Both Duke and UNC will try to duplicate Monday night in women’s basketball what they’ve already done on the men’s side.
Duke’s assignment is helped by the fact the Blue Devils will be playing their final home game of the season. Tonight at 7 the No. 6 Blue Devils (30-3), seeded No. 2 in the Philadelphia Region, will take on No. 10 seed and No. 19 Marist (31-2), which is the champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and dispatched Iowa State in the first round.
Then at around 9:45 in Albuquerque the No. 14 Tar Heels (27-8), seeded No. 5 in the Spokane Region, will face No. 17 Kentucky (25-8) which has the No. 4 seed in the region. Kentucky needed overtime to dismiss MEAC champion Hampton in the first round on Saturday.
Duke will try to protect a 24-game home-court winning streak, and if the Blue Devils win tonight then 25 will be a new school record. Duke has won 15 straight NCAA Tournament games at home.
“We have so many motivators,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I mean last year, three points away from getting to the Final Four. It was an incredible game that didn’t go our way down the stretch. These seniors are motivators just in the time we’ve spent together over the last four years. …
“We’re very, very proud of our body of work. Nobody can take away the science from what we did. We have lots motivators and that’s what keeps us going. And it’s not just to get to the Final Four. We’d like to win National Championships, plural. We’d like to chase what’s happening on our guys’ side. Will it happen? I don’t know. But I know we’re chasing it.”
Duke senior forward Karima Christmas said defense will be the key.
“Being focused on one-on-one stops is what we’ve harped on - being able to stop a player and not need help from anybody else,” Christmas said. “I mean, obviously sometimes you’ll need help, but being able to hold yourself accountable and being able to stop someone one-on-one is something that we are really trying to focus on, and also get a hand up and contest shooters.”
Marist coach Brian Giorgis said his team will definitely have to get the shots it likes and make them to pull the upset.
“It’s all a matter of if they give us ‘3s,’” Giorgis said. “They may sit there and force us to take it at the 6-5 kids and try to score over them. So again, we’re the type of team that will take what people give us. When we had our run (Saturday) against Iowa State, we were getting to the rim. We were beating people off the bounce and we got to the rim.
“When people started to help, we were able to kick to somebody and we made shots. So again, it really depends. For us to be successful tomorrow, we’re going to have to make shots wherever they are. And we’re going to have to make a lot of them.”
It’s likely the UNC-Kentucky contest could resemble a track meet between two athletic clubs, and veteran Tar Heel coach Sylvia Hatchell said she wouldn’t mind that a bit.
“It could be a horse race for the full game, full 40 minutes,” Hatchell said. “It could be a horse race because we’ve got depth and we’re not going to slow down.”
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said his team might like that idea.
“I think where we are right now offensively, that might help us a little bit to get an open-court game because it’s very disappointing how we played in the half-court (against Hampton),” Mitchell said. “We just had so many people standing around and watching the ball.”
No. 6 Duke vs. No. 19 Marist
[Monday, 7 p.m. Cameron Indoor Stadium]
Audio: WDNC 620.
Records: Duke 30-3, Marist 31-2.
Coaches’ records — Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 428-173, 112-25 at Duke; Marist: Brian Giorgis 225-64 at Marist.
Leading scorers — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 14.8; Marist: Erica Allenspach 14.1.
Leading rebounders — Duke: Krystal Thomas 8.5; Marist: Corielle Yarde 5.4.
Assist leaders — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 3.4; Marist: Erica Allenspach 3.0.
No. 14 UNC vs. No. 17 Kentucky
[Monday, 9:45 p.m., University Arena, Albuquerque]
Audio: WCHL 1360.
Records: UNC 27-8, UK 25-8.
Coaches’ records — UNC: Sylvia Hatchell 857-302, 585-222 at UNC; UK: Matthew Mitchell 116-81, 86-52 at UK.
Leading scorers — UNC: Italee Lucas 15.8; UK: Victoria Dunlap 16.8.
Leading rebounders — UNC: Laura Broomfield 4.9; UK: Victoria Dunlap 8.9.
Assist leaders — UNC: Cetera DeGraffenreid 7.9; UK: A’