Blue Devils brace for Yellow Jackets' best

Duke may have won its last game by 32 points, but head coach Gail Goestenkors doesn't care. She called her team's effort against Virginia Tech Jan. 7 disappointing, as the Hokies put up 54 points-more than any other team has scored on the No. 3 Blue Devils (16-0, 2-0 ACC) this season.

Another similar performance could spell major trouble tonight against surging Georgia Tech (10-5, 1-1), which its coming off its first conference victory-and first conference road win in two years-Jan. 7 at Clemson.

In preparation for the 7 p.m. matchup against the Yellow Jackets in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Goestenkors emphasized basic defense in practice and is looking for her team to commit fewer mental mistakes in-game.

"We dont want to have to take a loss to understand how important the little things are," Goestenkors said. "Against a more skilled team, we could have lost that game."

Georgia Tech features a more productive offense than many of Duke's opponents so far, averaging 72.7 points per game.

Additionally, the Yellow Jackets are the second-best team in the ACC in shooting from behind the arc, with an average slightly lower than No. 1 Maryland.

Consistent with its quality long-distance shooting, the guards for Georgia Tech could menace the Duke defense. Stephanie Higgs, the fourth-highest scorer in the ACC, and Chioma Nnamaka account for over 43 percent of the Yellow Jacket's total offense and combined for 45 points in the 75-63 win over the Tigers.

The Blue Devils will look mainly to Lindsey Harding to slow down the Georgia Tech duo. Harding's ball pressure has been one of the keys to Duke's dominant defense so far this season, and the senior has also been one of Duke's most consistent offensive threats-putting up 13.3 points and dishing out four assists per game.

Harding said she feels as if she is now leading not only with words, but also her performance on the court.

"When Coach is like 'I need focus and you to work hard,' that's my main thing is I'm going to show her [and] I'm going to work hard," Harding said.

This need to focus and work hard is particularly true for the Blue Devils in tonight's contest. Harding said the Yellow Jackets do not back down from anyone, and they showed that grit last year, when the unranked Georgia Tech team nearly knocked off the second-ranked Blue Devils before falling, 67-59, in Atlanta.

Perhaps the largest concern for the Duke in this matchup, however, is its lack of depth in the post. Chante Black remains out indefinitely with a knee injury, and Alison Bales can only anchor the middle for so long, Goestenkors said.

"Without Chante in there, we're missing someone who had great experience and great size," Goestenkors said. "Our only subs in the post off the bench are freshmen, and they're still learning and growing."

The team's youth, which was especially glaring against the Hokies, is evident in its tendency to commit turnovers. The Blue Devils had 19 in their game in Blacksburg, Va., and average 16 per contest.

"The way we played [against Virginia Tech] we didn't deserve to win ," point guard Abby Waner said. "We want to deserve to go to the Final Four and deserve to win the big games and deserve to win the national championship."


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