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Rob On Duke Women vs. Uralmash

by Rob Clough

Duke defeated Uralmash, a club team from Russia, 100-69 on November 6th.
It was a game that featured a number of runs by both teams generated in
entirely different ways. Uralmash was a small team that made their living
at the three point line, sporting a three guard lineup that picked Duke to
death. If Uralmash got into their sets, they did a good job of either freeing
up shooters or setting screens to allow cutters to get open lanes. Duke
countered by turning up their defensive pressure, attacking them in the
backcourt and disrupting their ability to bring the ball up. The game was
put away by a Duke run keyed by several steals that finally wore the Russians

Sometimes, winning a game by a wide margin can make a team think that
all the games will be that easy. Duke's victory over Athletes in Action
was so decisive and it was over so quickly that I think some of the players
were frustrated that Uralmash wasn't going to roll over in the same way.
The Devils looked flat as a result for much of the first half, with the
exception of Georgia Schweitzer. She didn't try to force anything on
offense but was still the aggressor, and her defensive reads caused havoc
in the UM passing lanes. The game started, fittingly enough, with a Uralmash
three pointer that was quickly matched by Schweitzer. The game was tight
for the first few minutes as UM managed to match Duke with jumpers. A
Schweitzer three-point play and and a three by Rometra Craig (after she
ripped down a defensive board) gave Duke a 15-7 lead with six minutes gone
by, but an 8-3 Uralmash run brought them to within 3. Duke kept pushing them
back but still only led by 5 with nine minutes left in the half.

A mistake by LaNedra Brown eventually ended up energizing the team. She
committed a bonehead turnover but immediately stole it back and then converted
on a fast break on a pass from Mosch. Another turnover (helped by the
inestimable defensive presence of Rochelle Parent) led to a Schweitzer layup,
and a 12-0 run was suddenly on. Tillis and Beard also made an impact here,
with Beard finding Schweitzer and then spinning for a beautiful layup, while
Tillis overplayed and got a steal and runout layup and hit a heady jumper
on a quick pass from Mosch. This came after an offensive rebound that Sheana
had picked up under the basket, where she was out of position for a score
but saw Tillis make a target of herself for the score. Duke would go up 44-24
with just three minutes left in the half, but the plucky Russians closed the
half on an 11-2 run. Duke helped them by missing the front end of a 1-and-1,
fouling repeatedly, and turning the ball over 3 times. It was not a good
end to a half that looked like Duke was going to dominate.

The second half started off as the Iciss Tillis show, where she scored the
half's first 7 points and then had an assist to Olga Gvozdenovic for the
next basket. Duke's 13-0 run restored their 20-point lead, but the Russians
continued to fight back. They were very aggressive in running their break
off Duke mistakes, and there were plenty of them. Craig and Tillis both
turned the ball over and Tillis was called for an offensive foul. Duke
was fouling them on the break as well, making it easy for them to score.
Duke still had a 10-point lead with over ten minutes left, but the sloppiness
that had plagued them in the first half had returned.

The Devils took control thanks to a play sparked by Sheana Mosch. Michele
Matyasovsky rebounded one of Mosch's missed shots, and then Beard hit two
foul shots after she was hit with an elbow on UM's possession. Duke turned
on a fearsome full court press, with Mosch getting a steal and driving in
for a layup, getting fouled. She missed the freebie but Parent rebounded,
feeding West. Duke stole the ball again but turned it over, interrupting
their run only briefly. Four Uralmash turnovers later, Duke was up 81-55,
with Mosch dominating on her drives and Tillis showing off her open-court
moves. The Devils then held UM scoreless for the next four minutes, increasing
their lead to 35 as the exhausted Russians were starting to foul out of
fatigue, and lost a couple of frontcourt players due to injury. Considering
that they only brought 9 players to begin with, just staying as close as they
were was a noble effort.

Duke is a young team that will require a lot of reining in by both the
senior leaders and the coaches. When they're focused and communicating, they
are devastating. When trying too many one-on-one moves, they get into trouble.
I was glad that Uralmash actually pushed them a bit, because they had to
fight their way out of trouble, and a number of different players stepped
up to seal the win.

** Positives:

1. Rebounding. One of the pre-game goals was to outrebound Uralmash, a
team that didn't have a lot of size but was fairly aggressive going to
the boards. The first half goal was to outrebound them by 8, but
the margin was only 1; needless to say, Coach G was not pleased. Duke
looked just plain flatflooted at times, especially the post players. It
says something that Mosch was the leading rebounder at the half. The
second half was an entirely different matter, as Duke outrebounded them by
25, keeping them off the offensive boards in particular. Duke scrapped
after their own offensive rebounds, getting several second and third chances
that wore the Russians down. Six different players wound up with at least
5 rebounds.

