Following a tough loss to Tennessee that snapped a nation-leading 26-game home win streak, Duke looks to start a new run tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Virginia Tech at 7 p.m.
The ninth-ranked Blue Devils (15-5, 4-1 in the ACC) are ready to get back on the court and have a good shot at regaining momentum against a Hokie squad that has dropped six of its last seven games.
"The disappointment lingers," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We want to play another game, because we have the thought of that game in our minds and the things that we did not do. We want to get right back out there."
That desire translated into a rigorous week of practice in which Duke spent time addressing key weaknesses exposed in the 67-64 loss. Rebounding-an area where McCallie has said her team has struggled all season-was a focal point in preparing for the Hokies (13-8, 0-6).
The Blue Devils were unable to record any second-chance points against the Lady Vols Monday and were outrebounded 36-27 on the night. Duke believes that its work in practice on the boards and attacking on offense will help against a Virginia Tech team that features a frontcourt anchored by top-rebounders Utahya Drye and Amber Hall.
"We have to crash the boards as a team-gang rebounding," forward Carrem Gay said.
Gay and junior Chante Black currently lead the Blue Devils in rebounding-averaging 5.9 and 7.4 boards, respectively-but only pulled down two apiece Monday night.
In the last five games versus ACC opponents, Black has averaged 10.4 rebounds per game. Duke could use her to regain that form to win the battle on the boards against a team that takes a lot of shots from the perimeter and is likely to provide ample rebounding opportunity.
Although the Hokies have struggled in conference play, they are paced by the consistent guard play of junior Brittany Cook, who comes to Cameron averaging 17.4 points per contest, and freshman Andrea Barbour, who adds nearly 16 points each outing.
But just because Virginia Tech is at the bottom of the conference standings does not mean that Duke will not come out to play, particularly given the emotional impact of its most recent loss, McCallie said.
"In this league you have to be ready to play every night," McCallie said. "It's not difficult to be excited for Virginia Tech because of [how we feel after] Tennessee. We need to have that mentality."
Another sore spot for Duke continues to be free-throw shooting-or lack thereof.
The Blue Devils took a mere 12 trips to the charity stripe in their loss to the Lady Vols, converting on seven of those opportunities.
"We have to attack the basket and get to the free throw line," Gay said.
Part of that attack from the outside could come from freshman Jasmine Thomas, who had one of her best performances of the season against Tennessee.
The point guard put up 13 points, including a career-high three 3-pointers, while also recording three steals.
Thomas' strong showing on the perimeter is a much-needed boost offensively for Duke, as shooting guard Abby Waner is still struggling. The junior went 2-for-8 from the field against the Lady Vols, scoring eight points.
Although it might be easy for them to look past Friday's game and toward Monday's contest versus UNC, the Blue Devils said they are taking it one game at a time.
"We are excited to play no matter who we play," McCallie said.
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