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Duke Upsets Louisiana tech

Duke 76, Louisiana Tech 64. December 2, 2001. Walt Disney World.

Basketball is a game dependent both on matchups and styles of play. Long-
time power Louisiana Tech has long depended on athleticism and an up-tempo
game, trying to create as much chaos as possible on the court. They rely
on a power game in the half court and rarely have great outside shooters.
But on defense, they use a strict man-to-man set, trying to create ball
pressure to generate their fast break. Against many times, this is a great
game plan. Against Duke, it's playing right into their hands. In
particular, they played Alana Beard straight up, allowing her to
penetrate at will and either go straight to the basket or drop the ball
off to a cutter. By not forcing Duke to take a lot of perimeter shots,
they let Duke get into a nice offensive rhythm. And by turning the ball
over too much, Tech let Duke use its fast break to maximum effect. For
Duke, it was a bit of redemption after Toledo and South Carolina got Duke
out of synch and unfocused. The amazing thing about the win is despite
the fact that it was in double-digits, the final margin could have been much greater.
Duke missed a number of easy layups as Sheana Mosch and Beard combined
for a stunning 0-10 in the second half. And while it was a very strong
effort, Duke is far from "fixed". The team's chemistry is still a work
in progress, and no one seems to want to step up at the point guard spot
despite many chances. Still, the fact that Duke went up against one of
the most physical teams in the country and didn't flinch (and in fact,
outrebounded them) is an excellent sign.

The game followed Tennessee's dismantling of undefeated NC State, with
the Lady Vols absolutely smothering the Pack on defense and on the boards.
Louisiana Tech hadn't played in about a week, while Duke's been playing
a rather rigorous slate of games. Duke started the game like they had
something to prove, and really pushed back the Lady Techsters. The first
half was truly all-Alana, all the time. She started with a pass to Wynter
Whitley and then pulled up for a jumper. She put Duke up 6-4 with a wicked
crossover that froze her defender on the baseline. Duke went to a pure
motion game where the post players acted more like forwards, constantly
cutting and screening and trying to create mismatches. It was a plan
that worked well, because Whitley and Iciss Tillis were able to isolate
their player for easy one-on-one matchups, or they set nice picks up high
that allowed Beard to either drive or pass to a cutter. It was the
perfect game plan for a team that relies on power and quickness like Tech.

Whitley scored after posting up while Beard found Mosch in transition.
Tech countered with a Brooke Lassiter three (her only one of the game).
But the Devils reeled off a 6-0 run that gave them a working margin that
they never lost. The first two buckets came on post-ups created by using
the aforementioned motion game, while the second was a perfect strike by
Beard to Mosch. The Devils led 16-9 with fourteen minutes left in the
half. After another Tech basket, Michele Matyasovsky found Tillis inside
and Beard had one of her typical steal and runouts. Only it was more
remarkable than usual, because after she stripped the ball, she lost control
of it for a moment, but kept dribbling as she was stumbling, managing to
keep her balance before she swooped in for the layup. Duke now led 20-11.

Tech countered by going to its bread-and-butter: the post game. They
brought in Cheryl "Karl Malone's daughter" Ford, who attacked Duke
aggressively in the post. After whittling the lead down to 20-15 with
twelve minutes left, Beard drove and hit a 10' leaner and Tillis found
Currie on a backdoor cut. Everytime Tech seemed to be ready to make a big
push, Duke would hit a couple of baskets to keep them at arm's length.
The next four minutes would feature both teams trading baskets, with Duke
keeping a 9-11 point lead. Currie scored twice while Alana rebounded a
miss to give Duke its biggest lead at 34-21. But she also picked up her
second foul, so Coach G kept her on the bench for the last five minutes
of the half. Tech responded with an 8-0 run as no one could hit anything
for Duke. But Currie broke their momentum with a big-time drive that
gave Duke a 36-29 lead at the half.

After Tech cut it to 5 on their first second-half possession, Duke once
again had a couple of quick jabs that gave them a bit of room to breathe.
Not surprisingly, they came from a boxer's daughter: Iciss Tillis. She
had a nice turnaround jumper and hit a three from the top of the key to
put Duke up 41-31. The teams would again trade baskets, with Duke still
leading by 8 with sixteen minutes left. Beard then had the ball and passed
it to a wide-open Tillis in the corner. Alana yelled: "Iciss, take that!"
and Tillis responded by burying the three and pushing the lead into
double figures once again. But apart from a Whitley rebound basket, Duke
would have trouble scoring for the next three minutes, and Tech crept back
at 48-42.

