A lot of things can happen over a span of two months, but for Duke women’s basketball, winning a game on the road is not one of them.
The Blue Devils have gone 0-4 in road games since beating Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge back on Nov. 28th, and they will get another shot as Duke travels to Conte Forum to take on Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Thursday night.
After another close game that the Blue Devils lost in the final periods against Syracuse last week, head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s team will look to gain any sort of momentum against a reeling Eagles team that has lost three straight. Duke opened the year with one of the toughest conference schedules in the ACC, playing four ranked teams in its first seven games. Now, the Blue Devils will get a chance to find their identity with five straight against unranked foes.
“Our team plays super hard,” McCallie said after Sunday’s loss to the Orange. “We’ve been in every situation, opportunity for every game that we’ve played in this incredible conference that is all pretty much ranked for the most part. We’re going to find our way to not only get over the top, but to play our game.”
With the exception of an earlier blowout loss to Louisville, all of the Blue Devils’ losses have been close come-from-behind games where wins barely escaped their grasp. However, McCallie and her team have been preaching the goal of playing a complete game all season, and could benefit from having stronger starts too.
“I think a lot of people focus just on the end of the game,” junior Haley Gorecki said. “I think there’s certain little things that we need to fix up in the beginning as well.”
It’s been Gorecki who has led Duke (9-10, 1-6 in the ACC) so far this season, never lacking confidence and always making a key shot when the Blue Devils need to claw back. The junior is averaging 18.1 points per game in since ACC play began—good enough for third in the conference—and also chips in 4.1 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.6 steals per game. In a year where many thought her and fellow classmate Leaonna Odom would share a starring role, Gorecki has separated herself as the new year rolls along.
“I wouldn’t say it’s new. I’d say it’s carrying over from last year,” Gorecki said on her success. “Just having more experience helps that, I think playing more games. But, as the season goes on, just doing whatever the team needs me to do to put them in the best position.”
Boston College (13-7, 2-5) strung together a plethora of nonconference wins early on, but has fallen short on all of its ranked tasks thus far. Both teams hold some of the youngest rosters in the ACC, but where the opponents differ is how they score the ball. The Eagles have six players on their roster that average more than eight points per game and no one who averages more than 14. On the other hand, the Blue Devils recently had a performance against Florida State that saw only three Duke players score.
After their five game stretch of unranked opponents, the Blue Devils have one more shot to get a statement win, as they travel to play No. 5 Notre Dame in late February. With so few opportunities left to grab NCAA tournament caliber wins, Duke could face the reality of missing the Big Dance for the second time in four seasons, barring a run in the ACC tournament in Greensboro, NC. No matter the task, the tough Blue Devils won’t shy down from the challenge.
“Obviously, just keep fighting,” Gorecki stressed. “That’s what our team loves to do.”
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