2. Defensive pressure. Another pre-game goal was to mix-up the defensive
schemes in an effort to negate their screening in the half-court. This
didn't work very well, but when the players decided to start pressing them
hard in the backcourt after grabbing one steal, it sparked a feeding frenzy
that put them away once and for all. Nine different Duke players had at least
1 steal, and six had at least 2.

3. Fast break. This is definitely Duke's most lethal weapon, especially
with talents like Tillis and Beard improvising, Mosch's nose for the basket,
and Schweitzer's all-around headiness.

** Negatives:

1. Ballhandling. Duke turned the ball over 19 times, way too many considering
the Russians were not applying much pressure at all. A number seemed to
occur when players just lost control of the ball or dribbled into trouble.

2. Screen-busting. Duke was supposed to switch off screens after made
baskets in an effort to confuse Uralmash, a scheme that had mixed results.
Using a classic penetrate-and-pitch scheme, the Russian ballhandler would
often draw in an extra defender, leaving an open shooter; or more often,
the ballhandler would run her defender into a screen, freeing her for a drive,
an open shot or a clear pass to a shooter who had popped out to the wing.
A lot of Duke players didn't avoid some of these initial screens, and it kept
the defense off-balance and allowed Uralmash to get into a rhythm.

3. Lack of focus. Using so many players hurt team continuity a bit, and
some of the younger subs didn't do a very good job maintaining intensity.
From a stagnant offense to a slowly-reacting transition defense, there were
long stretches where Duke seemed sluggish.


** Tillis: Iciss put up some spectacular numbers but also made some
questionable decisions. Her one turnover was a careless one, and she took
a number of ill-advised shots. Those quibbles aside, she was a powerful
force on offense, scoring on a post-up, a three (wisely only attempting 2),
several spectacular drives and a short jumper. She is breathtakingly quick
and graceful, remarkable for her size. The one area I'd like to see her
improve on the most is rebounding. She did manage 5 boards, but with her
height and leaping ability, she could do much more.

** Gvozdenovic: Olga didn't put up huge numbers but her defense, touch
and patience continue to improve. I'd like to see her block out a bit
better, though. She had a block and a terrific turnaround jumper. She also
threw the ball away a couple of times. I don't see her as a "real" starter
at this point, but she may be able to contribute, especially if she steps
it up on the boards.

** Beard: Alana looked visibly frustrated throughout much of the game,
probably because her jumper wasn't falling. Of course, an off-game for Beard
is great for the rest of us humans, as she still totalled 15 points, 5 boards
and 4 assists, with a couple of steals thrown in for good measure. She
got a lot of her points from the foul line, using her incredible first step
to force defenders to hack her. She scored from the field with a drive,
a spectacular spin move, a putback and a cut. Her jumper wasn't falling but
still looked good. There were times when her ballhandling was a bit shaky,
actually losing control of her dribble. She was able to recover, only turning
it over once and finding shooters spotting up for threes. It was good to
see her contribute when things weren't coming easily. I certainly hope she's
up to playing thirty minutes a night or more.

** Mosch: Sheana had a huge impact in this game. Alternating with Georgia
at point guard, she did a decent job pushing the ball up the floor, assisting
on a transition basket. More impressive was her aggressiveness on the
boards, as she led the team at the half. Her most memorable play was a
spirited rebound that she then shovelled over to Tillis for an easy shot.
She also had a three late in the half, an excellent sign because she was
reluctant to take the long range shot last year. Sheana was more aggressive
offensively in the second half, getting a steal and layup early in the half
and proving to be a key figure in Duke's late, decisive run. She did turn
the ball over a few times, but this is understandable considering that she
was playing out of position. It's going to be very difficult to move her
out of the starting lineup, even when Gingrich is healthy again.

** Schweitzer: In the first half, Georgia was one of the few players who
seemed awake. She was, quite frankly, excellent in nearly every one of her
22 minutes. In addition to being Duke's biggest offensive gun (hitting on
an economical 7-9 shots), she chipped in with a handful of assists, rebounds
and steals. This is while playing point guard for much of the game and
playing aggressive defense on UM's best scorers. After starting off with
a three, she picked the ballhandler clean and got a runout. She quickly
scored again, single-handedly leading the Russians 8-7. After hitting 2 free
throws, she scored on a trademark Duke inbounds play, where a player on
the baseline is screened off for an open shot. She let others do most of
the work in the second half, scoring on a cut and dishing a couple of assists
to Tillis. Coach G kept her on the bench for most of the second half, but
she was there when her team needed her.

