7:00 PM ET, January 19, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Finally, No. 2 Duke can think about top-ranked Tennessee.Monique Currie scored 20 points to lead the Blue Devils past North Carolina State 77-57 on Thursday night in their final game before hosting the Lady Vols in a matchup that has loomed on the schedule since the preseason.Chante Black added 11 points while Lindsey Harding had 10 for the Blue Devils (18-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 17 of 20 meetings against N.C. State, including the past nine. Duke hasn't lost to the Wolfpack (11-6, 2-3) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a decade.Duke remained one of the nation's three unbeaten teams, along with Tennessee and North Carolina (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today; No. 4 AP). And now, after making it through a run of seven games in 17 days, the Blue Devils can talk about playing the Lady Vols on Monday in a game that has been sold out for two weeks."We try not to look too far ahead," Currie said. "But now the game is finally here and we can focus on the big game everyone has been talking about, that we've been looking forward to."After that game, the Blue Devils travel to Clemson before hosting the rival Tar Heels to close the month.Thursday's win was a good way to go into that stretch. The Blue Devils turned in a balanced offensive effort, with all 11 players scoring and eight playing at least 17 minutes. Duke also used its athleticism and aggressive defense to frustrate the Wolfpack, getting 11 blocks and 12 steals while holding N.C. State to 37-percent shooting."I think we're very comfortable with [the rotation] now and I think our players are becoming much more efficient," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "[Currie] was just very efficient with her minutes and I think part of it is because she's able to stay fresh. And I think we wear people down that way as well."The Blue Devils led by 12 at halftime, then held off a Wolfpack rally early in the second half and pushed the lead to as many as 23 points late."I still think this is Duke's best team that they've had," Wolfpack coach Kay Yow said. "They've got a lot of pieces. They play with a lot of confidence. That's one of the factors. I just think we didn't play with the same kind of confidence tonight."N.C. State fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first half, but had its best surge of the game coming out of halftime. Billie McDowell and Marquetta Dickens hit 3-pointers while Tiffany Stansbury -- the team's leading scorer who played just 7 first-half minutes due to foul trouble -- scored a pair of baskets to help the Wolfpack close the gap to 43-39 with 15:38 left.But the Blue Devils answered with their own spurt, scoring on nine of their next 11 possessions to start a 28-9 run that put it away. And they got contributions from throughout their lineup.Currie started the spurt with a jumper from the right wing, while Harding had a layup and assisted on consecutive scores from Alison Bales that pushed the lead to 54-41. Currie later hit a 3-pointer and assisted on another Bales score that made it 61-46, a lead that gradually increased to 71-48 when Harding found Wanisha Smith for a transition layup with 5:19 left.N.C. State fell behind early when Stansbury and Khadijah Whittington each picked up two quick fouls, limiting them to a combined 15 first-half minutes. McDowell and 6-foot-7 reserve Gillian Goring did their best to keep the Wolfpack in it, scoring 19 of the team's last 20 points of the half.But Duke -- behind Currie's nine points -- had five players with at least five points and went 9-for-10 at the free-throw line to take a 39-27 lead at the break.McDowell scored 14 points to lead the Wolfpack, while Goring had 12 points and seven rebounds. Stansbury, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds, finished with eight points and three rebounds."With them getting in foul trouble, we as a team feel as if it affected us because they can't go as aggressive as they can," McDowell said. "[Goring] stepped up, but she couldn't do it by herself down there, so we really need to work on staying out of foul trouble."
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