The No. 12 Blue Devils hope Black Friday proves more fruitful than its dark name as they hope to pull out a victory on the day after Thanksgiving away from Cameron Indoor Stadium for the second straight season.
But the road was not friendly to Duke in last weekend’s DePaul Invitational in Chicago. In lieu of an upset from Hartford Nov. 21, the team hopes Friday will yield a far better performance–and, of course, another result-when it travels to take on Western Kentucky at 8 p.m. in Bowling Green, Kent.
For elite teams like Duke, it’s unusual to play two consecutive road games in different areas of the country, but these early season road games were not scheduled by chance, head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“Playing on the road is much more of a challenge,” McCallie said. “In order to build a tough team, it is helpful to play in hostile environments early in the season.”
McCallie did not start scheduling multiple away games in the beginning of the year at Duke, however, as she made it a point of doing so during her seven-year stint at Michigan State. In a broader context, McCallie’s philosophy seems like it will begin to prime her team for the difficult road schedule that the Blue Devils (3-1) will face once ACC play begins. More than just winning, though, McCallie has the desire to challenge her squad so that it learns to experience some adversity.
Western Kentucky (3-1) could prove to be that kind of challenge for Duke, as the Hilltoppers are led by sophomore Arnika Brown, who has averaged 18.5 points per game and 13.8 rebounds per contest. Brown provides Duke center Chante Black, who leads Duke in scoring with 17.8 points and 8.3 boards, with one of the best matchups she’s dealt with.
The real challenge will be bouncing back from last weekend, when Duke was shocked by unranked Hartford on a neutral court. And even in a season in which most top-level teams have already fallen–Rutgers, Tennessee, Maryland and Stanford have lost–Duke’s defeat was still shocking. Friday’s game offers another opportunity to gauge where the team is not only in this season, but how it will react to bumps in the road.
“We have a great choice to make as a team in terms of how adversity will affect us,” McCallie said. “The willingness to grow and mature early on is very important to our team’s success.”