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Rob On The Women vs. AIA

by Rob Clough

Duke defeated Athletes In Action 111-73 on Friday, November 3rd. It was
a game that spotlighted youth, as Duke's celebrated frosh class made quite
a splash, combining for 65 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists and 16 steals.
With two starters not playing due to injury, Coach G still had an incredibly
deep bench to go to, with only starter Georgia Schweitzer getting less than
ten minutes of playing time. This game was over five minutes in, when Duke
started the game on a 21-2 run led by the sensational frosh Alana Beard.
AIA was clearly not ready for the high-intensity pressure Duke was putting
on, as Duke had 5 steals in the first four minutes, three by pocket-picking

When evaluating frosh, one tends to want to emphasize potential while
understanding that there will be growing pains. And that description certainly
applied to most of Duke's frosh tonight, as they all made a few careless
errors or had problems rotating on defense. But Beard made the most impressive
debut of any frosh I've ever seen, and certainly lived up to her preseason
rookie of the year nod. Coach G has described her as a player who possesses
great talent, excellent athleticism and exerts maximum effort at all times.
Looking at the games early minutes with that in mind, let's look at what
Beard did:

** Got an offensive rebound, got fouled and made two free throws.
** Pick the pocket of the ballhandler, and zoomed in for a layup.
** Did it again less than a minute later.
** Passed the ball to Tillis for a three.
** Stole the ball again and passed it to a streaking Tillis for another layup.

Score: Duke 15, Athletes in Action 2.

She also had an incredible defensive play where an AIA player got a steal
and zipped downcourt for a seemingly uncontested layup. Beard got behind
her, jumped up and blocked the shot, barrelling over a spectator out-of-bounds.
Beard came back later in the half and scored 7 straight points, demonstrating
a purer-than-pure form on her jumper.

On a night where Rochelle Parent didn't play (but did dress) because of
an ankle sprain, the most interesting thing to watch was the battle of the
inside players. AIA had some big, tough players who gave Duke a bit of a
challenge, and it was good to see Lello Gebisa, Olga Gvozdenovic and LaNedra
Brown all come up with some very positive, polished play. Duke seemed to
be concentrating quite a bit on post offense, working the ball in as much
as possible. Duke was also using a double-post offense quite a bit, where
some combination of Brown, Gebisa or Gvozdenovic would be on the floor at
the same time. The results were encouraging: Olga hit two pretty turnaround
jumpers in the post on crisp passes from Mosch and Tillis; Lello had an
outrageous behind-the-back pass to Tillis for an easy layup and another slick
pass later in the half to Brown; Brown found West for a 3 with a pass out
of the paint. Gebisa scored on a beautiful Beard pass in the second half
and Crystal White got into the act with a turnaround jumper in the paint.

Overall, Olga and Lello looked a lot more polished and confident, and Nedra
continues to be as aggressive as ever. Not all was perfect in the paint,
however: Duke only managed to outrebound AIA by 2, and gave up an unacceptable
15 offensive rebounds. A lot of those came simply because Duke players were
out of position or didn't hustle hard enough to the ball. Parent's absence
was felt here, since she's the one who always gets that kind of board.
Rebounding problems kept Olga shackled to the bench last year, and she'll
need to improve on her single rebound tonight.

Perhaps the best illustration of how dominant Duke was is the fact that
Georgia only played 9 minutes and took but 4 shots--and still managed to get
7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. After AIA scored 6 in a row to close
the gap to 41-20, Georgia nailed a tough 15 footer with a hand in her face
to spark another run, followed by a steal and a laser pass to Tillis for
a full-court layup.

Duke was not quite as crisp offensively in the second half, as Beard and
Tillis were the only two players who were really clicking. Duke's defense
also looked a bit ragged, allowing AIA to screen to get lots of open threes,
which they mostly canned. While Duke used a lot of pressure in the game,
they didn't go to a lot of UConn/Tennessee-style 90 foot pressing. Coach G
has talked about using this in order to work in more players, but she may
not yet be ready to use it. Still, 23 steals is impressive no matter how
you slice it, especially when one considers that 5 players had 3 or more

A few miscellaneous notes...Krista Gingrich tore a calf muscle and will
miss the opener next week against UCLA. She missed the first few games of
last season as well and it ended up stunting her development a bit...Janee
Hayes will not be playing this year due to being pregnant (due in June) but
will stay on as a student assistant. She's on track to graduate next May
and will stay in school through the end of her pregnancy. Janee was one
of Duke's most physical players and her absence will hurt them in practice.
She was also one of the team's most spirited players, but I'm sure she'll
continue to provide inspiration in her new role...AIA lead Virginia by 12
at halftime in their game earlier in the week before the Hoos came back to
narrowly win. Telisha Quarles sat out the game with an injury and star center
Schuye LaRue had some foul trouble.

