DURHAM — Its a game Duke fans have had circled ever since the schedule came out.
There arent many better regular-season games than matching the unbeaten, reigning NCAA womens champions still the No. 1 team in the nation against the undefeated No. 2 in a sold-out arena on national TV.
Its the first time No. 2 has hosted No. 1 since UConns 88-58 rout of No. 2 North Carolina in 2009. Duke has had a similar scenario to Tuesday nights game just once, rolling over No. 1 Tennessee 75-53 in 2006.
Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie said she wants her players to keep everything in perspective. After all, it is December.
Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2) at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the No. 2 Blue Devils (10-0) will host No. 1 Connecticut (10-0) in the Jimmy V Classic.
Its a great opportunity, said McCallie, the Blue Devils seventh-year coach. But December is a little bit different from January and February and March and other times of the year. From our standpoint theres a whole season to play. The one-two thing is already doing what it should do, drawing attention to the game. Its very important that womens basketball continue to grow and get more coverage.
Thats a good thing and thats the story on the media side. For us? This is one game and weve got a lot of games to play. The next step in the process is winning a national championship. Thats what wed like to do.
Geno Auriemmas Huskies have won eight NCAA championships, including seven of the past 14. Duke, meanwhile, has stayed near the top of the game, playing in four Final Fours and appearing in the title game twice between 1999 and 2006. But the Blue Devils have not been to a Final Four in McCallies tenure and have come up short in four straight regional title games.
Connecticut, which leads the series 9-3, has been a particular tormentor of late. Auriemmas team has won six straight games in the series and five times in the past four seasons, including twice at Cameron Indoor Stadium the only losses in Dukes past 83 home games. Dukes best effort since 2006 was a 61-45 loss in January 2012.
Its the last chance for Dukes five-player senior class which was listed as the nations No. 1 recruiting class when Chelsea Gray, Tricia Liston, Haley Peters, Chloe Wells and Richa Jackson came in together to get an upset on its home court.
Both teams have five players scoring in double figures. Liston (18.3, 6.6 rebounds) leads the Blue Devils.
Sophomore 6-foot-4 center Breanna Stewart (17.8, 7.1 rebounds) leads Connecticut.
Gray, whose knee injury last Feb. 14 dealt a serious blow to the Blue Devils chances for winning the NCAA title, said a good mental approach is key for Duke.
We have to focus on what we do, Gray said. Offensively, its executing the game plan. We have to rebound and we have to get our stops. I think sometimes (against UConn) we havent gotten a stop and it just bleeds from there, and they go on runs. Weve got to not rush things and stay in what we do.
Peters, called the teams bulldog by classmate Gray, said shes expecting a pretty physical game despite offseason changes in rules and points of emphasis designed to enhance offense.
We want to be good tomorrow, of course, but to be good in March and April is what really matters, Peters said.