Duke's 17th win of the year marked yet another record that has fallen of
late: this is Duke's best start ever. The win keeps them in first place in
the ACC with a 5-1 run, yet Coach G isn't exactly crowing about her team's
successes. Duke is not dominating teams in the way they're capable of, as
the team as a whole tends to relax and get sloppy when they have a working
margin. Frosh superstar Alana Beard has been carrying the squad, to the
point where she was almost the team's entire offense against Maryland. As
a result, a lot of the other players are starting to stand around
watching, and so overall team efficiency has wavered. On the other hand,
Duke has kept winning, coming up with big defensive plays and clutch baskets
when they've really been needed. The game against State was an interesting
variation on this theme: this time, the team came through with defense and
playmaking without the services of Ms. Beard. Alana dislocated her thumb
while going for a steal and
will be out 3-4 weeks. More on that later.
But the second half of the game, even if Duke did have problems scoring
and moving the ball around, gave a lot of players the opportunity to do
something positive, and a number of them did. In particular, Sheana Mosch,
Rochelle Parent and Iciss Tillis all came up big down the stretch. Mosch
had been less and less of a factor in the last seven or eight games; she
simply was not asserting herself on offense. Tillis had a couple of bad
games after a dominating stretch, and it was clear that her confidence was
shaken a bit. Parent has always played hard and well, but she proved that
she could help the team offensively when necessary. State sagged off of her
so much that they were daring her to do anything with the ball. The fact
that she was the team's leading scorer proved how tough-minded and mature
this senior is.
Though Duke won the game, they still have to prove that they can effectively
move the ball without Alana. And it doesn't help that the next two games
are on the road, against top contender Virginia and improving UNC. It's
odd how coincidence can strike. Last year, before a big road showdown
with Virginia, Duke lost Peppi Browne. Duke, shaken without their senior
leader, was crushed by the fired-up Wahoos. But Duke rallied and played
some of the most exquisite team ball I've ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Luckily for Duke this time, Alana will only miss 5-7 games, depending on her
progress. She should be back in time for Duke's last four regular season
games and the postseason. And hopefully by then, the other players will
have stepped up and the team will be better balanced.
Duke's initial gameplan of packing it in down low on defense went out the
window rather quickly as State hit 2 straight threes. NCSU is the worst
shooting team in the league, so it was surprising to see them come out so
hot. Duke didn't panic and kept pace, as Beard drove for a layup and then
set up Mosch for a 15' baseline jumper. State was able to isolate Parent
a lot away from the basket, and she responded by hitting an open 15' jumper
facing the basket. State's Tynesha Lewis hit a three to put the Pack up
11-8, but a picture-perfect break run by Schweitzer found Parent going in
for the layup. A Tillis putback of a Beard miss on the run gave Duke its
first lead at 12-11. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
The rest of the half, and really, the rest of the game, was spent in Duke
trying to get a working margin and State chipping away at it. What was
interesting is that the Duke players involved weren't necessarily the usual
suspects, especially offense. Mosch took advantage of a State defense that
was allowing the drive to get a layup, and then hit a soft turnaround jumper
in the lane. When Beard found Parent cutting for a scoop shot, Duke was
up 18-15 with about thirteen minutes left.
Duke went up 22-15 thanks to a Beard three point play and a Parent foul
shot, but State scored 5 in a row to make things tense again. Duke put the
squeeze on with Georgia finding Iciss on the run, Beard hitting a turnaround
jumper and Parent improbably driving against State's defense and coming up
big. Duke still only led 28-22 with about six minutes left. Up til this
point, not only had Georgia Schweitzer not scored a single point, but she
hadn't even taken a single shot. This changed when Tillis looked out of
the post and found Georgia for a short jumper. Thanks to reserve Rometra
Craig, Duke got a bit of a spark from its bench as she hit a couple of
free throws and drove in for a basket.
The first half ended a bit weirdly, as Duke had the ball and a chance for
the last shot with 21 seconds left. Georgia turned the ball over but Alana
got a steal at midcourt as she lunged for the ball and was fouled. She missed
the front end of a one-and-one but stole the ball again as State was trying
for a last shot, but then turned it over again. More importantly, she had
dislocated her right thumb when she got that first steal, the same hand she
had hit hard earlier in the game when lunging after another steal. She
went straight to the hospital for x-rays and then surgery as Duke held a
State quickly cut that lead in half in the second period, but Schweitzer
got a three to reestablish it on a Tillis feed. State went inside to score
4 in a row, but Duke once again amped things up a bit with a short West
jumper and a sharp Craig drive. Both teams were starting to wear the
other down and things started to get a bit sloppy as a result. Both
teams started to short-arm their shots, and so getting proper positioning
for the best possible shot became crucial. For about four minutes, the
two teams traded baskets, with Schweitzer hitting another long jumper.