One could sense that they were waiting for Duke to make just a couple of
mistakes so that they could go on a big run. Instead, Duke responded with
a 6-2 run that featured lean-in shots from Currie and Tillis. After
hitting her shot, Iciss was accidentally tagged in the head by Ayana Walker's
chin, and started bleeding profusely. Duke responded with a Crystal White
turnaround, but La. Tech scored 5 straight points to come within 56-51.
Tech immediately matched a Currie drive with another score, and Duke once
again led by 5 with around eight minutes left. Duke did not panic, and they
stuck to their game plan. They went inside to White, who got fouled and hit
both shots. Then Beard grabbed a rebound and lasered it downcourt to Currie,
who floated in for another basket. Duke was up 9 and was never seriously
threatened again.

The basket that finished Tech off came after 2 missed shots by Duke,
but the rebounds were retrieved by Mosch and Tillis (back in the game with
a bandage wrapped around her head). Beard then drove the lane and dished
to Whitley for a hoop that gave Duke a 65-55 lead with five minutes left.
The two teams exchanged baskets for the rest of the game, with Duke going
after rebounds hard after Tech started missing threes. Matyasovsky hit
some late shots to keep the lead above 10.

The game was a big confidence booster for Duke, which was a bit shaken
after losing to 2 unranked teams. The loss to USC in Cameron was especially
distressing. But they controlled the game against Louisiana Tech and showed
that their athleticism is as good as anyone's. Duke still has to prove
that they can beat a team that will zone them for the whole game, but they
should still savor a win over one of the great programs in women's college
basketball, one that will likely go very far in the NCAA tournament. Now
Duke must show the same level of focus and determination for the rest of
their games. Possibly the best thing about the game was Duke's defense.
Tech star Takeisha Lewis was just 2-5 from the field, while All-America
and USA Basketball POY Ayana Walker had 12 points. And there was a lot of
communication on defense as well.

** Negatives:

1. Blocking out. Duke allowed 12 offensive rebounds, and gave the Lady
Techsters too many easy chances. Tillis did a much better job of this
in the second half after being held without a rebound in the first half.

2. Finishing. Duke missed a number of easy layups with little defensive

3. Offensive rebounding. Duke had plenty of opportunities to go after
missed shots, but Tech did a decent job of blocking out.

** Positives:

1. Ball pressure. Duke turned the tables on Tech, forcing their starting
backcourt into 10 turnovers.

2. Transition game. Led by Beard and Currie, Duke was magnificent in the
open floor.

3. Valuing the ball. Though Tech didn't pressure Duke the way I expected,
the Devils still did a great job of valuing the ball.


** Tillis: Iciss was way too passive in the first half, but she really
came alive in the second half. When she's at her best, she is truly a
Walking Matchup Problem, and her skills flummoxed Tech in the second half.
She scored 8 points in the first five minutes of the second half, giving
Duke a nice working margin. She took a nasty bump on the noggin from Ayana
Walker's Duchess-like chin, opening a gash on her forehead that would have
made Ric Flair proud. After going to the locker room for bandaging (and
collecting her wits), she came out and played excellent defense. In
particular, she grabbed 6 rebounds and helped hold off Louisiana Tech's
charge. Iciss also did a few nice things in the first half, like finding
a cutting Matyasovsky for a score, blocking a couple of shots and coming
up with a few steals. On the negative side of things, she tried a couple
of ill-advised drives that wound up in turnovers and had a few weak passes
go that way as well. Still, let it never be said that she doesn't fill
up a stat sheet: 16 points (50% shooting), Duke's only threes of the game,
6 boards, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals and 4 turnovers. All against a very
tough team. Iciss stepped up to the challenge here and played well.

** Whitley: Wynter has continued to start primarily for her defensive
contributions, and this game was no exception. She was one of the few
Devils strong enough to body up to Tech's power players like Ford and
Walker. The defensive drop-off when thinner players like Crystal White
came in was quite obvious. But Wynter also contributed in a number of
other ways, especially on offense. Some of her baskets were simply a result
of being in the right place at the right time, but this shows how much better
the team is communicating at this point. Her first two baskets were on
post moves: one a standard post-up with a nice entry pass from Beard, and
the second a superb drop-step. She had a rebound basket in the second half,
but her biggest bucket of the game was finishing a Beard drive when she
dropped off the pass. This came after Duke had just come up with 2
consecutive offensive rebounds and was trying to put Tech away. Whitley
also did a nice job of playing with foul trouble and still remaining in an
aggressive mode. Some more tangible evidence of her defensive presence:
2 charges taken, 2 blocks and 2 steals. At this point, she has certainly
established herself as the team's best post defender.

