Duke 95, Liberty 53. December 20, 2001. Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It is far too tempting when playing Liberty, Jerry Falwell's institution
of higher learning, to make the sort of wisecracks one would expect,
especially in light of Rev. Falwell's horrendous post-9/11 comments. But
I'll restrain myself, especially since it's not nice piling insult on top
of injury the way Duke completely dismantled the Lady Flames. Liberty
as a program is no joke--they win the Big South every year and play with
discipline. They are, however, absent their best player Michelle Fricke,
who was Big South player of the year in 2001. She's out with an ankle
injury (must...resist..."veil of protection" jokes) and Liberty has
struggled without her. On the other hand, her absence meant that Duke
could rest Krista Gingrich, who is dealing with a leg injury. The Devils
need her for the Tennessee game, especially the way she's been playing of
late. Still, Duke has started slow in a number of its games and let its
last opponent, UNC-G stick around much longer than they had any right to.
There were no such problems Thursday night, as Duke essentially ended
the game in the first five minutes, and stayed focused throughout the night.
Of course, there was some concern of Duke running out of players--Gingrich
was held out and Wynter Whitley was coughing and shivering on the sidelines.
She only played 18 minutes, and just did not seem to be herself on the
Duke started the game with Alana Beard finding Vicki Krapohl for a three.
Vicki leads the ACC in three point percentage at 52%. The Flames missed
3 straight shots though they did get a couple of offensive rebounds.
Beard got a steal but Tillis couldn't quite finish it, but she followed
it up with another steal and dish downcourt to Sheana Mosch for an easy
basket. This combination would be a recurring theme throughout the night.
After Liberty finally got on the scoreboard, Duke went on a 10-0 run
to establish firm control of the game. Not surprisingly, Alana was the
catalyst. She rebounded a missed Mosch jumper. Then she picked off another
pass and skipped it over to Mosch for a three. It was nice to see Sheana
take that shot with confidence. Mosch then continued her aggressive play
with a steal and runout. Finally, Iciss Tillis got into the act with a
steal that led to (you guessed it) Beard passing it back to her for a three.
Duke led 15-2 and the Devils were barely breathing hard.
It was clear that Liberty was shocked at how quick Duke was and how
aggressively they were playing defense. They shot a couple of free throws
right before a timeout, but that was simply the calm before the storm.
Duke went on an 11-0 run this time, with Monique Currie coming off the
bench to do a lot of damage. The run started on a hustle play--the ball
was loose on the floor and Alana dove after it and laid it in. Then she
picked up another steal and gave the ball to Currie. She drove straight
to the basket and flipped it in. Mo then got a steal of her own and
zipped it downcourt to a streaking Mosch, who went hard to the rack and
got a three point play. Mo then blocked a shot, which led to a couple
of Mosch free throws. Finally, Vicki found Mo in the lane for a gorgeous
turnaround jumper. Duke led 26-4 with an absurd fourteen minutes remaining
in the half.
Duke stopped pressing for a bit but stayed consistent on the offensive
end. Liberty regained some of its composure, but Duke still outscored
them 11-8 over the next five minutes. Duke's offense was quite diverse,
as Krapohl found Mosch on a gorgeous pass for yet another three point
play (her fifteenth point in just six minutes of play!), Tillis pulled up
for a 10' jumper in the lane, and Currie found Beard for a three. Alana's
stroke on her shot is completely different now, looking much smoother
with a better follow-through. More than that, she also looks comfortable
and confident taking it. Currie ended this segment of the game with a
twisting drive. She's at her best when she has room to operate, because
she has many ways she can finish.
The next five minutes were pretty much even as Duke's scoring slowed
down. Liberty played much better defense and was collapsing on the ball
more aggressively while Duke missed a couple of point-blank shots. Still,
Tillis found Beard on a cut, Tillis posted up for a basket and Currie
had another steal and runout. Duke got its biggest lead of the half when
Tillis dished to Beard, who posted up for an easy bucket and another
Beard steal led to a Currie basket. It was 47-20 with about five minutes
left in the half. Liberty finally made something of a run to close out
the half, outscoring Duke 10-8. Of course, the last three points of that
run for the Flames consisted of a halfcourt three--a prayer shot, one
might say. Tillis and Krapohl hit threes of their own (thanks to Matyasovsky
passes) to keep the pressure up, and the halftime lead was 55-30.
The second half was more of the same, only moreso. Duke started the half
with back-to-back threes by Krapohl and Mosch, disabusing Liberty of the
nation that they had a chance to come back. After trading baskets for
a bit, Duke went on a 6-0 run that featured Tillis. First, she hit a
turnaround jumper. Then she dished to Michele Matyasovsky for a short
jumper on the baseline. Finally, she rebounded a rare Beard miss. Duke
was up 69-34 but still looked focused. Did I say focused? I meant
**relentless**. Duke went on a 7-0 run with Currie running wild on a
three point play and a steal, while Beard hit a short jumper. The score
was 76-36, but to their credit, Liberty didn't give up.
In fact, they embarked on an 8-2 run fueled by steals. But Duke
answered with threes from Krapohl and Currie (who has now hit 2 threes
in a row after missing the first 12 of her career). Mattie finished up
what turned out to be an 8-0 Duke run by flicking a nice pass to Mosch
for a layup. With seven minutes left, Duke led 86-45. The rest of the
game saw Liberty trying to just regain some dignity while Duke was trying
to run out the clock, but the Devils still outscored them 9-8, with
Krapohl hitting her fifth three of the game.
There's not much to say about this game. Duke played as a team, with
22 assists for 36 field goals. They forced 26 turnovers, 17 of them steals.
The Devils shot 51% overall, 58% from three and 86% from the foul line.