With about twelve minutes to go, Amy Simpson of NCSU hit a three and
brought her team to within 44-42. From here on out, both teams played
with a fierce determimation. There was a lot of emotion in the air, as State
was fighting for its ranking in the league and Duke was trying to adjust to
Alana's loss. Parent stepped up and drove yet again for a basket, and then
LaNedra Brown hit a basket after a Duke stop. But State came right back to
crucial as she tipped in her own miss after a drive. Mosch then found
a cutting Schweitzer to put Duke up 52-46.
But with seven minutes left, State was far from dead. Amy Simpson
hit a three to once again pull the Heels to within 3. A Craig baseline
jumper made the lead 5 again, but Lewis drew a foul on Georgia and got a
three point play. Iciss Tillis had reentered the game with about five
minutes left, and she made her presence felt. With her team desperately
needing some kind of post score, she backed in and shot a perfect turnaround
jumper. A State offensive rebound kept them within 2 with three minutes
left. Craig couldn't convert on a drive, but Tillis was there to tip it in
for a 58-54 lead. A quick rebound by Tillis on the next possession set
up Georgia for a break, where she found a zooming Mosch for an easy layup.
Duke was now up 6 with just two minutes to play.
The tough Lewis then walked up and hit a three to make things harder for
Duke. A couple of possessions later, Schweitzer took a rebound and found
Mosch streaking down court. A State player was waiting for her, and a charge
was called after contact was made. It was a very close call--the State
player's feet seemed to be moving, but Sheana did dip her shoulder very
slightly. But State missed on their next possession, and the omnipresent
Parent got the rebound and was fouled. Ro missed the front end, giving State
yet another shot. After some scratching and clawing, Lewis was fouled and
hit both with 22 seconds left.
What happened next will always be a legendary Duke memory for those who
were there. Sheana tried to inbound the ball, but it was slapped out of
bounds. With the 5-second count looming, she threw a perfect pass to
Georgia, who was using every inch of her vertical to leap at that ball.
She guided it into the basket and the team went beserk. Mosch then kept
her composure and deflected a pass out of bounds. On the next
possession, NC State got it to red-hot Amy Simpson, whose shot was
blocked by Tiilis. Another attempt inside the arc hit iron, and Mosch
rebounded with 0.1 seconds on the clock. She missed the front end of the
one-and-one, but there wasn't enough time on the clock to do anything.
Duke had once again survived a tough game by the skin of its teeth, and
did it with defense down the stretch. The scheme had as much to do with
the block as anything. Duke will typically mix up their defenses, where
for example they'll play straight man to man after they miss a shot, but
switch every time the other team screens if they make a shot. Down the
stretch, Coach G used this switching defense because State had been using
their screens so well. Tillis happened to be guarding Simpson as a
result of the switch, and her big height advantage was an important
factor in blocking that shot.
1. Defense. Both perimeter and post. Parent controlled State's Carisse
Moody, who is capable of enormous scoring outbursts, despite giving up
several inches to her. Mosch and Craig did a great job on Tynesha Lewis,
whom despite her 17 points was only 6-19 from the field.
2. Balance. Early in the game, it was clear that State was going to take
their chances with Beard's jumper and completely blanket Schweitzer, who
never got a single good look at the ball. Both Alana and Georgia recognized
this, and so they worked hard to find their other teammates. This gave
them a lot of confidence early on, and that confidence served them well
down the stretch.
3. Rebounding. While Duke did give up 15 offensive boards, a continuing
problem, they got tough down the stretch. Even a player who is normally
not a good rebounder, Rometra Craig, got into the act with 5 boards.
Schweitzer, Parent and Tillis deserve special mention for their work.
1. Foul shooting. Parent missed a crucial front end that would have given
Duke a 5 point lead with a minute left. Sheana missed the front end that
would have given Duke a 4 point lead with a second left. Both turned out
not to matter.
2. Outside shooting. State was heavily guarding the perimeter, but they
unnerved Duke to the point where the Devils were throwing up airballs--even
from 15 feet. Duke's lack of movement meant that no one was getting
screens for open shots.
3. Ball movement. Normally, Duke gets a very high percentage of their
baskets via assists, often as high as 75%. In this game, it was just 40%,
as players had to take desperation shots and try to create on their own.
Duke's lack of movement meant that no one was getting screens for open shots.
** Tillis: A very solid game after some shaky performances. To be honest,
Iciss had some shaky moments in this game, but she put it all behind her
for the stretch run, where she looked smooth and confident. The best thing
about her game was the way she rebounded. While not super strong, she's
very quick, and has excellent hands. Her long arms snagged many a board.
Better still was her chasing after offensive rebounds, tipping in a ball
twice. Her outside shot looked flat and rushed, but she had no problem
running the court. She had a couple of flaky turnovers in the second half
where she got that sort of confused look in her eye, but when she returned
in the last four minutes, she was all business. Iciss' beautiful turnaround
jumper and alertly following Alana after she missed a layup were the signs
of a player who was fully tuned into the game. And her block on Simpson
was simply a great play that needed to be made. Hopefully, Iciss can
continue to build on this and play the rest of the year with the guts and
savvy she showed in this contest.
