In what has been a less than impressive season, Duke women’s basketball will look to continue to build confidence against a team it has dominated this millennium. Coming off their biggest win of the season over rival North Carolina, it looks like the Blue Devils can keep their momentum going.
Duke will put its 26-game winning streak against the Cavaliers on the line when it travels to play Virginia Sunday afternoon in John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. The last time a Virginia team beat the Blue Devils was Jan. 30th, 2000—a run of success that has run even longer than the men’s team’s home nonconference win streak.
For Duke to compete, it'll have to keep the Cavaliers off the foul line, something that other teams have had success doing, as Virginia only attempts about 15 free throws per game. However, when the Cavaliers do get to the line, they rank 26th nationally in free throw percentage at better than 75 percent.
Haley Gorecki has gone on a scorching streak the past couple games for the Blue Devils, notching a triple-double in the win against Pittsburgh and posting a 28-point double-double—her seventh of the season, which leads all guards in the conference—against the Tar Heels. The junior is up to an average of 17.9 points per game, one of three Duke players to average double digits in scoring.
“We’ve got people that can score, and we’ve got people that need to take shots. It needs to provide a balance like it did [Thursday against North Carolina]. That helps Haley, that helps Miela [Goodchild], that helps everybody,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Virginia (9-14, 3-7 in the ACC) is led by junior Jocelyn Willoughby, who is coming off a career outing against Boston College and has two 25-point efforts in her last three games. The New Jersey native is averaging 13.7 points per game on the season to go along with 7.7 rebounds, which is good enough for eighth best in the ACC.
The Cavaliers play one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, ranking seventh nationally. Although they haven’t had their crack at Notre Dame yet, head coach Tina Thompson’s squad has faced national powers N.C. State and Louisville, falling easily to both.
A win would move the Blue Devils (11-11, 3-7) towards the middle of the pack in the ACC standings after falling to the bottom during their tough start to the conference schedule. Duke will look to avoid playing on the first Wednesday of the ACC tournament through its final six games, which would mean finishing in the top nine of the standings.
“For us, we have to get better, and just keep growing as a team and learning how to control games,” McCallie stressed. “We’ve been doing that. Outcomes don’t always tell you the story. We’ve been playing a lot of great basketball. A lot of really good things that for some reason didn’t turn.”
Next up for McCallie’s squad will be a return home to Cameron where they will face Virginia Tech, which has been dwelling near the bottom of the conference standings all season long. Then, it’s off to South Bend to play No. 1 Notre Dame, a place where the Blue Devils haven’t won since the Fighting Irish joined the ACC.
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