They enjoyed a +10 margin on the boards. Everyone scored and five of seven
players were in double figures. Sheana Mosch alone outscored the entire
Liberty starting five. So did Duke's bench. Basically, the goal was for
no one to get hurt and to stay focused for the big throwdown with
Tennessee next week.
1. Boxing out. The one area where Duke had a problem was keeping Liberty
off the offensive boards. The Lady Flames had 17 offensive rebounds and
this helped them from being beaten by a much larger margin.
2. Careless turnovers. Alana was a bit casual with the ball a few times,
and Iciss tried to force a few passes inside.
1. Sustained intensity. I think this came in part due to having such a
shortened bench, but Duke never had any significant letdowns.
2. Ball movement. Duke did a great job of finding this best shot available
without overpassing. Seeing Krapohl take open jumpers was particularly
gratifying. Five of Duke's seven players had 3 or more assists.
3. Defensive pressure. It was simply unrelenting. Duke saw a weakness
and exploited it to no end. Duke scored 26 points off turnovers and 12
via fast break.
** Whitley: Wynter looked out of synch the entire time she was in there.
There were several times when she put the ball on the floor to drive and
simply lost control of it. When I noticed her shivering and coughing,
it was clear that she was sick. This didn't stop her from playing hard,
though--her 7 rebounds were one of her better marks. Wynter also played
tough defense. Hopefully she'll be healthy for Tennessee, because Duke
will need her against Michelle Snow and the Lady Vols' army of great
** Tillis: Lots of style, lots of substance, the occasional gaffe...the
typical Iciss Tillis Experience. The thing that makes Duke so potentially
dangerous this year is that Beard isn't the only player capable of taking
over a game. Tillis can go through stretches where she absolutely
dominates at both ends of the court. Her shooting, passing, rebounding
and defensive pressure can be tough to deal with. Of course, she doesn't
always play with the kind of focus she needs, and she could stand to get
tougher. But it's obvious that she's stepped up her game from last year
in every aspect. Her shot selection has become much wiser as she's
shooting 46% from the field. Her best stat is 8.2 rpg average, though I
can see this getting even better. Interestingly, she's second on the
team in assists. Against Liberty, she hit a couple of short jumpers,
posted up twice, hit a couple of threes and had a nice turnaround jumper.
She will soon be facing a big challenge against Tennessee.
** Beard: Alana actually had a few shots swatted out of bounds, but seemed
mostly disinterested in scoring in the second half. Instead, she
on rebounding and defense. She had a hand in 6 of Duke's first 7 scoring
plays that set the tone for the game. Alana continues her remarkable
assist run, notching 7 more. Her assists usually come with very little
dribbling--she penetrates and then quickly makes a decision. Or she'll
get easy assists from steals. Like Tillis, she was scoring inside and
out, with a three, a short jumper, a postup, a cut, and three rebound
Her only problem was her carelessness with the ball at times. She actually
lost control every now and then and had a couple of balls plucked from
** Mosch: I was waiting for a dominant game from Sheana; well, here it
was. She got off to a nice start with 3 easy transition baskets, though
she used her body well on a couple of them to get around defenders. She
confidently sank a couple of threes. When she wasn't scoring from the
floor, she was getting fouled and hitting every shot (8-8). Best of all,
she was moving purposefully without the ball and wound up scoring on cuts.
The most interesting stat was her 8 rebounds--she was remarkably active
and boxed out better than she had in quite some time.
** Krapohl: Vicki obliterated her previous career high of 9 with her 5
three pointers. In fact, all of her shots were threes. She had a solid
floor game with 4 assists and 2 turnovers, and didn't try anything too
risky. Vicki's not going to drive into the paint and try to dish off--
she will simply work the ball around the perimeter and look for open
shooters. That's all she needs to do, other than knock down the open
jumper when available. Her defense has been pesky but she's not taking
any risks there, either. All in all, she's done a solid job and the
chemistry of the starting five is excellent.
** Matyasovsky: As always, Mattie moved well without the ball, but all
of her short shots clanged off the rim or backboard. She only managed
to hit 1 short jumper. Still, she had sevreal nice assists, including
a beauty to Mosch on a cut, and played the passing lanes to the tune of
3 steals. She even threw in a block. It would be nice to see her with
a breakout offensive game sometime, because she really does have a nice
** Currie: Mo is just a force out there. If Liberty was perplexed at
Beard and Tillis, they were agog at what Currie could do out there. Her
individual offensive skills are as good as anyone in the league right now,
and now that her outside shot is falling, she's even more dangerous. That
said, she's a freshman and makes mistakes. Just not a lot of them. She
took Coach G's advice about her long arms to heart and plucked 5 steals
out of the air. Throw in 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 9-14 shooting and you
see a line that looks frighteningly like Beard's. Overall, I think Beard
is a more versatile player, but that Mo will eventually be the superior
scorer. As the season wears on, her potential to significantly influence
every play will only increase. As it stands, Duke's bench is quite potent.
Currie represents a scorer with size who can go off for 20+ points on
any given night, and she can rebound as well. Gingrich is a ballhandler
and passer who can hit threes. Matyasovsky can play any position from
point to post. The versatility of this group helps make up for their
overall lack of numbers.
** Cameron Craziness: As one might expect, the crowd was rather small--
around 2000 or so. Many were Liberty fans, and they spent most of the
game screaming about the officiating (final foul tally: Liberty 15, Duke 13.)
The most amusing thing I heard from a fan came after an astonishing Tillis-
to-Beard play: "they make plays that our men's team can't!" Before
the game, Coach G was honored for becoming the school's all-time leader
** Next Game: Thursday, December 27th against #2 Tennessee. The Lady Vols
look great and Duke will have to be at near-peak levels of execution to
have a chance to win. More on this later.
by Rob Clough