DURHAM, N.C. – The ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils get to play in the cozy confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium when they begin first-round play in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Saturday.
As the No. 2 seed in the Lincoln Regional, Duke will tip off against the 15th-seeded Winthrop Eagles of the Big South Conference.
To say that the Blue Devils have a distinct home court advantage may be quite the understatement.
The Blue Devils have won 18 consecutive games during NCAA Tournament play in Cameron and own a 20-1 record overall in postseason play on their home floor.
They’re an experienced postseason squad led by guard Tricia Liston and forwards Haley Peters and Elizabeth Williams.
Liston has competed in 12 NCAA tournament contests and has averaged 13 points, four rebounds and two steals in those games.
Over the last two years, she has averaged 18 points, five rebounds and two steals while hitting 48 percent (19-of-39) from beyond the arc.
Peters has averaged 13 points, nine rebounds, one steal and one assist during tournament play in the last two years, with a 57-percent success rate from the field.
Williams owns career averages of 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in NCAA postseason competition9.
Duke (27-6) and Winthrop (24-8) have met only one time previously with the Blue Devils posting an 80-45 win over the Eagles during their first season in Division I play back on Dec. 9, 1986 in Durham.
The Blue Devils will once again meet and introduce Winthrop to its next level of play – as a newcomer to the NCAA Tournament.
Though the Eagles may be the new kid on the tournament court, they know how to win, having posted 20 wins in successive seasons.
Winthrop earned the invite to this year’s tournament by claiming its first-ever Big South Conference title with an 87-74 victory over the High Point Panthers.
Guided by second-year coach Kevin Cook, the Eagles are led on the floor by three-time Big South Player of the Year guard Dequesha McClanahan (17.6 points, 6.5 rebounds) along with forward Erica Williams (15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds), while center Schaquilla Nunn (11.2 points, 9.9 rebounds) leads the team in rebounds, and guard Samiya Wright has posted 40 three-pointers throughout the season.
Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie understands what her team will need to do to minimize the Eagles’ strengths and stated so before her team practiced on Friday.
“They’re a super team,” McCallie said.
“They’re very well-coached, but guard driven. They’re quick. They’ll try to get into the gaps. Transition defense will be very important to us and shutting down the gaps, going after McClanahan and Williams, and making sure nobody gets too excited.”
Winthrop, facing an experienced and revamped Duke team that now plays longer and is dynamic in putting points on the board, has an exciting challenge to take on.
It doesn’t seem to worry them.
“We know we have nothing to lose,” McClanahan said.
“We’re going to come out, play hard and leave it all out there. Whatever happens – happens.”