** Positives:

1. Defensive pressure. I have never seen a Duke team disrupt another team's
ballhandlers the way that Beard and company did tonight. Furthermore, Tillis
and Schweitzer were terrors in the passing lane. Beard demanded every single
ball, at one point scrapping for another steal, hitting the deck, and calling
a time-out.

2. Shooting. 61% for the game is impressive, but 64% from three is scary.
Beard, Tillis, Schweitzer and West were sinking beautiful shot after
beautiful shot. West nailed a couple of threes to answer threes hit by AIA.

3. Passing. It was so pretty to watch that it hurt. This group is extremely
unselfish but not to the point where they pass up open shots. The passing
from the post players was particularly impressive, combining for 5 impressive

** Negatives:

1. Rebounding. This and overall post defense were big concerns. AIA mostly
depended on long-range shots, and Duke seemed confused on how to position
themselves for long rebounds. AIA's 15 offensive rebounds were a testament
to the fact that a number of Duke's players got caught flat-footed. The
few times AIA was able to work the ball past Duke's pressure, their center
was able to power past Duke paint players for a couple of baskets. To a
certain degree, the entire went through some lapses of concentration after
building up such a huge lead so quickly, but jobs are going to be won or lost
based on who's going to be scrapping for rebounds.

2. Perimeter defense. This was a problem early last year as well. AIA
screened much more effectively in the second half, taking advantage of Duke's
overplay, and got lots of open looks from three. In fact, without their
proficiency from three, this game would have been even uglier than it was.
Duke's young players must learn to switch quicker and bust through screens.

3. Free throw shooting. A shaky 63%, not up to the standards set by dead-eye
Duke teams of recent years. Craig's 1-4 was particularly alarming; she
seemed to rush her shot a bit.


** Tillis: The team's defacto center played more like an extremely tall
guard, but she did her share of labor in the paint with 6 boards. Tillis is
frighteningly quick and versatile, with great hands and nice form on her
jumper. She can really run the floor, scoring in transition twice in the
early going, and is quite content to float outside and shoot threes, which
caught AIA completely off-guard as they left her wide-open a couple of times.
She was Duke's most aggressive player in the passing lanes, picking off 4
steals. Her slimness hurt her trying to guard the other team's post player
one-one-one, but her quickness helped her when she went to the boards. Iciss
is almost certain to start but must improve her post defense to be completely

** Gvozdenovic: Olga showed what she can do now that she's not struggling to
recover from a knee injury. She moved as well as I'd ever seen her, and she
also seemed a lot more level-headed on the court. Her turnaround jumper in
the post is an excellent weapon. Her low rebounding total is a concern,
since this was one of the big reasons why she was benched towards the end
of last year. The reserve forwards who play most will be the ones who play
the best defense and get the most rebounds.

** Beard: What more can I say about this very special player? Here's another
amazing stat: her huge numbers were accomplished in just 20 minutes of playing
time. I will say that not even Alana is perfect: she had 4 turnovers in the
second half and one shot blocked in transition. Perhaps the ultimate
compliment I can give her is that I've never seen a player dominate at both
ends, yet seem so completely unselfish. She fit into the team concept
perfectly. I await a physical opponent to see how she reacts to being beat
on, and a team with an ultra-quick player to see how she reacts to facing
someone with equal athleticism. (Marie Ferdinand of LSU comes to mind...)
I'm also curious to see how well she'll play in a grind-it-out, halfcourt
kind of game. OK, back to the raves: she is a threat to score every time she
has the ball. In the second half, she pulled up for a 10' jumper, hit a three
and scored in transition in just over a minute's span. She earned her living
at the foul line late in the half, going 5-6, picking up a couple of assists
along the way.

** Mosch: A quiet but very effective game for Sheana, who only had 2 field
goal attempts the entire game but was very effective from the foul line.
She handled the ball a good bit and looked fairly confident doing it. She
was adept in pushing the ball upcourt (especially after one of her 3 steals),
getting it to Schweitzer and Craig for easy layups. She also found Georgia
and Iciss open for threes. With all of the hoopla this year about the
frosh and Schweitzer, Sheana could be a true secret weapon for the team.
Her one basket came on her signature move: using her quick first step to
barrel towards the basket for a layup.

