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Duke women’s basketball to open ACC play against rebuilding Wake Forest

<p>Haley Gorecki and the Blue Devils struggled against FGCU.</p>

Haley Gorecki and the Blue Devils struggled against FGCU.

Just two days into the new decade, the Blue Devils will also be ringing in the brunt of ACC play Thursday.

With in-state rival Wake Forest coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium at 6 p.m., the Blue Devils will need to execute on both ends of the floor to rebound from Sunday’s embarrassing 78-56 loss to FGCU. 

The Demon Deacons (7-5, 0-1 in the ACC) are coming off a disappointing 10-20 season in 2018-2019, and their win total has decreased each of the last three years. In their conference opener against No. 23 Miami, Wake Forest dropped a close contest by a final score of 59-56.

Wake Forest prefers to slow the game down through the use of a 2-3 zone. In order to exploit this strategy, Duke (7-5, 1-0) will need to be effective from beyond the three-point line, especially from the wings and corners. 

As the Blue Devils have shown so far this season, they can adjust their tempo based on the matchup. Wake Forest struggles when forced to defend the fast break, giving Duke a chance to flip the script and make the Demon Deacons play a style that is outside of their comfort zone. 

One of Wake Forest’s weaknesses is its penchant for turnovers. Duke will need to rely on the active hands of Leaonna Odom, Miela Goodchild, and Kyra Lambert in order to jumpstart fast breaks.

From a scoring standpoint, Wake Forest presents a balanced offensive arsenal, with junior forward Ivana Raca and senior guard Alex Sharp leading the way with 15.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively. 

Sharp is an extremely efficient scorer, shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. With the Australia native standing at 6-foot-1, look for Duke star Haley Gorecki to match up with Sharp defensively. In terms of their team defense, the Blue Devils may look to pack the paint and force Wake Forest to beat them from the outside, considering the Demon Deacon’s pedestrian 32.9 percent clip from deep. 

Getting off to a quick start in ACC play is crucial for Duke to return to the NCAA tournament, and establishing a clear home-court advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium is imperative. With Wake Forest presenting a stern test with their 2-3 defense, Duke will need to stretch the floor from the outside and force the Demon Deacons to adjust.

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