This was not ECU. This was not Hampton, or Howard, or Charleston
Southern. Florida International University has long been renowned for
having a top-notch women's basketball program. This year's young team was
ranked #39 in the country by womenscollegehoops.com and played #2 LSU to
within 14 points. They easily disposed of Miami and Charlotte and
certainly had the size and shooters to give Duke a challenge. Instead,
Duke dominated FIU in every phase of the game.
In my scouting report on
FIU written on September 5th, I said, "FIU will be a very tough matchup
because of their good size, passing ability and ability to score inside
and out. They probably won't look to run much but instead slow down the
game a little and set screens until they get a good look. Duke will have
to be very patient in this game, fight through every pick and watch out
for the open shooters when on defense. Offensively, they have to take it
right to them--I'm not sure FIU can match Duke's speed, and they can be
turned over for easy baskets. More than anything, Duke has to dominate
the boards. If they do that, they cut out FIU's greatest strength and
will nullify a lot of easy baskets."
Results: 25 FIU turnovers resulting in 47 Duke points. FIU was just
4-12 from three and 43% overall. Duke won the rebounding battle 40-31,
including getting 20 offensive rebounds. Best of all, Duke only turned
the ball over 8 times. The Devils pretty much did everything right,
especially in the magnificent first half. I'm not sure I've ever seen
Duke play a better half against a good opponent. Duke could have won by
80 points or more if they had kept pressing; as it was, they still
dominated the second half. The performance goes beyond numbers, though:
I've rarely seen Duke that focused and intense at both ends of the court.
While Beard & Tillis were coming up with spectacular defensive plays, it
was the superior post defense of Michele Matyasovsky and relentless
perimeter defense of Lindsey Harding that made Duke so tough to score on.
On offense, every pass had a purpose, every shot taken was a good one, and
no one was afraid of contact. That meant a percentage of 59% for the half
and 57% from three. The beating was such that FIU coach Cindy Russo would
not speak to the media after the game, which was a first.
The game was close early on as both teams were trying to feel out what
the other was doing. Beard scored 4 points in the first couple of minutes
after FIU turnovers, hitting a turnaround jumper in the post and scoring
on a cut. Mistie Bass had two of her shot attempts sent back and FIU took
advantage by scoring 4 straight points. Bass got the ball in the low post
once again but this time passed it out to Tillis for a 15' jumper from the
baseline. FIU's center Dace Cinite hit a short jumper to tie it up at 6.
Duke had brought in Lindsey Harding and she immediately grabbed a Michele
Matyasovsky miss and was fouled. After she hit both freebies, Tillisstole an entry pass and eventually hit a three after Beard found her
spotting up. FIU hit another short jumper to make it 11-8, but that was
as close as they would come the rest of the way.
Alana drove around and then pulled up for a 15' jumper, a shot that
hasn't been falling regularly this year. She then stole the ball and
passed ahead to Vicki Krapohl, who dished to Tillis for the finish.
Essentially, once Duke got out in transition, it was all over--FIU didn't
have the speed to keep up. After a moving pick by FIU, Beard drove in for
the score "and one". Tillis stepped in for a steal and handed it off to
Beard. Alana drove but this time was double-teamed in the post, so she
dished off to Mosch. Sheana hit a simple 10' baseline jumper that
jump-started her confidence. All of a sudden, Duke was in control at
Ivelina Vrancheva hit a three for FIU, but would be hounded by Harding,
Krapohl and Beard for the rest of the game. Duke embarked on a 17-0 run
that essentially ended the game, holding FIU scoreless for nearly five
minutes. Beard started it with a pull-up jumper from 12' away but then
went to the bench for a rest. The reserves did not disappoint, with
Harding driving in for a three point play as the shot clock was winding
down and Mosch hitting another jumper and nabbing a steal & runout. Jess
Foley got a steal and passed ahead to Tillis, who had leaked out for an
easy transition basket. A rested Beard came back in and immediately got a
steal & runout. FIU wasn't helping their cause any by missing 4 straight
Duke took advantage of those woes in a big way. Tillis drove the lane
and flicked in a pretty sweeping hook shot. Beard grabbed a rebound and
passed ahead to an impossibly fast Harding, who scored easily. When FIU
finally scored when 6-8 Sylvia Mesa grabbed an offensive board and laid it
in, that made the score 38-13. Duke responded with a 10-0 run. This
time, it was the jumpshot that spurred the run. Tillis hit a 10' jumper
on a pass from Mattie, Krapohl dished to Mattie for a three, and Tillis
relocated the ball out to Krapohl for a three. After an FIU score, Duke
ripped off a 7-0 run, with Whitley hitting a three and Tillis & Bass
hitting some free throws.
