In preparing for her first ACC home opener, head coach Joanne P. McCallie is looking for one thing from her team more than anything: consistency.
When the No. 12 Blue Devils take the floor tonight at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium, they will play Florida State with a shorter rotation, a renewed focus on rebounding and creating shots, and trying to find their groove.
McCallie has given all 12 of her players opportunities on the court early in the season, an open in-game tryout of sorts to make sure that each Blue Devil got her fair shot in the transition to a new program.
But the coach said she will reduce that number to eight or nine, and that she hopes her team will find more stability and comfort with the combinations and players on the floor.
"Consistency is what was needed," McCallie said of the team's early-season performances. "You've got to be not only outstanding, but then you've got to repeat it over and over again, regardless of who you play."
Duke (12-3, 1-0 in the ACC), however, has played its fair share of tough teams heading into conference play. In a six-game stretch in November and December, the Blue Devils faced four ranked opponents, including No. 1 Connecticut, and dropped three straight for the first time since 1997.
"The biggest thing about those three games that we did lose was our rebounding," senior captain Wanisha Smith said. "But we did learn a lot about ourselves. We learned that we can fight back."
McCallie, too, believes her team has emerged stronger and that their continued improvement will be on display tonight against the Seminoles (11-5, 1-0), who will play without their leading scorer, Tanae Davis-Cain. The 5-foot-11 junior guard was averaging 13.7 points per contest but is currently serving a seven-game suspension.
With Florida State short-handed, Duke will turn to its power tandem of senior captain Wanisha Smith, who drained a career-high five 3-pointers Jan. 5 at Miami, and junior Abby Waner, who is averaging 11.5 per game.
"We're getting to the point of recognizing rebounding, creating hustle offense," the coach said. "Offense cannot just come from open shots."
Offense, in McCallie's mind, also comes from attacking the glass, which as Smith said, has not been one of her team's strong suits. The team is averaging 43.7 boards per contest, but has struggled against stronger teams. Duke only pulled down 28 and 29 rebounds in losses to UConn and Penn State, respectively.
In addition, rebounding will be key in all senses of the word for Duke this weekend, as the team must travel to No. 4 Maryland Monday.
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