After finishing 10th in conference play last season, the “Kara Era” is in full-swing as the 13th-ranked Blue Devils try to continue their run against the Tar Heels this Thursday. There have been many impressive performances this season, but there are three particularly important individuals who have been huge factors in the team’s stunning rise to the top of the ACC.
Senior guard Celeste Taylor, the commander of the Blue Devils in their past five games in conference play, is certainly a key to their recent success. Taylor has been hot from the perimeter, shooting more than 35% in four of her last five games, including an 83.3% rate with a season-high of 23 points against Duke’s biggest conference opponent this season so far—then-No. 6 N.C. State. On the whole, she has shot an average of 45.1% from the field and scored in double figures in all six ACC games. Look for Taylor to continue these numbers against the Tar Heels this Thursday in Chapel Hill.
Another factor in the Blue Devils’ success as of late has to be the offense of senior forward Elizabeth Balogun. The Hamilton Heights Christian Academy product has also put up monster games, shooting well over 50% from the floor in her last five games, including a perfect 6-for-6 field goals—two of which being 3-pointers—and a season-high three blocks against N.C. State. Against Louisville, Balogun finished with 20 points, another season high, and dominated the glass with 10 rebounds. In the following game against Wake Forest, the senior recorded another efficient night with a second double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. The senior will need to maintain her production and strength on the glass in Thursday’s matchup.
Head coach Kara Lawson started in 2020, a season that was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, Lawson led her squad to a 17-13 record, with top-25 victories against Iowa and Notre Dame, and its first national ranking since the 2018-2019 season. Duke was ranked as high as No. 15, and this year the Blue Devils have surpassed that with no intentions of slowing down. The “Kara Era” has taken full effect as the Blue Devils now sit atop the ACC league standings at 6-0 with many strong wins under their belt.
Looking forward, expect a tight, high-stakes and exciting showdown between two conference rivals this Thursday at Carmichael Arena as the Blue Devils try to continue this incredible streak. At the forefront of this effort will likely be these three pieces, who have already made this season one to remember.
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