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Shot-blockers Bales, Black anchor defense

There is more than just one landlord charging rent in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Duke women's basketball team topped the NCAA charts for the second consecutive season, leading Division I schools in blocked shots with a team total of 208 in the regular season. Led by junior Alison Bales and sophomore Chante Black, the Blue Devils rejected an average of 7.7 shots per game.

For as good as Duke is at blocking shots, it seems odd that the statistic is one of the last that head coach Gail Goestenkors said she checks after each game.

"It's not something I have really cared about in the past-blocked shots," Goestenkors said. "It's not anything that I have ever emphasized, but with the great size that we have, and with the timing that Ali and Chante have, it has become an integral part of our game."

Together, the dynamic duo of 6-foot-7 Bales and 6-foot-5 Black are literally a towering and tenacious defensive force. Combined, the two centers account for nearly 70 percent of all of Duke's blocked shots.

"Not only do we block shots, but both of us are so intimidating on the inside," Bales said. "When the [opposing] guards get around one of the [Blue Devil] guards on the perimeter, they have to come and try to shoot over one of us."

Bales is coming off an impressive sophomore year in which she set the ACC single-season record with 134 blocks. As a junior, Bales has tallied 87 rejections. With 250 career blocks, she holds the Duke all-time career blocks record. Averaging 3.2 blocks per game, Bales is ranked seventh in the NCAA this year.

The sophomore Black is following in Bales' impressive footsteps. Denying 56 shots so far this season, Black is right behind Bales as the team's second-best blocker.

Although both control the paint defensively, Goestenkors said she views their talents as a luxury that sometimes cover up defensive breakdowns.

"Sometimes I think it's a blessing in disguise because it means we're getting beat on the perimeter," Goestenkors said. "They're having to come over and help us sometimes to block shots, and sometimes it takes us out of rebounding position as well."

In addition to concerns about rebounding, Goestenkors said she worries about her post players getting into foul trouble while attempting to block shots. What makes Bales such an effective shotblocker is her ability to alter shots without committing fouls-something that the younger Black is continuing to learn how to do.

"Ali's better at blocking without fouling," Black said. "Me, on the other hand, if they come up against me..."

"She just throws them out of bounds," Bales interrupted.

"They're going out with the ball flying with them," Black added, laughing. "That's the one thing I need to work on, not fouling when I block."

The centers' crowd-pleasing rejections do not go unnoticed by their teammates, and their uncanny blocking abilities have become an important addition to all aspects of the Blue Devil defense.

"It's great for us, especially the guards, out there playing," Harding said. "That gives me more confidence to pressure the ball and not just at the three-point line, but pressuring all over the floor. Because I know if I'm pressuring a 5'5" guard, they have to go past me and have to try to score over someone that's 6'7". It's a good thing and a bad thing because sometimes we rely a lot on that."

Although Goestenkors would prefer that Duke does not break down to the point that they need to rely on its last line of defense, the duo does not mind.

"We are just eager to block if they get beat," Black said. "There's usually a chest bump afterwards."

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