DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Elizabeth Williams figures she made the right decision by choosing Duke.
She could have been on the other side of next week's huge women's basketball game between No. 3 Connecticut and the fourth-ranked Blue Devils.
The sophomore star chose Duke over a long list of programs that included Geno Auriemma's powerhouse — and the shot-blocking post player on a pre-med track couldn't be happier with her choice.
"In the end, I felt like this was the place for me," Williams said Friday. "Close to home, great academics, and never won a national championship. I thought it would be a great opportunity to come here and try to do that."
Williams and the Blue Devils (16-0) would take a huge step in that direction Monday night if they can beat UConn (15-1) for the first time since 2006.
Williams ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, averaging 15.8 points. She's sixth in the nation with an average of 3¼ blocked shots per game, and has at least one in every college game she's played.
And she's put up those numbers despite not being fully healthy for the early part of the season. Coach Joanne P. McCallie said Williams is still getting back to full strength after suffering a stress fracture in her lower right leg last spring.
"She's still getting into condition versus maybe others that are already there, so she's got to work extra hard and really be focused to do what she wants to do," McCallie said.
The mere presence of the 6-foot-3 Williams — the ACC's reigning rookie and defensive player of the year — is enough to change how opponents defend the entire Duke team.
"She has the ability to change a game," teammate Tricia Liston said. "There's always two people worrying about where she is, which leaves someone else open and then it creates mismatches. With her out there, I mean, you have to do something. Not many people can guard her one-on-one, so it causes a lot of problems for a lot of teams."
The Blue Devils hope she will be tougher for UConn to handle than she was last year.
In her only previous meeting with the Huskies, Williams had 10 points on 3 of 15 shooting with four blocks and three rebounds in a 61-45 loss in Durham.
But simply getting Williams to choose the Blue Devils in the first place counts as a victory of sorts. McCallie says she lost recruiting battles with Auriemma recently for stars Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart.
Williams' father, Alex Williams, a gastroenterologist in the Virginia Beach, Va., area, said his daughter was recruited hard by UConn before she trimmed her list to Virginia, Tennessee and Duke.
Dr. Williams said Duke's medical school "is something that tipped the scales" for his daughter, a Dean's List student at Duke who is planning a career in medicine. While she doesn't have to declare a major until she enters her junior year, she will choose either biology or psychology.
"As a role model, she's just absolutely terrific," McCallie said. "She loves to study and learn and is studying to be a doctor. . I can't think of a better role model for anybody than Elizabeth."