FIU actually closed out the half with an 8-6 "run" as they finally hit
some shots. Duke wasn't far behind as Bass hit a turnaround jumper and
Beard scored on a steal and a short jumper. When the smoke cleared, it
was 61-23, Duke. The scary thing about the half is that FIU wasn't
playing that badly. They shot reasonably well when they were able to get
shots off (45%). While they turned the ball over 16 times, only 3 were
unforced errors. They simply ran into a buzzsaw, a team operating at
near-maximum efficiency. Beard had 19 points and Tillis 15, but even if
you took those two away Duke still would have had a 27-23 lead!
FIU started the second half on a 5-2 run as Mistie had one shot sent
back but scored on another. She hit a turnaround to spark a 9-0 Duke run.
Tillis hit a jumper, Harding found Mattie stepping outside for a three,
and Beard found Harding on a perfect cut. The score was 72-28 with about
four minutes gone by in the half. FIU scored twice in a row after a
couple of Duke misses, the first time they had done so since they had tied
the game at 4-4. Tillis scored on a rebound basket to end a Duke droughtof about two minutes.
Duke embarked on yet another run, this one an 11-0 job. The game was
starting to get a bit sloppy, so a lot of it came on foul shots, though
Matyasovsky hit a three and Bass had a rebound basket. After sitting out
about eight minutes, Beard came in briefly to hit a turnaround jumper from
15, and left for good a minute or two later. After Tillis scored on a
fast break with about eight minutes left, she also left the game. After
that, with the score at 90-38, FIU actually outscored Duke 20-16. Much of
that came on free throws. Still, it is instructive to note that even if
Duke hadn't scored a single point in the second half, they still would
Duke won so easily for two reasons. The game was a triumph for
preparation and planning. Duke had done a lot of film study on FIU and
knew everything they could do. They were very smart in taking away all of
FIU's preferred sets. Second, FIU did not match up well with Duke at all.
Their normally steady guards did not react well to Duke's traps or intense
ball pressure. For their part, Duke not only used their traps to great
effect, but made sure that all of their defensive switches and rotations
were quick, crisp and clean. Duke switched off on a lot of FIU screens, a
tactic that worked brilliantly because FIU was trying to set a lot of high
screens to free up their shooters. It's one thing to be quick and
athletic, but it's another to use that quickness intelligently and as a
unit. With this game, Duke took a big step in doing just that. On
offense, everyone looked confident and relaxed. At the same time, every
pass and shot was done with a purpose--there were few bad passes or bad
shots. Duke will be matching up against deeper, more athletic teams in
the future, so even when playing well things won't be this easy. But if
Duke plays with as much focus, heart and intelligence down the road as
they did tonight, this could be a special year indeed.
1. Fouls. After picking up just 5 team fouls in the first half, Duke
committed 15 in the second. Some were close calls, but most of them were
silly on Duke's part. Jess Foley managed to foul out and Michele
Matyasovsky came close.
2. Shot selection inside. Duke knew that FIU's Cormisha Cotton was a
great shotblocker, not to mention the mountainous Sylvia Mesa, but Bass
kept putting up the same shots that were sent back. While I admire her
tenacity, Mistie needed a slightly different plan of attack. She started
to do this later in the game, when she sealed off her defender and scored
when the entry pass came into her.