** Beard: Alana was superhuman in the first half, threatening to break all
sorts of scoring, assist and rebounding records. As it was, her 11 assists
were just 1 shy of the single-game record at Duke. She started out the
game 7-8 from the field, scoring on short pull-up jumpers, crossover
dribble drives, post-ups, runouts after steals and rebound baskets. When
she wasn't score, she was dishing off, netting 5 first half assists. In
other words, she was responsible for 16 of Duke's 18 first half field goals.
Not surprisingly, Duke suffered a bit in her absence, with the offense
getting a bit stagnant. When her shot wasn't falling in the second half,
she was still quite active, getting the ball to Tillis and Currie as often
as possible. She remained tough on defense and passed brilliantly, with
only a couple of weak passes into the post marring her stat sheet.

** Mosch: Well, you can't fault Sheana's effort in this game. But she
essentially blew 7 layups, which is hard to explain. With the way Duke
was running its offense, she should have gotten even more attempts on
cuts, but you could tell her misses were starting to get to her. On the
plus side, she came up with 5 tough rebounds and played decent defense.
Duke really needs more production out of her, though.

** Krapohl: The newest entry in Coach G's lineup experiments, Vicki basically
had one job: don't screw up. All she had to do was swing the ball around
and let Alana get in good position and avoid defenders for a bit. On
defense, she simply needed to stay in front of her opponent. The one thing
she could not do was commit stupid turnovers. For the most part, Vicki
was a success in all of these areas. As a bonus, she used her hustle to
hit the floor and come up with 3 rebounds. She also had an assist to Iciss
for a three. She missed her only shot attempt of the game, but it was
at least a good-looking three. I'd say she's earned another start.

** Matyasovsky: Michele had a few good moments in the first half, getting
some desperately-needed rebounds and dishing to Tillis for a basket. But
it was her play down the stretch that helped seal it for Duke. As always,
she moves better without the basket than anyone on the team, and her use
of a screen for a backdoor to put Duke up by 12 with two minutes left was
an important basket. She followed that up by swishing a 15' jumper on
the baseline after she realized all of her teammates had been cut off from
her passing angle. I really like the way she can hang around and hang
around and suddenly make several important plays in a row. Her difficulty
with physical play makes her somewhat of a liability on defense, but she
can get the tough rebounds when necessary.

** Currie: Mo really bailed Duke out of trouble in the second half with
her exquisite runners. While she also had a few assists, a block, a steal
and a rebound, the way she really helped her team out was by being
unstoppable on offense. Her first basket came on a backdoor cut, and she
followed that up with a post-up. But mostly, she scored by attacking the
basket and putting up floater after floater--unblockable shots that fell
in softly. She also scored on several drives. The best thing about her
performance was that she played to her strengths and didn't try to do too

** Gingrich: Krista has basically been given every opportunity to make an
impact this year. To date, she has not. Simple as that. In this game,
she had a particularly awful turnover that moved Coach G to bench her the
rest of the game. She needs to continue to try and improve, however, and
stay as positive as possible. As the team's oldest player, her teammates
need to look up to her, even if she isn't playing well.

** White: Crystal had her problems on defense and was ineffective on the
boards, which limited her playing time. However, she did come up with
several key baskets. The first was a nice post-up in the first half
which extended Duke's lead to double digits for the first time. A more
important one came with ten minutes left in the game, right after Tillis
left with her injury. She got the ball and went right at Tech, scoring
on a turnaround jumper. An even more crucial moment came with seven minutes
left, after Tech had cut the lead to 5. Crystal went to the foul line and
buried 2 shots--and on a one-and-one, no less. Tech would never get any

** Craig: Rometra is mired in a deep, deep slump right now, and other than
playing solid defense, didn't do much in her five minutes out there.

** Next Game: Thursday, December 6th at Virginia. This is Duke's ACC opener.
The extremely young and thin Hoos have actually played pretty well so far,
upsetting Virginia Tech and UCSB. Brandi Teamer is one of the best young
players in the league, averaging 11 ppg and 9.2 rpg. Telisha Quarles is
still a big-time scoring threat and LaTonya Blue is averaging 4 assists a
game. Virginia doesn't shoot the three very well (much like Duke), so
expect to see lots of zone from both teams.

by Rob Clough