2:00 PM ET, January 9, 2005
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- With Alana Beard and Iciss Tillis gone, Duke looks a little different from its past teams that held the No. 1 ranking.But the Blue Devils could be on their way back to the top spot just the same.Monique Currie scored 18 points to lift second-ranked Duke past No. 25 Virginia Tech 88-67 on Sunday, putting the Blue Devils in position to return to No. 1 for the third straight season.Mistie Williams added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue Devils (15-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 13 straight. Reserve Wynter Whitley added 10 points and played a key role for the Blue Devils in the first half, helping them to their 28th straight ACC home win.Duke had never been ranked No. 1 before the 2002-03 season but is poised to return with top-ranked LSU's overtime loss to Rutgers on Wednesday."It doesn't matter," coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We've been No. 1 the past several years in the polls and it really hasn't helped us. We didn't finish No. 1. We know all too well that being ranked No. 1 doesn't matter at all."This year's Blue Devils don't feature Beard's slashing drives to the basket or Tillis' finesse inside, which carried the team to the Final Four in 2002 and '03. Instead, the Blue Devils are more physical, a trait they used well against the Hokies (11-3, 1-1).Duke used a 19-2 run spanning halftime to build a double-digit lead it would not relinquish. Then, after a small spurt by the Hokies, Duke scored seven straight baskets in the paint -- five coming from Currie and Williams -- for a 20-point margin.Duke shot 55 percent, outrebounded the Hokies 40-31 and took a 48-24 edge in points in the paint. Duke also scored 21 points off 17 turnovers and held Virginia Tech to 41-percent shooting.The 6-foot-3 Williams went 6-for-11, while Alison Bales used her 6-7 frame to block four shots and alter several more. Whitley, a 6-2 senior, added two blocks and a steal in 21 minutes. Even Currie, an athletic wing player, had two blocks and didn't hesitate to post up."They are big and they are physical," said Erin Gibson, one of three players to score 13 points for the Hokies. "(Williams) knows how to use her body. When we got out of position, she made us pay for that. So did all the rest of them."Duke led 31-29 with about four minutes left in the half before Williams and Whitley began the run. Williams scored from the left block, while Whitley hit a jumper from the left corner on consecutive possessions for a six-point edge.Whitley hit two free throws and Wanisha Smith (15 points) scored two baskets before halftime for a 41-31 lead at the break. The Blue Devils then scored the first nine points of the second half, taking a 50-31 lead on a basket from Currie with 15:44 left.The Hokies cut the deficit to 12 points, but the Blue Devils ended any chance of an upset with a dominating stretch.At one point, Williams scored inside before Currie had consecutive baskets -- the second coming in the lane against two defenders. Williams followed with a pair of putbacks for a 68-46 lead with 8:43 left."I have been taught since Day 1 not to avoid contact," Williams said. "It's a challenge. When people push me around, it's like, 'I'm going to still score.' ... When somebody gets (a three-point play), it just electrifies our team."
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