** Parent: Wow. A true warrior. The player who does whatever it takes to
win had to take up a bit of a glamour spot as she scored on jumpers and
drives. Ro took her 24th charge of the year, a stat the women's team started
to keep track of because of Parent. She did most of her offensive damage
in the first half, when she hit a jumper, scored in transition, hit a free
throw, and drove to the basket. With the amount of space NCSU was giving
her, she had to drive or risk the offense stagnating more than it had been
doing. In the second half, the iron was not as kind as she hit an airball
jumper (a shot that was not repeated) and bricked a layup or two. She did
twice hit baskets to give Duke some breathing room in the second half. But
her mission in the second half was defense, and she made the biggest impact
there, getting a bunch of rebounds and playing fantastic defense on Carisse
** Beard: Alana had a solid but not brilliant first half as State found
ways to contain her. Still, she was a constant disruptive force on defense,
and this is what eventually got her injured. Here's
another article on the greatness of Alana. Alana had just
three field goals: two drives and a turnaround jumper. Even in her limited
minutes, she still made life difficult for the NCSU ballhandlers, and hit
the boards hard. The one good thing about her injury is that it won't affect
her conditioning, since she'll still be able to run. She also does a lot
with her left hand, so she may practice that a bit more as well.
** Mosch: Sheana started the game off extremely hot and continued to
contribute throughout. Of course, no contribution was bigger than her
pass to Georgia. That pass came after a previous pass had been knocked out
of bounds. Her ability to stick with the play even in the face of extreme
pressure was gutsy. She hasn't been showing that kind of focus in the last
few games, so both coming out hot and finishing well was a welcome change.
It was also nice to see her make a variety of baskets: a jumper, a drive
and a turnaround. She also started moving the ball around a bit better as
the game went on; too often, she was one of the players standing around
not doing anything. But in the second half, she had 2 alert passes to
Schweitzer and also hit a crucial transition bucket. Her defense also really
picked up while she kept her turnovers more-or-less under control.
** Schweitzer: Georgia was being closely guarded throughout the game and
also looked like she had not quite recovered from the flu, but still did
what it took to win. She had a short jumper and found Parent and Tillis in
transition in the first half, but was 4-8 from the floor in the second with
4 boards. She was near to fouling out but managed to play smart down the
stretch, and hit one of the biggest shots of her distinguished career when
she caught and shot in one sweeping motion. Georgia will have to continue
to step up her scoring in Beard's absence.
** Craig: A pretty good game from Rometra, who hit some big free throws
towards the end of the first half. She also had a nice drive against the
slow-reacting State defense to help boost Duke. Rometra kept her turnovers
to a minimum and was very composed for the most part. Her outside jumper
was not falling, but she made up for it with her drives and a shot around
the basket. Her 5 boards helped make up for Alana's absence in the second
half. Rometra will be one of the players who will have to really step up in
Alana's absence in terms of ball pressure and taking teams off the dribble.
She's very confident, so she may just deliver.
** Matyasovsky: Michele just did not have it for this game. She put up
weak, ill-considered desperation shots. She picked up 2 quick fouls and
only managed one board. I definitely think this game was an aberration,
because she's been so mature and tough of late. The shots she took were
also fired under extreme pressure---sometimes with the shot clock running
** West: When Alana went down, Missy came in. The results were mixed.
She badly missed both of her attempts from three, although State was guarding
her tightly and the Duke players missed her when she was open a few times.
She hit one jumper but also had an ugly turnover when he failed to inbound
a ball and got caught by the five second count. She didn't seem completely
ready to get this much playing time and it hurt her composure a bit. But
she'll have to get used to it over the next month, because Coach G will
need her to do a lot.
** Brown: Nedra had one terrific play, a soft turnaround jumper. She
also had one hideous play, losing the ball out of bounds as she was running
the floor for what would have been an easy score. That shook her confidence
and made her sloppy, so Coach G took her out. I love seeing her active
out there, though--she has the potential to be a great hustle player.
** Cameron Craziness: With 5,781 in attendance, this was the fifth largest
game in Cameron history for the women's program. Still, the Wolfpack fans
made more consistent noise, although they were thorougly drowned out
towards the end. One could hear the "Our House" chant being shouted. One
thing I noticed is that the program is now putting the lyrics to "Fight
Blue Devils fight" on the scoreboard. Also heard was the old chestnut "If
you can't go to college, go to State". After the charging call on Mosch,
this was amended to "If you can't go to State, be a ref."
** Next Game: January 22nd vs. Virginia. This is a huge matchup against
a team with only one ACC loss, though unranked. Their defense is still
in a building phase but Schuye LaRue can score with anyone. Mitchelson has
been a bit of a disappointment, but Volnaya has been a solid sidekick and
Quarrels is simply a deadly player. Beyond that, the Cavs have a lot of
role players. How well they fill those roles will determine who wins the
game. Can Duke shut down UVa's big three? Can Duke effectively move the
ball without Alana Beard? How will Duke's defense react to the inside
presence of LaRue? This will be a very intriguing game and it'll be on
TV at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Net.