Marquette runs into a red-hot Duke offensive machine Friday night.
The No. 3 Blue Devils return to action Friday at Koskinen Stadium at 7 p.m. against the Golden Eagles. Fresh off a two-game road trip, Duke has won three straight games, including a big victory against ACC foe Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.
The Blue Devils beat the Cavaliers 18-13, with senior Justin Guterding leading the way with nine total points. The win clinched the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament for Duke next weekend, when the Blue Devils will compete for the ACC title back in Charlottesville before returning to Durham to play Boston University in their regular-season finale.
Marquette will provide a stiff challenge for Duke. The Golden Eagles came back from a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to squeeze out a win against Providence last week, and junior attackman John Wagner scored three goals in two minutes to tie the game up. Freshman Griffin Fleming capped the furious rally to put Marquette on top. Wagner has five game-winners in the Golden Eagles' six victories, with 25 goals and eight assists this season.
“They are as tough and as gritty as you will find in Division I,” Danowski said. “The program is used to overachieving. They are used to being successful and are used to playing hard all the time regardless of the score. That’s why they come back from four-goal deficits like last week.... You know they are going to compete Friday for 60 minutes.”
Last season, Marquette fell to Duke 11-7 in the closest game yet between the two programs. Guterding led the way for the Blue Devils with a hat trick. Golden Eagle head coach Joe Amplo played for Duke head coach John Danowski at Hofstra and later served under him as an assistant coach after graduating.
The Blue Devils (11-2) will look to maintain their momentum for a fourth straight win against Marquette. Guterding continues to pace the offense with 43 goals and 34 assists, which is now good for second on the Duke all-time scoring list. The Blue Devils have been holding opponents to an average of only 8.0 goals a game. Marquette (6-5) has only been averaging 8.4 goals per game, so look for the Blue Devil defense to clamp down on Wagner and his offensive cohorts early and often.
Another factor keeping Duke rolling the last few weeks is the two-headed monster at the faceoff X of freshman Joe Stein and sophomore Brian Smyth. In the last eight games, the Blue Devils have had a faceoff percentage of .576. Last week against Virginia, Stein won 13-of-21 contests and picked up five crucial ground balls. Smyth won a faceoff and took it down the field for a goal in the third quarter to increase the Blue Devil lead, and the two younger faceoff men have improved dramatically in a short time period this season.
“For two guys with not a lot of experience, they’ve really done a great job,” Danowski said. “Certainly surpassed what we thought they were capable of doing because we didn’t know what they were capable of. Practice is one thing, but games are another thing. We also know that each time out, it’s a matter of matchups, and I think they have to continue to work hard and get better.”
The matchup for Stein and Smyth won’t be easy Friday, as Marquette brings some ammunition of its own to the center of the field. Senior faceoff specialist Zachary Melillo has won his matchups at a 69.2 percent clip since returning from injury March 31. In a big matchup against Villanova earlier this spring, Mellillo went 17-for-26.
After Duke faces Marquette, it will turn its attention to the ACC tournament next weekend.
“At this time of the year, you hope that you learn from your mistakes and that you're healthy,” Danowski said. “Hopefully the team stays healthy and we continue to get better, week after week. You hope that [these games] bring out the best in that competitive spirit and fire.”
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