** Matyasovsky: Michele continues to round into shape after dealing with
injuries, using her size and perimeter skills effectively. She hit a three
late in the first half and also found Schweitzer on the break. In the
second half, she concentrated on rebounding and got a putback as a result.
She's not at last year's level yet, but she looks very comfortable. She
may need another two or three weeks to really get back to her peak level.

** West: Missy has really picked up where she left off at the end of last
season, playing solid defense and providing a lethal shot. Her strong
rebounding total is a new element, however, and she was especially powerful
in the second half, getting 4 boards in short order. Shortly after entering
the game in the first half, she slingshotted one of her trademark threes,
ending a 4-0 mini-run by UM. She also found Craig for an assist, but didn't
do much else in the first half. In the last ten minutes of the second half,
she went nuts, scoring 11 of her 14 points in an eight minute span, notching
two steals and getting those 4 rebounds. She also handled the ball a bit,
not turning it over in that span. Like Parent, Missy can really raise the
intensity level of a game, and she now has the confidence to just let go
and make things happen.

** Craig: A solid overall game for Rometra, including hitting a three. While
she didn't drive that much in this game, she really did show that she can
contribute from the perimeter, although her release seems a bit slow. In
addition to her three, she also sank a 15' jumper. Where Rometra will
contribute immediately is on defense, as she continued to wreak havoc on
opposing teams with her quickness. In addition to her 4 rebounds, she picked
up a couple of great steals and an assist. While not as spectacular as
Beard and Tillis, Craig has a lot of substance to her game and I think she'll
be a big part of the rotation.

** Brown: Nedra didn't play as much as the other frontcourt players, and I'm
not entirely sure why. She did have one awful turnover, but she got it
right back on the next play with a steal. She also had two pretty drives.
I love her quickness and size and I think she can contribute, although she
has to think through her passes a bit better and rebound more.

** Krapohl: Vicki had a very tough game. She looked lost defensively when
Duke was switching off screens and ended up in several mismatches. She
also couldn't get a shot to drop despite several open looks from three
and an attempt in transition. Vicki did find Schweitzer on a cut and
Matyasovsky for a three, as well as being effective in Duke's full court
press, snagging an inbounds pass. I admired the fact that she kept working
very hard out there despite her struggles. With Gingrich out, Krapohl's
role becomes much more important.

** Parent: Ro came in at a point when the team's defense was sluggish and
its passing was lackadaisical. She proved to be a huge difference-maker
in her first appearance of the year, after just over a week of practice.
She took a charge on a UM break that kept Duke's momentum going during a run.
During that same first-half run, she alertly found a cutting Schweitzer for
an easy layup. Parent hit a couple of free throws in the second half after
missing the front end of a 1-and-1 in the first. Her contribution really
went way beyond stats, as she teamed with Schweitzer to play some dynamite
defense in the halfcourt. Her crisp ball movement also went a long way
to reinvigorate a stagnant offense. Don't be surprised to see Ro as one
of the ACC's five best rebounders and its best defender.

** Gebisa: Lello continues to show promise. For the first time in her
career, she led the team in rebounding, and her quickness gave her some
opportunities at the foul line. She does have the distressing habit of
bringing the ball down when she gets a pass instead of turning and shooting
cleanly like Olga. She's not strong enough to consistently keep her grip
on the ball at all times when she does this. Lello missed a couple of
close-in shots but her height allowed her to get second shots for the team.

** White: Extremely raw on offense, Crystal did provide a solid rebounding
and defensive presence. She's reasonably physical and strong but seems
lost in Duke's offense--she doesn't seem to move much. It seems unlikely
that she'll play much at this point.

Miscellaneous Notes: After the game, the three seniors spoke briefly to
my continuing education Basketball class. All three were delightful, and
shared both their opinions about the game they had just played and their
lives at Duke, which I'm not really at liberty to repeat here. I will mention
their future plans: Georgia, Missy and Ro are all interested in playing
professional basketball for a couple of years, and I think Georgia has the
best chance at making it in the WNBA. Ro and Missy both talked about playing
overseas. Georgia said when she's done with that, it's on to medical school.
Ro is taking the LSAT's and wants to go to law school, while Missy is
interested in a career in coaching. All three women are obviously achievers
in a program that has consistently had the highest GPA's among Duke athletics.

Next Game: Friday, November 10th vs UCLA in the WSF Tournament in New
Mexico. They will face either LSU or New Mexico in the second round.