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After long road campaign, Duke women's basketball faces Marist in homecoming

<p>Mikayla Boykin will debut against Marist after sitting out the first games of the season due to lingering injury.</p>

Mikayla Boykin will debut against Marist after sitting out the first games of the season due to lingering injury.

Sometimes there’s nothing better than returning home after a long time away, especially when you’re having the rocky start that Duke is experiencing to kick off the season.

The Blue Devils return to Durham to take on Marist Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium after four straight games away from home. Duke will look to capitalize on a momentum-building win Wednesday at Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Red Foxes on paper pale in comparison to the Blue Devils, but their willingness to fire from deep paired with Duke’s occasional struggles to defend behind the arc could be the makings of an upset if those treys can fall. Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s squad is letting opponents shoot an average of 24.4 3-pointers per game at a 31.6 percent clip. Marist has taken 151 triples through its first seven games.

That’s not to say that the Blue Devils didn’t show vast improvement in their matchup with the Badgers earlier this week, as Wisconsin finished the game with a 3-for-16 mark from deep. McCallie loved getting back in the win column, but stressed the importance of improving on weaknesses like 3-point defense early in the year.

“Good lessons, it’s about the process,” the Blue Devil head coach said after the victory in Madison. “It’s a good W. It’s always nice to come out on top, but it’s also nice to go after ourselves in the highest level of what we can do, every time we play.”

If there’s a glimpse of hope coming for a Duke team also struggling struggling on offense and averaging only 66 points per game on the year, it comes from redshirt freshman Mikayla Boykin, who is expected to make her season debut after missing most of last year with a torn ACL. The Clinton, N.C., native will provide the Blue Devils (4-3) with another ball handler and distributor, which she showed last year against High Point with a seven-assist outing.

The Red Foxes (6-1), coached by Brian Giorgis, bring an impressive record into Durham but haven’t faced any team close to Duke's caliber. The one common opponent on both teams’ schedules is Elon, as Marist eked out a four-point victory in contrast to the Blue Devils' easy 81-64 win against the Phoenix.

Both teams share similar scoring breakdowns on the young season, with two juniors as the only players to average double-digit points per game. Duke is led by guard Haley Gorecki and forward Leaonna Odom, who both played big roles in the win Wednesday. The Red Foxes will rely on guard Rebekah Hand and Alana Gilmer, who average 18.6 and 14.3 points per game, respectively.

Over the course of the next month, the Blue Devils will get many more opportunities to host after spending so much time on the road to open the season. Five of their next six games will be in Cameron, including a matchup with nationally-ranked South Carolina before ACC play kicks off. The squad is excited to be in Durham after traveling more thab 5,000 miles between trips to Florida, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Maine.

“We’ve been gone for so long, I think we’ve forgotten what Cameron looks like and what our fans feel like,” McCallie told “This has been a brutal November schedule for a team that is gaining experience every day.”


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