The Blue Devils will look to carry some momentum from their 11-point win against last place Wake Forest into their final two games of the season, both of which are at home.
Duke will face the Clemson Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m. Since the turn of the century, the Blue Devils have found great success against the Tigers—Duke has won 22 straight matchups between the teams. But, in a season that has seen many streaks broken, and with Clemson sitting in the middle of the ACC and Duke near the bottom, this streak looks to be in jeopardy as well.
One of the Blue Devils’ biggest weaknesses this season has been turnover troubles, where they rank 298th in the country in turnovers per game—averaging 18.6. However, the Tigers rank even lower, with an average of 20.4 turnovers per game, giving them the distinction of being 327th in the country. Duke and Clemson have remarkably similar marks in most major statistical categories, giving reason for hope Thursday.
“It’ll be a good test for us. Clemson is an athletic team, they’re gonna pick up full court, they’re gonna press throughout the game. They play at sort of a frenetic pace and so it’ll be very important for us to settle down and execute and ball fake and make good decisions," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "If we are able to have 12, 11 turnovers against Clemson that would be incredibly impressive and very positive for us in the game."
However, the Blue Devils will have to keep the Tigers (18-10, 9-6 in the ACC) off the offensive glass if they want the best chance of winning the game, something Duke has struggled with all season. The Blue Devils allow more than 13 offensive rebounds per game, leading to an average of 10.89 second-chance points for its opponents.
Duke (12-14, 4-10) itself only average a little more than 11 offensive boards per game and score nearly three less second-chance points per game, at about 7.92 points. These points add up when considering the fact that the Blue Devils’ last eight losses have come by an average of less than nine points.
In what has been, for the most part, a burn-the-tape kind of season, some things have stood out that could be the difference in Thursday’s matchup. Duke has found success at home against unranked teams, going 7-2 in those matchups, with hopes to make it 8-2.
"You have to have an attitude about rebounding, it’s not for the sensitive. It’s tough, it’s tough work," McCallie said. "[Clemson's] just a very talented team right now and they’re playing very well so we will not be able to pick a half to rebound—we’ll have to rebound for two halves."
Freshman guard Miela Goodchild has been scorching the last two games, going 8-of-14 from three at No. 5 Notre Dame. This made her the only freshman nationally to hit eight or more 3-pointers against a Power 5 team. She followed it up with an efficient 4-of-8 performance from three at Wake Forest, putting her only seven away from the Duke freshman record. These games earned her ACC Rookie of the Week honors for the second time this season. But Goodchild has been hot from three for more than just the past week, hitting 46.8 percent of her tries this season, good for third nationally. With Gorecki struggling to find her shot, the Blue Devils will look to Goodchild to provide the shooting spark they need to finish the season out strong.
"Miela’s terrific...she loves playing the game and I think one of the things she’s really done is just start to go after the ACC level of play which is a much higher level than even the international level that she’s played at," McCallie said. "Just getting her complete game in a conference that’s been totally loaded I think that was one of the most impressive things about her work at Notre Dame where no freshman has gone into that kind of home floor and executed like that.”
Next up after Clemson is North Carolina on Sunday and this time the Tar Heels will be visiting Cameron. They’ll be looking for revenge after the Blue Devils knocked them off 85-69 in Chapel Hill earlier in February.
"We’re really excited and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to simulate NCAA tournament type of environment where you’re playing excellent teams," McCallie said. "So its great experience for us and we’re excited about it."
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