Two Mondays ago, the Duke women’s basketball team pulled away in the second half for a 71-56 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium over Maryland. The two top ten teams meet again today at 3pm ET on ESPN2. I will be coming to you live from the Comcast Center.
Last season (I was here too) in the same arena, ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas blocked Haley Peters‘ three pointer at the buzzer for the thrilling victory. Duke has lost two straight in College Park. This season, the Blue Devils are still undefeated in ACC play, with the Terps two games back in second place. Both teams have clinched first round byes in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
This game could be a lot different than the first matchup due to one major reason: injuries. All-ACC guard Chelsea Gray was lost for the season last weekend for Duke and the Blue Devils did not play that well in a win over Florida State Friday night. Plus, Gray scored a career-high 28 points in the first matchup. Why is it that Duke loses a key player right before the road Maryland game? Last season, they lost Richa Jackson. Meanwhile, Maryland has gotten freshman Tierney Pfirman back from the same knee injury. That helps their extremely thin bench.
Maryland is a perfect 12-0 this season at the Comcast Center and has won three in a row rather easily since their loss at Duke
What to watch
1. The play inside. Duke has the reigning Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in Elizabeth Williams, but she has been struggling with her shot and finishing around the basket lately. She has scored in double figures over her last 13 ACC games though. Tianna Hawkins has been a force inside all season for Maryland, except at Cameron. She scored just six points (all in the second half) and had zero rebounds at halftime. She looked completely overwhelmed during the game.
2. Turnovers. Both teams turn the ball over at high rates and Duke was very sloppy Friday night in their first game without Gray (15 first half turnovers). Freshman point guard Chloe Pavlech committed nine turnovers in the first matchup and Thomas has a penchant for committing them
3. Third scorers. Who will step up for both teams? Both teams have two scorers who can fill a stat sheet (Williams and outside shooter Tricia Liston for Duke and Hawkins and Thomas for Maryland), but who will help win the game. Katie Rutan kept Maryland in the game at Cameron in the first half, scoring 11 points. Haley Peters has been dominant one night and non-existent the next. She couldn’t find her shot on Friday night (though she hauled in 14 rebounds) and went scoreless in the first matchup. Chloe Wells also went scoreless in the first matchup, but filled in nicely off the bench on Friday night (if only she steps up her defense).
4. Foul trouble. The team that stays out of foul trouble will win this game. Neither team has a big bench and cannot afford to lose players early in either half due to foul trouble.
With Pfirman back, the Terps start big (with Hawkins, Thomas, and Alicia DeVaughn) and can bring Pfirman and fellow freshman Malina Howard off the bench. They are hurting at the guard position though. Duke will need another solid game from senior Allison Vernerey, who always plays well against the Terps. I expect Duke to play alot of zone defense, as it worked in the second half on Friday night and last season against Maryland (though they lost that game).
With a large crowd expected and fans encouraged to wear white, I expect the Comcast Center to be rocking. This should be a good game, especially considering how the two teams are evenly matched. I expect the game to once again come down to the closing seconds.
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