Coming off the emotional high of downing No. 6 Maryland in convincing fashion at the Comcast Center, the No. 2 women's basketball team had little time to celebrate.
After returning to Durham Sunday, the Blue Devils (15-0, 4-0 in the ACC) turned right around and traveled to Atlanta for Wednesday's sloppy win over Georgia Tech. And now Duke is leaving town again.
The Blue Devils will face Boston College (12-4, 0-2) Saturday at 6 p.m. and then will wrap up the longest road-swing of their season at Holy Cross (5-9) Monday at 7 p.m.
Head coach Gail Goestenkors said she felt fatigue contributed to her team's season-worst shooting performance against the Yellow Jackets and is worried that it could plague the Blue Devils again Saturday.
"It's something I'm concerned about just because it's our third away game in seven days," Goestenkors said. "I had to give the players off [Thursday] because they were exhausted."
Goestenkors said she suspected this stretch of Duke's schedule would test her squad for multiple reasons. The Blue Devils have already played a conference-high four ACC games and this month will play 10 games, which also tops the league.
After winning by an average of nearly 43 points in the team's first 14 games, Duke played its closest game of the season against Georgia Tech, escaping with an eight-point win.
Junior Lindsey Harding said the game gave the Blue Devils the experience of trying to win with defense on a night when shots wouldn't fall.
"I don't think last night was necessarily a bad thing for us," Goestenkors said. "We need some opportunities to execute offensively and defensively in pressure situations."
Boston College, which Goestenkors described as one of the toughest squads she has watched, could pose a similar challenge to the Blue Devils. The teams met in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, a game that Duke won by only five, 70-65.
"They do not beat themselves. You have to go in there and beat them, and it's not an easy thing to do," Goestenkors said. "I am sure they will be a rested, angry, desperate home team, and that's a tough combination. We will be tested, I have no doubt.
"Boston College affords us our greatest challenge to date."
All 12 of Duke's players are averaging more than double-digit minutes this season, but Goestenkors has adjusted her rotation now that the team is entering the bulk of its conference schedule. Guard Emily Waner has not played in the past two games and freshman Carrem Gay has also seen her minutes decrease.
At the same time, Goestenkors has shown no tolerance for mistakes. She benched freshman point guard Abby Waner for most of the second half of Duke's game against Maryland Jan. 8 after she made three consecutive mistakes on defense-something that Goestenkors would not have had the luxury to do with last year's eight-player roster.
"I told the team at the beginning of this stretch that these four games, our character, our unity would be tested," Goestenkors said. "I knew we would probably trim down the rotation a little bit, and so people were going to have to sacrifice and still maintain a positive attitude."
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