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Rankings aside, Duke hits ACC road

Boston College is 11th in the ACC in blocking shots, meaning Duke guard Jasmine Thomas could find space in attacking the basket tonight.
Boston College is 11th in the ACC in blocking shots, meaning Duke guard Jasmine Thomas could find space in attacking the basket tonight.

Duke moved up two spots in the Associated Press poll this week to No. 6, but senior Bridgette Mitchell would be unable to tell you that.  

“We don’t pay any attention to our rankings,” she said.

Indeed, instead of agonizing over the whims of the media, Mitchell and her teammates expended their energy preparing for a road matchup against Boston College (12-10, 3-4 in the ACC).

The Blue Devils (18-3, 6-0 in the ACC) travel to face the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, Mass. at 7 p.m. tonight looking to maintain their undefeated record in the ACC and extend the program’s best in-conference start in Joanne P. McCallie’s young Duke career.

They’ll look to beat the Eagles on defense. McCallie emphasized that early in the season, and her squad now ranks first in the ACC in scoring defense. Mitchell said the Blue Devils are especially proud of their efforts in all phases of the defensive game.

“That’s why we’re not really concerned about focusing on any one [Boston College] player,” she said.  

That general focus could prove critical against a Boston College attack that employs three of the ACC’s top 25 scorers—6-foot-6 center Carolyn Swords and guards Mickel Picco and Stefanie Murphy.

Mitchell added that the Blue Devils have been using their practice time to keep improving their play in the post. While Duke has outscored its opponents 770-364 in the paint this season, additional practice will be necessary to contain Swords, who ranks seventh in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding by a significant margin—her 9.9 rebounds per game are a full rebound more than any competitor. Duke may be able to overwhelm Swords if it attacks the post, however, as Boston College starts three guards and ranks last in the ACC in team offensive rebounding, ninth in defensive rebounding and 11th in blocked shots, in spite of Swords’ presence.

That could open up lanes to the rim for guard Jasmine Thomas, Duke’s top scorer at 15.8 points per contest, and senior Joy Cheek, a key post player for the Blue Devils. Cheek will be playing with the knowledge that she was named as a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which is given annually to a senior for all-around contributions to the team, academics, and the community. Past Duke winners include Alana Beard in 2004 and Alison Bales in 2007; J.J. Redick won the men’s award in 2006 as well.

Additionally, Cheek and her teammates should be well-rested, as Thursday’s contest will be just the team’s second game in 11 days. However, the Blue Devils face three games in the coming week, including a matchup with ninth-ranked arch rival North Carolina Feb. 8.

And a road victory against the Eagles tonight could provide the boost Duke needs heading into this crucial ACC stretch.

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