Villanova Wildcats (2-0) vs. #11 Duke Blue Devils (2-0)
When: Sunday, November 19, 2017, at 1 p.m.
Where: Jake Nevin Field House
Coverage: Nova Nation All-Access Live Stream ($)
Duke’s Previous Season Record: 28-6, ACC Tournament Runner-Up to Notre Dame, Lost to Oregon in Round of 32
Key Players for the Blue Devils: #4 Lexie Brown (5-9) Sr., G; #23 Rebecca Greenwell (6-1) Sr., G; #35 Erin Mathias (6-4) Sr., F/C; #5 Leaonna Odom (6-2) So., F
Villanova gets a tough early-season test against a Duke team that beat the Wildcats pretty comfortably at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year. The Blue Devils return a handful of players that were instrumental to their success in 2016-17. Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell are back in action. They are Duke’s returning top scorers and seem to be headed to continue that trend. Both combined for 36 points off of 14-of-22 shooting against Villanova in their previous meeting. Brown, a former Maryland transfer, made an immediate impact in her first season for the Blue Devils last year and was named to the All-America Third Team. She excels at scoring in almost any way, whether it’s off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, driving inside, or pulling up from deep—she is a dangerous offensive weapon. She’s also a tenacious player on defense and adept at generating turnovers. The ball will be in her hands a lot, but she also works well with Greenwell, who has consistently been one of Duke’s top players since she bounced back from a knee injury and took the court as a redshirt freshman. Greenwell is another scoring machine and not a player you want to see get into a groove on the court. She excels from beyond the arc, but she is also quick enough to go inside or create her own shot. Greenwell is also a glass cleaner on the boards and doesn’t take breaks when Duke is on defense. The Brown-Greenwell tandem is at the forefront, and the heart and soul of this team. However, that doesn’t mean you should sleep on some of the other Blue Devils.
Senior Erin Mathias will the tallest player on the court this Sunday. She is now a full-time starter after being a key rotational player over the last few seasons. She is a shaky player offensively, but excels defensively and on the glass. Joining her in the frontcourt is Leaonna Odom, who made an immediate impact as a freshman last season. Odom quickly demonstrated to be one of the top newcomers in the ACC, as well as in the country, with her play on the court. The former top 10 recruit and McDonald’s All-American from the Class of 2016 is primed to take an even bigger step up this season. Her game has shifted a lot since her high school days, leaving her three-point shot behind and mainly working inside or cutting to the basket. Through two games, she’s off to a solid start, going a combined 13-of-18 on the floor in albeit a limited sample size.
It’s pretty easy to say that the key to the game is shutting down the Brown-Greenwell tandem, although that is way easier said than done. They score at will and are dangerous once they start heating up. It’s likely that Brown will be on Villanova’s Adrianna Hahn, who drilled six three-pointers in the previous meeting with the Blue Devils, which can provide an interesting matchup.
Villanova is older and wiser, as well as in a much better place than when the two teams met last year, as that game came in the middle of a four-game losing streak. With a fresh start, it’s important that the Wildcats try to win the boards against a larger Duke squad. Villanova wasn’t a great rebounding team last season and often got beat. So far, in the two games the Wildcats have played, they seemed to have correct that, but those teams don’t compare to the type of competition Duke is offering.
On the bright side, Villanova does have strength in numbers, as the Wildcats’ bench gets considerably more burn than Duke, who plays a short rotation and keeps most of the minutes on the starting five.
All in all, this is an important test for the Wildcats and their performance at Jake Nevin on Sunday afternoon will be telling of where they are and how they stand against some tough competition.
Win the boards and play up front, slow down the Brown-Greenwell duo, and get some quality minutes off the bench—and maybe the Jake Nevin Field House will get to see two big upsets this weekend.