No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Duke both look to stay unbeaten
Duke has made a habit of taking an undefeated record into matchup with women’s basketball powerhouse Connecticut.
The unattained goal for the Blue Devils is to walk off the court still unblemished.
No. 2 Duke gets another shot against No. 1 UConn tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2) as the seven-time NCAA champions come to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Both teams own 10-0 records. UConn carries a 16-game winning streak, dating back to last year’s run to the NCAA championship.
Duke knows all about UConn’s dominance in the sport, having lost its last six meetings with the Huskies.
In her seventh season at Duke, Joanne P. McCallie has yet to beat UConn as Duke’s coach.
Last season, Duke was 16-0 when it traveled to Storrs, Conn., to face the Huskies. After a tight first half, UConn pulled away and won 79-49.
In 2010-11, Duke was 20-0 when it played on the road against UConn and suffered a disheartening 87-51 loss.
“I think sometimes we have a mental block,” Duke senior guard Chelsea Gray said. “`Oh, we’ve got to get that stop,’ and it bleeds from there. They’ll go on runs and we just haven’t had that stop like, ‘We’re going to stop that run.’”
McCallie wants her team to keep in mind that the calendar says December and the Blue Devils want to be playing their best basketball in March and April for the NCAA Tournament.
That said, UConn is the team everyone in women’s college basketball strives to beat.
“They have a monopoly on the market,” McCallie said. “Anytime someone has a monopoly on the market, just like AT&T, you have to break it down. Somebody’s got to step up. A competitor has to step up.”
This will be the seventh No. 1-vs.No. 2 matchup that Duke has been involved with. The Blue Devils haven’t defeated a No.1-ranked team since a win over Maryland in 2007, the year before McCallie arrived from Michigan State.
“I think the 1-2 thing is already doing what it should do — drawing attention to the game,” McCallie said. “It’s very important that women’s basketball continues to grow.”
Duke’s senior class of Gray, Tricia Liston, Haley Peters, Chloe Wells and Richa Jackson has lost only one game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Yep, it was to UConn in a 61-45 decision in 2012.
“We’ve never really played a full 40 minutes” against UConn, Liston said. “We’ve kind of gotten outside of ourselves or lost focus. ... We haven’t put two good halves together since we’ve played them. That hurts us.”
This season, Duke has already defeated three opponents who were ranked at the time of the game. The Blue Devils won at California, 70-58, at home against Purdue, 99-78 and at Oklahoma, 94-85.
The win in Norman, Okla., on Dec. 8 is the last game Duke played before tonight’s showdown with UConn. McCallie said her players weren’t happy with that performance, despite the outcome.
Duke built a 46-27 halftime lead over the Sooners. But Oklahoma cut the deficit to single-digits in the second half before the Blue Devils held on to win.
The fact that the players were unhappy with their sub-par second half — and have worked in practice since then to fix it — pleases McCallie.
“Standards are being raised,” McCallie said.
A win tonight would push them as high as they could be.