Duke gets a second chance tonight, and it’s coming in a very important situation.
- File photo by Al Drago
- Duke hopes it can play the kind of defense to pull a big upset tonight.
On Tuesday at 7 the Blue Devils, ranked No. 6 nationally and the No. 2 seed in the region, will take on defending champion and No. 1 Connecticut in the championship game of the Philadelphia Region in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Connecticut, which demolished the then-unbeaten Blue Devils 87-51 on Jan. 31 in Storrs, is on a 23-game winning streak. The Huskies — led by Maya Moore who is considered one of the best female basketball players ever — lead the series 6-3.
“They (the Huskies) control the ball well, they find each other well, they don’t dribble, they pass well,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It’s all the same for us. There was no game there (in January) and we moved on from that point.
“But at this point, isn’t really about any opponent. Isn’t it about getting to (the Final Four in) Indy? At some point, I’m sure you have to be excited about the opportunity at the end—I’m sure Connecticut is. It’s a great opportunity for any team in this situation, and as you can imagine, I’m thrilled my freshmen are trucking along here. This is the kind of experience I can’t tell them about, I can’t draw this one on the board, but still we never beat them, so we’ll see.”
Duke senior guard Jasmine Thomas said the Blue Devils just tried to learn from the tough loss and move on.
“It was a game where we got out-played,” she said. “You learn things from that game and you watch film, but you have other opponents you have to take on and focus on, so you cannot think of the UConn game for the rest of the season.
“I think any team that you have lost to once you want to play again. There are other games in the past that we look at as well to get better. All of that together has brought us to this point, not just that one game.”
Duke freshman forward Haley Peters said a key to victory is letting go of the previous loss.
“We approach each game and focus mostly on what we are doing and what we can do better,” Peters said. “I do not think we would be here if we didn’t think we could win.”
No. 6 Duke vs. No. 1 Connecticut
[Today, 7 p.m., Liacouras Center, Philadelphia]
Audio: WDNC 620.
Records: Duke 32-3, UConn 35-1.
Coaches’ records — Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 4309-173, 114-25 at Duke; UConn: Geno Auriemma 770-123 at UConn.
Leading scorers — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 15.0; UConn: Maya Moore 22.3.
Leading rebounders — Duke: Krystal Thomas 8.4; UConn: Maya Moore 8.2.
Assist leaders — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 3.4; UConn: Maya Moore 4.1.