Freshmen shine bright in collegiate debuts

In a game in which the result was never really in question-despite Duke's first-half struggles-a pair of Blue Devil rookies stole the show.

Freshmen Joy Cheek and Bridgette Mitchell, playing their first official games in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, became the first Duke players to record double-doubles in their first collegiate games since Monique Currie accomplished the feat in 2001. More importantly, though, the freshmen, along with a larger crop of inexperienced Blue Devils, triggered a 37-11 second-half run that sealed the Duke victory.

The Blue Devils' second-half offense revolved around the freshmen. Cheek, a physical 6-foot-1 forward, scored 11 points in the second period, while Mitchell, a slashing guard-forward hybrid, netted 16 of her 18 points in the second half to go along with 13 rebounds.

The statistics speak for themselves, but it was the way that the duo scored that was most impressive. The freshmen were not just consistent during a three minute stretch early in the second half-they were nearly unstoppable.

Cheek and Mitchell entered the game with 16:49 remaining in the second half and Duke leading 50-22. Just over three minutes later, the Blue Devils' lead had ballooned to 36 points, with the freshmen scoring 13 points over a span of seven Duke possessions.

Center Alison Bales may have had a mediocre game down low, but Cheek more than made up for the senior's abnormally low numbers. With junior center Chante Black out of the lineup recovering from a knee injury, Bales and Cheek combined for 20 points and 22 rebounds, creating a two-headed frontcourt monster.

"[Cheek] goes against [Bales] every day in practice and does not back down," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "She is not intimidated by anybody. She is very aggressive and assertive and has great confidence."

Mitchell, on the other hand, scored from the perimeter and the post. She showed her versatility by scoring three different ways on three straight possessions-she converted a fast break layup, grabbed an offensive rebound off her own miss and made the putback and sank a runner from the side of the lane.

"[Mitchell] plays inside and outside for us and always plays so hard," Goestenkors said. "She makes good things happen."

Cheek and Mitchell certainly stood out, but they were not the only Blue Devils to make an impressive debut in Cameron. Redshirt freshman Brittany Mitch also shined Saturday, scoring 10 points-all in the second half-including a team-high two three-pointers.

"We've got [Mitch] playing all five positions," Goestenkors said. "I think it's a lot for her to handle. She needs to play a lot to just get a feel for the game."

The only negative aspects of the newcomers' games were their slow starts. The triumvirate that combined for 40 points only had three in the first half.

"I just relaxed [in the second half]," Mitchell said. "I said, 'I can't worry about everything. Just play basketball.'"

Saturday's game showed the immense promise of the Blue Devils' freshmen, and as Duke seeks to re-define itself without Currie and Mistie Williams this season, the progress of these first-year players will continue to be crucial.


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