Following a sloppy, defensive-oriented 58-49 road win against Miami, Duke returns home to Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday to welcome Virginia in the first of two meetings this season. The Blue Devils (12-4, 3-3 in the ACC) have impressed holistically this season but have been challenged by an immensely competitive conference, while Virginia (3-12, 0-5) has struggled.
However, it is college basketball and it is the ACC, meaning anything can happen should the cards fall correctly. Regardless, here are five things you need to know before the Blue Devils take on the Cavaliers.
In the absence of season superstar Celeste Taylor to a shoulder injury against Syracuse Jan. 9, somebody had to step up and carry the scoring burden for Duke. That somebody? Senior Miela Goodchild.
The Australian guard has been a standout performer in the Blue Devils’ last five games—in a loaded ACC, no less—notching double-digit points and at least three 3-pointers in four of those contests. She has been lethal from beyond the arc, especially in the tight win against Notre Dame Jan. 2 where she went 3-3. Goodchild has notched 25 total triples this season and, remarkably, is now top-10 all-time in 3-pointers made in program history..
Though Goodchild found starting berths hard to come by in the opening weeks of this campaign, head coach Kara Lawson trusted the senior guard and has started her in all but one conference game this season–the opening ACC loss to Virginia Tech. Chances are she’ll be part of the five Blue Devil starters Sunday, and the chances she will have an impact will be higher if she is. Her markswoman-esque shooting, clutch plays and hot streak of double-digit points bodes extremely well for Duke, and she will be a difference maker against Virginia if that streak continues.
To put it bluntly, it’s been a season to forget for Virginia. The Cavaliers are yet to register a conference win or lose a game by less than nine, average a measly 54.5 points per game—last in the ACC—and a -11.5 margin. Virginia has not won a game since its 62-53 victory over George Washington Dec. 5.
Just because Cavalier fans will be lamenting their disappointing season doesn’t mean this game will be easy for Duke, though. Virginia kept it tight against No. 20 North Carolina Jan. 20, losing 52-61, and held the Tar Heels far under their season average of 77.8 points per game. In addition to their scoring deficiencies, the Cavaliers have been porous on the defensive end, sitting 13th in the ACC at 66.0 points per game allowed.
However, as we have been reminded time and time again this season, the ACC is a premier conference in the women’s game and winning any game takes a village, even against the teams sitting towards the bottom of the standings. Lawson’s Blue Devils will be heavily favored, no doubt, but in this whirlwind season, it may be time for the ‘Hoos blues to come to a timely end in Durham.
Sluggish in South Florida
Despite their 58-49 road win against Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., the Blue Devils were largely uninspiring. It was a game full of lackluster shooting from the line, field and beyond the arc, but ultimately Duke proved the better of a mediocre pairing . While it is encouraging, and important, that Lawson’s team eked out a sloppy win, it’s not a trend it’ll want to continue against Virginia.
42.3% from the field, 20.8% from three and 60.0% from the foul line are simply not sustainable statistics for a team with high aspirations, and though none of these are the norm, it’s crucial to nip them in the bud before they get any opportunity to be. We’ve seen the talent this Duke team has at its disposal and how even in ugly games it can make it work and bring home the win. In spite of that, Sunday is a great opportunity for the Blue Devils to right the statistical wrongs from the Miami game and re-prove just how dominant and clinical they can be.
A Taylor here, a Taylor there
Somewhat confusingly, two of both teams’ standout players this season have the same last name: Taylor. For Virginia, its 6-foot-2 junior Camryn Taylor, a Marquette transfer who’s been lighting up the statsheet despite her team’s relatively unremarkable record.
The Peoria, Ill., native has grabbed a team-leading 73 rebounds, has dished 14 assists and is averaging a career-high 12.8 points per game this season, including a monstrous 27-point showing against James Madison in the season opener. Her points per game, though second on the team to graduate student Amandine Toi, is higher than any Duke player and will no doubt be one of the go-tos for creativity and offensive impetus in what will be a challenging matchup for the Cavaliers. With one Taylor currently on the sidelines and another thriving in the spotlight, the attention will solely be on Camryn, and should she take her opportunity and perform to the level she has all season, she might just make life difficult for the Blue Devils.
Tuesday’s win over Miami saw an important milestone for Lawson and an important progress barometer for Duke fans. 20 games into her tenure, the Blue Devils have won 75% of their games and are averaging 72.1 points scored and 60.5 points allowed per game. Lawson’s tactics, philosophy and eye for player development have been a breath of fresh air for Duke, and are contributing to an immensely impressive season.
With a squad that’s relatively experienced—in a general college basketball sense—yet still relatively new to this particular program, Lawson has played her cards beautifully and allowed her roster to shine when it matters. Senior Elizabeth Balogun put up 27 points against Notre Dame, Goodchild has been sharpshooting from beyond the arc, freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson has made a genuine case to be the starting point guard and junior Taylor has stolen the spotlight with her dynamism and playmaking ability.
It’s one thing to have weapons and another to know how to use them. If her first 20 games, 15 of which have been wins, are any indication, Lawson certainly does.
Hopefully, for Duke fans, it becomes 16 Sunday.
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