Welcome to the live game thread for the Kentucky Wildcats women's basketball game against the Duke Blue Devils. This game will be played in historic Rupp Arena, and the game is the first-ever sellout of Rupp for a women's basketball game. They will get to see the #5 Wildcats take on the #2 Blue Devils in what ought to be one of the best games in women's college basketball this season.
About the Blue Devils
Season so far
Duke is 11-1 on the season with their only loss coming to #1 UConn in the Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Other than that understandable hiccup, the Blue Devils have been solid. They struggled a little against #20 Oklahoma on the road, but they still won that game, leading nearly from gate to wire.
As a team, Duke gets most of their points inside the arc, with only 20.9% of their scoring coming from outside. That makes sense, since Duke is a big, but not huge team, with 5 players at 6'3 or taller.
Defensively, Duke is very stingy inside the arc, holding teams to 37% shooting. They are somewhat less defensively efficient from the perimeter, allowing almost 35% from the arc.
Duke is a very balanced team with their scoring very evenly distributed among the leading minutes-getters. They go 8 deep in most games, and can go even deeper if needs be.
Stats source: Women's Basketball State
Duke is led in scoring by senior 6'1" guard Tricia Liston, who averaged 16.5 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist per game. She is a very efficient player, getting almost 1.5 points per weighted shot, is a deadly 3-point shooter at 49%, and makes free throws at 90%.
Her backcourt mate, Chelsea Gray gets almost 8 assists per game to go with her 13 points and 5 rebounds. She is the ice that stirs the Blue Devil's drink.
Senior forward Haley Peters is a 6'3" rebounding machine at 8 per game, and is the teams third leading scorer.
Elizabeth Williams is the interior defender on this Duke squad, swatting 2.5 shots per game and providing 13 points per game to go along with it.
Kentucky is the more efficient offensive team, but Duke is significantly better defensively. Kentucky is also significantly deeper than Duke, playing 11 players 10 minutes or more per game. But Kentucky also lacks their leading scorer, DeNesha Stallworth, who is recovering from minor knee surgery.
Kentucky is going to try to impose their "40 minutes of dread" pressing up-tempo system on the Blue Devils, who are used to playing at a somewhat slower pace. Duke takes really good care of the ball, and if Kentucky's defense is to have an impact, they are going to have to force the Blue Devils into uncharacteristic turnovers. Duke turns the ball over the least of anyone in the nation.
The question is how Kentucky matches up on the inside with Duke. Duke is bigger and stronger, and has plenty of size everywhere. Kentucky has only 1 player at 6'3" and taller on the court with Stallworth out, and the smaller Samarie Walker is going to be called upon to do a lot of work inside along with Azia Bishop and Jelleah Sidney.
This is going to be a matchup between Kentucky's potent back court and Duke's powerful front court. How well Duke can keep Janee Thompson, Kastine Evans, Jennifer O'Neil and Linnae Harper in check will be a big factor in determining the game, as well as how successful Kentucky's front line can be at keeping Duke's bigger players off the offensive glass.
The wild card is how much of an effect Kentucky's pressure has on Duke's ball handling. If it is substantial, Duke could be in big trouble in this one. Alternatively, if the Blue Devils are able to control the pace, Kentucky could be facing a long night in the paint.