3. Blocking out. Duke did a good job on the boards overall, but FIU got
extra chances at the line and inside. If they had managed to convert a
few more free throws, they might have made it more competitive.
1. Ball movement. Very crisp, from perimeter to post and back out again.
Every player had at least one assist and seven players had multiple
assists. Bass had a career high of 3 as she deftly relocated the ball
under threat of double-teams. It was beautiful to watch.
2. Ball pressure. Beard and Harding were relentless while Tillis got into
the passing lanes. Everyone except Krapohl had a steal and Vicki did an
excellent job of hounding her opponent. Duke was even pressuring the ball
when they went into a 2-3 matchup zone. The zone pressured the shooters
while making the post players non-factors. It also allowed Duke's
defenders to deflect the ball once it got inside. This was the best it
has looked all season.
3. Transition play. Duke's fast break is its most feared weapon, and
there's a good reason why. Even though they missed a few chippies, simply
getting downcourt so quickly wore FIU out. Mosch, Tillis, Beard and
Harding all took turns finishing in transition.
** Bass: Mistie was back in the starting lineup and had a very interesting
game, one that was definitely a learning experience. She was 1-8 in the
first half, and it wasn't because the shots were hitting the backboard.
Rather, FIU's shotblocking specialist Cormesha Cotton blocked 4 of her
shots and 6-8 Sylvia Mesa also sent back a couple. This would intimidate
some players, but it only seemed to make Mistie more determined. In the
second half, she was 4-7 from the field, with only 1 blocked, and also 4-4
from the foul line. Part of the problem she was having was that she was
clearly not used to having her turnaround jumper and hook shots
challenged, much less blocked. Mistie needed to use a couple of different
moves--either a head & shoulder fake or a drop step--to confuse her
opponents. One one play, she sealed off her defender perfectly and then
took the entry pass and scored. That showed that she wasn't just standing
there waiting for the ball. Another nice development was seeing her
really move the ball around. She had 2 relocation assists and she could
wind up with many more if teams continue to double-team her. Despite the
troubles she had, it was clear that nothing discourages this young woman
on the court. In terms of poise and confidence, she's playing well beyond
her years. As the team adjusts to her and she adjusts to the team, and as
everyone gets used to running 4-out/1-in motion when she's in there, she
will continue to add a new dimension to this team.
** Tillis: After a sloppy game against Charleston Southern, Iciss came
out red-hot in this one, frustrating the players assigned to guard her.
Her versatility was on full display, hitting a 15' jumper and a three
early on, and then finishing in transition twice after that. She followed
a hook shot with a 10' jumper, dished to cutting players and shooters,
blocked shots and jumped into the passing lane for steals, and looked good
doing it. When Iciss is on, she is an even bigger headache for opponents
than Beard because of her size, versatility and touch. With the presence
of Bass, Iciss has been freed up to take more outside shots and wander the
lanes a bit. I'd like to see Iciss take opponents off the dribble a bit
more and use the pull-up in the lane. It'd also be nice to see her post
up more often as well, just to keep those skills in use. All-in-all, this
was one of her best showings of the year.
** Matyasovsky: Michele had an offensive explosion and was actively
hunting her shot, which was nice to see after her weak showing against
Charleston Southern. However, that was not the most impressive thing
about her game tonight. Mattie had to guard 6-8 Sylvia Mesa for much of
the game, and was simply magnificent. She fronted her essentially the
entire time, and alertly deflected any passes coming her way. (FIU
probably should have tried the lob, but they clearly didn't trust Mesa's
hands.) On one play, Mesa caught the ball in good position on the block,
but inexplicably brought the ball down. Michele blocked the shot as Mesa
was bringing it back up to shoot! Mesa proved to be a complete
non-factor. Meanwhile, Michele took the slower, bigger posts of FIU
outside and burned them with her three point shooting from the corners.
Throw in 6 boards (4 offensive as she chased down misses) and another
score on a 17' jumper, and you have a superior game from the senior.
