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Smith thrives in return to starting lineup

WORCESTER, Mass. - There was a notable shakeup in the Duke rotation Monday night.

Absent from the starting lineup was freshman guard Abby Waner, who had started 15 of Duke's 16 games. Replacing her was sophomore Wanisha Smith, who had started only one game this season. Waner had been struggling of late, shooting only 17 percent in her last four games, including an 0-for-5 night against Boston College Saturday.

"Abby just hadn't been playing that well and she hadn't been hitting her shot and Wanisha had been playing very well," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I told them at the beginning of the year that all of the starting spots were always going to be open because I wanted our practices to be very, very competitive. This was an instance where we felt like it was time for Wanisha to be rewarded for her great play and maybe take some pressure off of Abby from that starting spot."

Apparently, the reward paid off. Right out of the gate, Smith and Duke's press forced two turnovers in three Holy Cross possessions, resulting in a 9-2 lead only a minute into the game. Smith scored seven of those nine and hit all six of her first-half shots to lead the Blue Devils in scoring at the break. Over the first 20 minutes, Holy Cross had scored 16 points as a team. Smith alone had 13.

"I think our aggressiveness helped me get into the game," Smith said. "I don't think it was anything I did individually. It was just going after it and me getting wide open layups."

With the game well in hand, Smith saw fewer minutes in the second half and scored only two points. She ended as Duke's second leading scorer in the game-to her displaced teammate, Abby Waner.

Waner started hitting her shot, going 6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range. Her 66 percent shooting was her best mark since the third game of the season, and her team-high 17 points were her most in six games.

"I know my shot's been really off lately, so it was just a matter of getting in rhythm and just going out after practice and getting a few extra reps in," Waner said. "I know I've been rushing and forcing a little bit, but this game my teammates found me and luckily I was able to knock a few down."

In addition to great shooting nights, both Waner and Smith helped Duke's defense harass Holy Cross in both the full and half court, getting two steals apiece.

Neither player would put her effort above the team's in the wake of their great performances. Both emphasized that competition is healthy and that, no matter what, the Blue Devils will continue to feed off of each other going forward.

"The good thing about it is that we both know that we each have each other's back no matter what, because that's the way our team is and that's the way it works-that we're not selfish," Waner said. "We have players that are able to handle the depth and handle the fact that there are other great players on the team as well."


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