The Blue Devils are not only ready for North Carolina. They are ready for the NCAAs.
With their dominant showing against Virginia Tech Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke not only showed why it is the No. 1 squad in the nation, but also sent a powerful message. This team is prepared.
The Blue Devils' defense was stellar, forcing 23 turnovers and holding the Hokies to their second-lowest point total of the season and their third-lowest shooting percentage.
"Their defense was very good," Virginia Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said. "They kept switching things up."
Duke's offense was equally impressive. The Blue Devils shot 60.9 percent, scored 93 points and converted the Hokies' turnovers into 30 points.
"We tried some man, we tried some zone, and we tried a bunch of different presses, and nothing seemed to work very well against them," Dunkenberger said.
Duke's night was much better on both sides of the ball than the team's previous performance against Virginia Tech this season. When the two teams met in Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 6, Duke barely escaped with a 73-62 victory. The team shot 45.5 percent that game, allowed 11 more points, and turned the ball over five more times.
In the four games since that first Virginia Tech meeting, including Wednesday night, Duke has scored 88, 90, 99 and 93 points, respectively. In those games, Duke has stepped up its intensity when necessary and proved why this year's team is ready to contend for the school's first national title.
In addition to the team's ever improving offense and defense, its balance and depth have strengthened. Five Blue Devils scored in double figures Wednesday, while two others had eight points apiece.
Duke also scored 48 points in the paint despite being outrebounded, 41-34.
"I wasn't thinking about the Tournament," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We've had some really good practices and everybody's been playing well, so I wanted to give everybody an opportunity to play."
Whether thinking about the Tournament or not, Goestenkors' bench has been a strength for the team all season and this game was no exception. Nearly half of Duke's points were scored by the bench.
Goestenkors highlighted the team's unselfish play, especially that of the seniors, as a key factor in the balanced scoring. She said the three seniors could have taken more shots each game throughout the season, but they have preferred to get their teammates involved.
The Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill to play No. 2 North Carolina Saturday to decide the ACC regular season champion.
On the heels of Wednesday's rout, Duke will approach that showdown with the confidence to snap its recent four-game losing streak to the Tar Heels and head into postseason play on a high note.
"It doesn't even really feel like the Senior Night because we have so much of our season left," senior Jessica Foley said. "It's definitely sad to have our last game in Cameron but I think that there's so much of the season left to go that we haven't really thought about the end yet."
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