CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke has the home-court advantage again tonight as the Blue Devils try to get back to the NCAA Women’s Sweet 16.
They’re looking to get there for the 12th time in the last 13 years, erasing the taste of their second-round loss at Michigan State last season.
What they won’t have is an easy opponent.
Joanne P. McCallie’s No. 6 Blue Devils (28-5), seeded No. 2 in the Memphis Region, will face No. 7 seed LSU (21-9) at 7 p.m. in what should be a solid defensive battle between a couple of athletic, defense-oriented teams.
The two teams rolled to easy first-round victories on Saturday, the only games that day in which the losers failed to get 40 points.
“We’re working hard coming off of our last game,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said Sunday. “Particularly on stopping penetration, rebounding, playing more aggressively, executing better and with better patience.
“We’re putting together defensive thoughts on a very aggressive and penetrating LSU team. We will see (Allison) Hightower, who is just a terrific attacking, slashing guard. Also, two of their post players are extremely strong so they have some good balance with their starting five.”
Veteran LSU coach Van Chancellor said Duke’s defense definitely presents a tough challenge.
“They (the Blue Devils) are a pressing team, and they use multiple defenses,” Chancellor said. “They use about every defense you can run. They’re good at all of them. They’re long, they’re lean, they run good, they jump good, they’re great athletes. And you play in this building where the fans are right on top of you and I think that just fuels their press.
“They’re deep, they’re big, they have great length, and I think playing here at Cameron Indoor Stadium is going to be an absolute advantage for them.”
Duke scoring leader Jasmine Thomas (pictured) said LSU reminds her of ACC foe Georgia Tech.
“When we play (the Jackets) it’s a similar thing, where they play a similar defensive style,” Thomas said. “I think our game (with LSU) is definitely going to come down to defense. As long as we stay focused, take care of the ball and force turnovers we’ll be OK.”
LSU’s top player is 5-10 senior guard Hightower, who McCallie said reminded her of Virginia’s ACC player of the year Monica Wright. Hightower scored only 10 points in the 60-39 win over Hartford, and Chancellor said she would need to score more on Monday.
“If Allison Hightower only has 10 points tomorrow night I’ll be playing golf by Wednesday afternoon – if my back is OK,” Chancellor quipped.
Hightower said she’s expecting to face a very tough defensive effort.
“We’re expecting a lot of pressure,” she said. “(Duke is) a great defensive team. They bring pressure from all over the court, their presses to their half-court defense. We’re just expecting a lot of pressure from their defense and we’re just going to have to be ready for it.”
LaSondra Barrett, who led LSU with 20 points against Hartford, said Monday’s game should be a matchup of strength on strength.
“We’re expecting a great matchup,” the 6-2 sophomore forward said. “They’re quick, athletic and I think they get a lot of momentum off their defense and their pressuring in the passing lane. We just have to match their intensity.”
Duke senior forward Joy Cheek said she’s happy her final NCAA Tournament second-round game is at home, where the Blue Devils have won 29 of their last 30 games overall and 13 straight in NCAA tourney play.
“It’s nice to play in Cameron,” Cheek said. “We’re familiar with the court and we love the fans. … We want to take the home advantage that we have here at Duke, but that doesn’t determine how you play. You can control how you play, but you can’t control the facility.”
No. 6 Duke vs. No. 21 LSU
[Monday, 7 p.m., Cameron Indoor Stadium]
Records: Duke 28-5; LSU 21-9.
Audio: WDNC-AM 620, GoDuke.com, LSUSports.net.
Coaches’ records – Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 395-170, 79-21 at Duke; LSU: Van Chancellor 510-180, 71-26 at LSU.
Leading scorers – Duke: Jasmine Thomas 15.7; LSU: Allison Hightower 18.2.
Leading rebounders – Duke: Krystal Thomas 6.8; LSU: LaSondra Barrett 6.7.
Assist leaders – Duke: Jasmine Thomas 4.2; LSU: Katherine Graham 3.6.