7:00 PM ET, February 15, 2007
DURHAM, N.C. -- Top-ranked Duke has cleared the small obstacles on its schedule. Now comes the hard part: closing the regular season against a pair of conference opponents that reached the Final Four last year.The Blue Devils look ready.Freshman Bridgette Mitchell scored a season-high 20 points and had 10 rebounds Thursday night to lead top-ranked Duke past Boston College 73-52, keeping the Blue Devils as the nation's only unbeaten team.Wanisha Smith added 13 points and seven assists for the Blue Devils (27-0, 12-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won at least 12 conference games for 10 straight seasons, an ACC record.Duke dominated from the start and led by as many as 21 points in the first half, then cruised through the second half to win its 69th straight game against an unranked opponent.The Blue Devils now turn their attention toward a challenging final week of the regular season. Duke travels to sixth-ranked Maryland on Sunday in a rematch of the national championship game, then returns home to face second-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 25.The Blue Devils took the first meeting with Maryland, beating the then-No. 1 Terrapins 81-62 on Jan. 13. They beat the Tar Heels last week 64-53 on the road in a matchup of the nation's last two unbeatens.The Blue Devils head into their challenging stretch after the latest lopsided win in a season full of them. Duke has won only two games by fewer than 10 points all season, but coach Gail Goestenkors said her team is prepared for the stretch run despite a lack of late-game drama this year."We have been challenged by teams where we might have had big leads but they came back," she said. "And we've handled those kinds of pressures. We feel like we're in a good place."Kathrin Ress scored 16 points for the Eagles (12-13, 2-9), who had ended a four-game losing streak with a win against Miami last weekend, but trailed the entire way in this one and never threatened Duke's perfect record.Duke got a steady all-around effort. Carrem Gay scored 10 points, while Duke finished with a 47-32 rebounding advantage -- including 18 second-chance points off 19 offensive boards. Senior Alison Bales had six blocks, while sophomore guard Abby Waner had a career-high nine rebounds.By halftime, Mitchell had 14 points -- the freshman's first double-figure game since December and just her fourth all season -- on 7-for-8 shooting in 10 minutes. At one point, Mitchell scored 10 straight points for Duke, helping the Blue Devils take a 36-19 lead on a putback with 5:55 left in the half."I was in the right place at the right time," said Mitchell, a 6-foot forward who shot 10-for-13. "A lot of openings were there, so my teammates just found me."All seven of her baskets came in the paint, part of Duke's dominance inside. The Blue Devils scored 30 first-half points in the paint on putbacks and layups, helping them shoot 57 percent for the half."It was hard for us to keep up, plus they were getting (rebounds)," Boston College coach Cathy Inglese said. "Bridgette did a super job. She was killing us on the boards off of transition."Boston College didn't have the same success, shooting just 10-for-32 with nine turnovers to fall behind 46-27 at halftime.The Eagles got no closer than 15 points after the break and shot just 32 percent for the game. Duke led by as many as 27 points in the second half.