After dominating Marquette in its home opener, Duke will look to continue its home-stand with another win.
The No. 8 Blue Devils will take on Buffalo at Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The contest against the Bulls marks the second of a three game home series before Duke travels to College Station, Texas, to face No. 7 Texas A&M Sunday.
With four games in eight days, Duke will need to keep fresh legs on the floor at all times. Luckily for head coach Joanne P. McCallie, the Blue Devils have several dangerous options to turn to, as seven players are averaging at least 18.0 minutes per contest.
“Depth can play a key role [because] we have a lot of games coming up in the next week,” McCallie said. “We just have to come back and refocus. We have to have a killer mentality and just get better. This gives us more experience.”
The Blue Devils (3-0) will go into their game with Buffalo coming off an 83-51 victory against a young Marquette team Sunday afternoon. Redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell was the leading scorer for Duke, tallying career-highs with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Greenwell and freshman Azura Stevens—who netted 18 points and snagged 10 boards—both collected their second double-doubles in three career games.
McCallie hopes that this high level of play will carry through to Tuesday's tilt against a Buffalo team eager to prove itself, notching two wins after losing its first game of the season to Siena, 58-50. To pull off the upset, the Bulls (2-1) will need to be able to hang with the Blue Devils basket for basket, which will require shooting much better than the 33.2 percent shooting clip Buffalo has produced so far this season. By contrast, Duke has shot 50.3 percent in its first three games.
Buffalo sports a veteran roster led by guard Mackenzie Loesing. Last season, the junior averaged 16.3 points and 2.0 steals per game, and has increased her scoring in the early going this year, posting 19.0 points per contest to go with 4.0 rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Rachel Gregory is another key contributor for the Bulls, averaging 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Sophomore Alexus Malone is averaging a double-double, scoring 10.7 points and hauling in 13.3 rebounds per game. Team rebounding is a big point of emphasis for Buffalo—collectively, the Bulls average 55.3 rebounds per contest.
“I’m excited,” McCallie said. “It’s going to test us a little bit in our perimeter defense and shoring up our post defense. Hopefully we will get to the free-throw line more and attack their post more.”
McCallie is no stranger to the style of play employed by third-year Buffalo head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. Legette-Jack was an assistant coach at Michigan State alongside McCallie from 2000 to 2002.
The Blue Devils will look to their post players to provide stingy defense and solid rebounding Tuesday night. Specifically, senior Elizabeth Williams will need to continue her imposing shot-blocking campaign. The Virginia Beach, Va., native needs 91 more blocks to break the ACC career record for blocked shots, currently held by former Duke star Alison Bales. Williams needs just 11 more blocks to move into 25th on the NCAA career blocks list—a position she would share with George Washington’s Ugo Oha—and is currently averaging 4.3 blocks per game this season.
The Blue Devils will also rely on senior guard Ka’lia Johnson—who leads the ACC with an average of 7.0 assists per game—to find the offensive stride that led her to a triple-double in Thursday’s win against Old Dominion. After scoring a career-best 18 points against the Lady Monarchs, Johnson was held scoreless against Marquette Sunday.
“We had some performances at Old Dominion that were pretty spectacular, but not [against Marquette],” McCallie said. “Anybody can have a good night. The great players are going to show up every night. The All-Americans, the great players, night in night out deliver under any circumstance. We’re still developing that consistency.”
The Blue Devils will have to achieve that consistency quickly, as games against top ranked opponents are rapidly approaching. Duke will take on Stony Brook Friday evening at home and will then travel to College Station to face the No. 7 Aggies two days later. They will then head to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on No. 15 Nebraska Dec. 3, followed by a showdown with newly-minted No. 1 South Carolina at home Dec. 7.
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