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Duke hits the road again to face Wisconsin

Chloe Wells and the Blue Devils travel to play Wisconsin in its raucous Kohl Center tonight at 8
Chloe Wells and the Blue Devils travel to play Wisconsin in its raucous Kohl Center tonight at 8

Duke’s challenging road schedule continues tonight in Madison, Wis. at 8:30 p.m. After a decisive victory over James Madison, the Blue Devils look to attack a struggling Wisconsin team and prove they are the cream of the crop in the ACC.

While the Badgers (2-5) enter tonight’s matchup riding a five-game losing streak, their home stadium may act as an equalizer against No. 5 Duke (7-0). Last year, when the Duke men’s team ventured into the Kohl Center during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, they left thoroughly disappointed after a 73-69 defeat. Tonight, the student cheering section, which refers to itself as the “Grateful Red,” will again be prepared to make life difficult for the Blue Devils.

Nonetheless, head coach Joanne P. McCallie remains confident that her team—led by seniors Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas—will be up for the challenge.

“Our schedule has been brutal,” McCallie said. “[Playing against] James Madison was a great experience…and they had a pretty big crowd. We just look forward to the opportunity to play Wisconsin.”

Duke’s seniors will need to continue their steady play in order for the Blue Devils to leave the Kohl Center victorious. The trio currently account for 47 percent of the team’s scoring and 42 percent of the team’s total minutes played. Jasmine Thomas in particular has paced the offensive, amassing 15.1 points and 4.4 assists per game.

When asked about her seniors, McCallie spoke highly of their “excellent play” and “growth and leadership.” Their presence has undoubtedly had a significant impact on Duke’s five freshmen, particularly dual guard/forward Haley Peters, who is scoring 8.7 points per game, and guards Chelsea Gray and Chloe Wells. All three freshmen have made an immediate impact in the Blue Devil rotation, and Wells is coming off a 15-point performance against James Madison.

“[The freshmen] have been outstanding,” McCallie said. “I love their competitiveness….They just have to keep working to get better.”

While Duke will look to continue to improve the chemistry between its veterans and young talents, it cannot overlook Wisconsin. The Badgers boast their own trio of senior play-makers. Guard Alyssa Karel, who has 13.8 points per game, is complemented by forward Tara Steinbauer and forward Lin Zastrow, who pour in 11.6 and 10 points a game, respectively. They will challenge a Blue Devil defense that has held opponents to an average of 55.6 points.

Nonetheless, McCallie maintains that Duke must focus on its continuing development and that solid performances will be a product of the team’s efforts.

“We’ve got to focus on each other and continue to learn from one another,” McCallie said. “[Tonight] is a great opportunity to continue [our development].”

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