WORCESTER, Mass. - Playing their fourth road game in nine days, head coach Gail Goestenkors was concerned about a letdown against lowly Holy Cross. Instead, however, the Blue Devils responded with their sharpest minute of basketball.
Duke (17-0, 5-0 in the ACC) opened with a 9-2 run in the first 64 seconds of the game to cruise to a commanding 84-36 victory over Holy Cross (6-10).
"I was worried that we were going to have a little mental and physical fatigue, but the team really came out to play," Goestenkors said. "We just jumped on them from the get-go."
The Blue Devils made short work of the Crusaders because of a suffocating press defense that generated 22 turnovers. Wanisha Smith made her presence felt early, scoring seven of Duke's first nine points in just her second start this season. The sophomore made her start in place of Abby Waner, who had been struggling as of late.
"Wanisha's back in the starting lineup, she's been playing so well-Abby hadn't been playing that well," Goestenkors said. "That's the luxury I have with so much depth is that we can alternate our starters, and it really doesn't matter."
Waner responded, however, by leading the team with 17 points, breaking a five-game streak in which she did not score in double digits. Her effort was indicative of a team-wide offensive improvement from Duke's last game against Boston College.
Against the Eagles Saturday, the Blue Devils registered just 20 points on 26 percent shooting in the first half, their worst totals of the season. The team missed 20 of its first 25 shots as it trailed Boston College, which has yet to win an ACC contest, by two at the half. Duke rebounded to shoot 63 percent in the second half and secured its fifth ACC win, 66-52.
"Our shots weren't falling in the first half, but I give credit as well to Boston College and their defense, I thought they did an excellent job," Goestenkors said after Saturday's victory. "Finally in the second half, we were able to wear them down just a little bit and fortunately come away with a win."
Lindsey Harding, who was named ACC Player of the Week Monday, and Monique Currie led the Blue Devils against the Eagles. Harding had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Currie added 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
Monday, Duke continued the momentum gained in the second half of the Boston College game and used crisp ball movement to open a commanding 51-16 halftime lead. The Blue Devils notched 24 assists on 33 field goals in the game.
"The last few games we haven't shot the ball well, especially in the first half, so I felt we were due for a good shooting night," Goestenkors said.
Defensively, Duke imposed its will on the outmatched Crusaders, generating 16 first-half turnovers with its press. When they did decide to drop into a half-court defense, the result was similar-the more physical Blue Devils blocked 10 shots and outrebounded Holy Cross 48-30. Alison Bales had a field day with the smaller Crusaders, notching 13 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double this season.
The lopsided margin gave the Blue Devils the opportunity to give rest to their starters and experience to their reserves. Emily Waner, Laura Kurz and Carrem Gay, who played just over 11 minutes combined Saturday, each played at least 14 minutes Monday, and no Duke player played more than 24 minutes.
"It's not about playing the other team, it's about us getting better and working on some things," Goestenkors said. "We worked on our zones in the second half, first half we worked our man-to-man switching, we worked on our press throughout the game. We were really focused on ourselves and where we needed to prepare [for future games]."
Duke's 17-0 start is the second-best in school history, the 2002-03 Blue Devils started 20-0-. Forward Chante Black missed the game with a foot injury-. Bales became Duke's all-time blocked shots leader with 5 blocks. She has 214 now for her career.
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