7:00 PM ET, February 8, 2007
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Duke was here before, carrying the No. 1 ranking onto its biggest rival's home court -- only to have North Carolina snatch it away.
I thought going into this game the X factor very well might be Duke guard Wanisha Smith, and she definitely was
for the first half. And that really was critically important, because the Blue Devils could have found themselves in a major hole without her -- one they couldn't have climbed out of had North Carolina built up momentum.
"She's our unsung hero," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said after the Blue Devils' 64-53 victory. "She does whatever is necessary for our team to win, and she doesn't get a lot of publicity. And she's OK with that. Tonight, we needed her to score."
Smith came into Thursday's game averaging 9.2 points, and her numbers have been better than that against the stronger defensive teams Duke has faced. She had 18 points against Texas and 15 against both Maryland and Tennessee.
Against the Tar Heels, Smith scored all 17 of her points in the first half. And during those first 20 minutes, Smith also was defending Tar Heels senior forward Camille Little, who is a good 3 inches taller than Smith.
Smith got into foul trouble in the second half and didn't score again. But she did get two assists and three rebounds in the last 20 minutes.
"I think I was making a lot of mindless fouls," Smith said. "Especially the last one; I fouled Erlana Larkins for the 'and-1.' I should have just let her have it. But there was so much blood pumping and fight in me that I went for it."
Remember that Smith had to play point guard in her trial-by-fire freshman season (2004-05), when Harding was suspended and missed the whole year. She accepted that role, and since then, as Goestenkors said, has taken on whatever Duke has asked her to do.
-- Mechelle Voepel
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||27-68 (.397)||18-66 (.273)|
|3P Made-Attempted||2-13 (.154)||2-19 (.105)|
|FT Made-Attempted||8-17 (.471)||15-26 (.577)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||26 (0/0)||19 (0/0)|