No. 1 spot in the nation.
The Blue Devils (5-0) will face its first top-25 opponent Sunday in No. 16 Texas (3-2). The Longhorns lost by 41 points Thursday to No. 2 Tennessee (6-0), allowing the Lady Vols to creep up on Duke's spot atop the country.
Tennessee closed the gap in the AP Poll this week to just seven points, and actually garnered more first-place votes than Duke.
The Blue Devils said the rankings mean nothing, though, and they just want to play their game.
"It's just another game," center Chante Black said. "We're just looking to keep doing what we do, and playing to win, of course. Trying to improve ourselves and make sure that we're up to being the best that we can be this year."
Although their closest game thus far has been a 26-point victory at Penn State, the Blue Devils expect more out of Texas. Despite the temptation to try to prove something to the nation, Duke is confident that its play speaks for itself.
"I think we know in our hearts that we can be the No.1 team in the country in the end," guard Lindsey Harding said. "Because, you know, it's all rankings right now, it doesn't matter right now. But for us, I think we'll get more satisfaction out of it because we know that [Texas] is a really good team."
The Blue Devils know they will have to adjust to the change in competition. No longer will a single-digit lead be a disappointment, Harding said.
"The hardest thing for us will be to adjust to knowing that we can't be up by 20 like that," said Harding, the team's third-most prolific scorer. "It's okay to go one basket at a time. And obviously from the teams that we've played, we've had unnecessary turnovers because we were such in a rush to go up by 40 automatically."
One of the things that has contributed to Duke's success so far this season has been its depth. Only two players are averaging more than 20 minutes of time.
"We knew that was one of the strengths of this year's team going into the season," head coach Gail Goestenkors said of the team's depth. "I think it's good. I think the players are adjusting and understanding that while they're in, they need to give their all. And they need to be more productive in fewer minutes than they had last year."
As the players adjust to this style of basketball, the numbers clearly indicate what Goestenkors is aiming for. Each member of the starting five is averaging around 20 minutes a game this season, but are still scoring almost twelve points each in that limited time.
While coming in and out every few minutes might make it difficult to maintain focus for some, Black insists it actually forces the team to stay even more involved in the game.
"Usually [frequent substitution] makes me more focused," Black said. "Because you know you're only going to be in there for three or four minutes. So, you need to go in and dominate for those limited minutes."
This will be the team's first televised game of the season, and the Blue Devils are anxious to notch their sixth victory of the year and the first over a ranked opponent.
"I think we're all really excited," Goestenkors said. "I think we're very excited for this opportunity to find out where we are."
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