Duke has been accustomed to lengthy stretches between game competition during the past month, competing in only two contests in the last 23 days.
But the Blue Devils have a quick turnaround after defeating East Carolina Friday, taking only a single day off before a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Eagles pose yet another test for Duke’s perimeter defense, as the 2017-18 Atlantic Sun champions rank second in the nation this season with 12.5 3-point field goals per game.
The Blue Devils (7-4) faced a similar type of offense Dec. 20 at No. 11 Oregon State, which places sixth nationally in triples per contest. But if that game is any indication, Florida Gulf Coast could have a field day in Durham—the Beavers knocked down 14 of their 29 attempts beyond the arc en route to a comfortable 71-57 victory. Duke did limit East Carolina to a paltry 2-of-14 clip from downtown in its most recent win, though the Lady Pirates rank a mere 311th in that department.
Offensively, the Eagles (9-3) are led by junior guard Nasrin Ulel at 15.8 points per game. Florida Gulf Coast’s biggest weapon, however, could be redshirt sophomore guard Chandler Ryan. Despite starting in only one of her 12 games this season and placing fifth on the team in minutes, the Groveland, Ill., native leads the team with 40 triples and has converted at a 50 percent rate—seventh in the country.
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils do have a 3-point marksman of their own in freshman guard Miela Goodchild. The 5-foot-10 Australian is coming off a career-high 19-point performance against East Carolina, and her 48.9 percent clip from downtown ranks 17th in the nation. Goodchild will be an important piece for Duke going forward, especially with the Blue Devils losing even more backcourt depth following the announcement that freshman Rayah Craig will miss the remainder of the season due to “an unspecified violation of university policy.”
“I think depth in the point-guard spot is important and I like [Goodchild] playing point, I like [Leaonna Odom] playing point, I like [Mikayla Boykin] playing point and on occasion [Haley Gorecki],” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I also think for the professional futures for these women...talking with all the coaches in the future, they are looking for versatility in players. So when they get a player, they are looking for somebody that can play two positions, not one. We are developing women to graduate, get great degrees and to play professional basketball.”
Another Duke guard that impressed against the Lady Pirates was Gorecki, who scored a season-high 26 points in the contest on 9-of-19 shooting from the floor. Gorecki came into the season projected to take a large part of the offensive load for the Blue Devils, though she has had a largely disappointing start to the year in terms of shooting efficiency.
Despite leading the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game, the Palatine, Ill., native’s 36.0 percent mark from the field leaves much to be desired. Duke will need her production against East Carolina to stretch into ACC play if the team hopes to have a shot at an NCAA tournament bid.
Overall, the Blue Devils’ biggest edge Sunday will likely be their size advantage against their counterparts from the Sunshine State. While nine of Duke’s 12 athletes are at least six feet tall, Florida Gulf Coast boasts a total of zero players at the six-foot plateau. But if the Blue Devils want to use that differential to its highest potential, they have to be careful with the ball as well—Duke totaled 22 turnovers against the Lady Pirates including, 16 in the first-half.
“We have got to get our focus right,” McCallie said about her team’s struggles to take care of the ball against East Carolina. “That is unacceptable. We do not want to accept that...think about what we could have done offensively to get those possessions back.”
Following their battle with the Eagles, the Blue Devils will resume play in 2019 when they play at No. 9 N.C. State to start off ACC play Jan. 3.
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