** Schweitzer: I've pretty much already gone over her achievements in her
brief game appearance, but I will note that Georgia looked much quicker and
healthier than I had seen her in a long, long time. She devoted much of
her summer to weight training in an effort to reduce injuries in the future.
She started at point guard and may end up spending a lot of time there if
Krista is out for more than a couple of weeks.

** Craig: Rometra is a player brimming with potential, but her game isn't
quite as polished as Tillis' or Beard's. Her first basket came on an
absolutely gorgeous spin move that froze her defender as she zipped to the
basket. She scored on a transition basket a couple of plays later and then
used her quick first step for a layup a couple of plays after that. In the
second half, she turned up the defensive pressure, picking the pocket of
the ballhandler a few times and getting in the lanes. She also scored on
another drive. Her perimeter game is not quite as effective as her ability
to slash, however. She missed a jumper, got her own rebound and then
attempted a three, which also clanked. Coach G pulled her out of the game
and gave her a quick lecture after that sequence. Rometra played tough
defense the entire game but clearly lacks the versatility that Beard and Tillis
possess. She will be more effective as a forward than as a guard, at least
until her shot improves. Still, her quickness and enthusiasm should allow
her to play some significant minutes this year.

** Matyasovsky: Michele is just getting back from finger and ankle injuries,
but she had a solid night. Her strength is her versatility, being able to
post up like a forward and spot up like a guard. She hit a long jumper and
also scored in transition. She still looks a step slow, but that will come.
She will certainly be one of the first players off the bench this year and
may even start at times.

** White: Crystal looked a bit raw out there. She's a fine athlete and can
run the floor and post up, but she's still finding her way. Her one turnaround
jumper in the lane was very smooth, but it will be tough to find much playing
time considering the logjam in the post.

** West: Coach G has said that there are some games where Missy might not
play much at all, especially against quick teams. Then there are other times
when the opponents will be playing zone and Missy will be told to let 'em fly.
This game was an example of the latter scenario. Missy was the most dominant
player on the court for about a two minute span in the first half. After
nailing a three on a relocation pass from Brown and finding Matyasovsky open
for an 18 footer, Missy answered an AIA three with one of her own on a pass
from Olga, hit a foul shot, and then answered another AIA bucket with another
very long three. She also hit a nice 15' jumper in the second half and
had another late three. Missy's game is all about grit and determination,
and she was able to come up with a couple of tough offensive rebounds through
sheer desire. I can't imagine having a better trio of senior leaders than
Schweitzer, Parent and West. All three are a testament to the power of hard

** Krapohl: A solid debut for the sparkplug from Michigan. At 5'3", she was
by far the shortest player on the court (I can't wait for her to match up
with Georgia Tech's Alex Stewart), but as one might expect, hustled like
crazy out there. She was actually Duke's most dominant player in the latter
stages of the first half. She drove into the lane, drawing a defender, and
then expertly dished to Brown for an open jumper. She hounded the ballhandler
into a steal and then drove all the way downcourt for a layup. She dished
inside to Matyasovsky and then topped things off with a long 2 with just
seconds remaining in the half. Other than a transition pass to Beard in
the second half, she didn't make much of an impact there. Vicki definitely
has pure point guard skills and will certainly be a fine player for Duke.
The one area of concern is that many players can post her up--Duke will have
to play very solid help defense to prevent being victimized in this area.

** Brown: Nedra was her usual high-energy self. She was the beneficiary
of some nice passes, and also hit a close-in jumper. Her amazing leaping
ability was demonstrated by skying for a rebound and leaping after a player
in transition. On a team that will need help inside, she may have the inside
track on getting big post minutes.

** Gebisa: Lello played as well as I've ever seen her perform, especially on
offense. She's still incredibly slim and can be pushed around, and her timing
on blocks is not what it could be, usually ending up with a foul instead.
But her slick passes and good spacing on offense made her a definite asset.
More than anything, she looked like she belonged out there, with a confident
air about her and an expression that revealed that she was just plain having
fun. I'm still not sure she's going to play much this year, but she has
definitely improved.

Cameron Craziness: There was a better showing tonight than I expected, with
over 1000 people. Not bad for a game that was not even publicized by the
Chronicle. The crowd went nuts for Beard's high-energy play, and plenty of
folks showed up with signs.

Next Game: Monday, November 6th vs Uralmash at 7:00pm in Cameron. This is a
touring Russian team, and little is known about them at this point.