** Beard: When Alana made her first couple of jumpers, I thought, "Uh-oh."
When she gains that much confidence, it's time to hide the children
because Alana is an unstoppable force when her jumper is flowing.
Breaking down her first half scoring, she had one post-up, 2 drives, 3
jumpers and 2 runouts. Throw in 4 boards, 3 steals, 2 assists and 0
turnovers, and you have peak efficiency. She was only 1-4 in the second
half but was barely trying to score. In this game, Beard passed the great
Kira Orr for fifth place on Duke's all-time scoring list with 1407 total
points. Next up is Georgia Schweitzer with 1620 points. Alana has also
moved up to #7 on the assists list with 308, #8 on blocks with 60, #18 on
threes with 43 and #9 in free throws made with 266. Remember folks, this
is just 9 games into her junior season.
** Krapohl: One thing I've noticed in Vicki's development as a player is
that her defense has quietly become very good. It's not that Vicki has
magically become quicker, it's that her recognition of offensive patterns
has improved. In particular, she switches much quicker now than earlier
in her career and is much more adept at getting around screens. While she
will never be someone you fear off the dribble or a great creator, she is
still an excellent playmaker, coming up with 6 assists in this game.
Vicki is simply making the right pass at the right time. The way she
knows how to set up Beard and Tillis simply shows how much continuity is
important for a class. Simply by the virtue of having played with them
for over two years, she's familiar with where they want the ball and when
to get it to them. Like Matyasovsky, this is a role player who makes her
team better. She knows when to step it up and shoot and doesn't get upset
when she doesn't get the shots. As long as she keeps the turnovers down
(0 in this game is certainly a nice figure) and hits the open jumpers, she
will be a nightmare for opponents.
** Harding: Another outstanding game for the young guard. Interestingly,
the team is looking to her more and more to create when the shot clock
winds down. So far, she hasn't let them down, hitting short jumpers or
getting fouled nearly every time. Against FIU, her decision-making was
superb as she had no turnovers and still found Matyasovsky for a three.
She scored on a runout, a cut, and had a spectacular drive for a three
point play where she ducked one post player and drew contact for another
as she put up the shot. Her perimeter defense was absolutely outstanding
as she never allowed her foe to get in front of her or get open looks.
Lindsey is really starting to mature, though she has a lot of challenges
ahead of her.
** Whitley: Wynter bounced back from a bad game to play reasonably well in
this one. Her offensive numbers are relatively modest, with that three
and a rebound hoop, but she was aggressive on defense and on the boards.
More importantly, she made few errors while still affecting a lot of
plays. She didn't have a huge game, but definitely took a number of
positive steps forward. Wynter will be needed in the future to provide a
spark off the bench with her defense and scoring potential like in the
Tennessee game, and must be ready to seize that opportunity when it
** Mosch: Sheana hit her first two jumpers of the game, an excellent sign
for her. While she's been playing with great energy most of the year,
seeing her actually hit those jumpers gave her an extra bounce in her step
at both ends. She was one of many aggressive guards on defense, getting a
steal and runout. FIU could not keep up with her when she was running.
In the second half, she was busy setting up teammates for scores and
getting rebounds, though she did hit a three and a late 18' jumper as time
was winding down. Like Matyasovsky, she finally looked comfortable out
there. Hopefully, this trend will continue.
** Foley: This was kind of a weird game for Jess, who seemed incredibly
reluctant to shoot despite getting several good looks. She only took a
couple of shots the entire game, and did wind up hitting a late 3. Oddly,
she somehow got into foul trouble and wound up fouling out. Duke really
needs her to play well off the bench, given the way she runs motion and
can shoot the ball.
** Cameron Craziness: There was a big crowd for this game, and they were
very enthusiastic. Once again, the Duke band CD was played during
timeouts, and people were very into it. Brooke Smith didn't play in this
game because of a sprained ankle, but it's nothing serious and she hopes
to be back for the Saturday game against Tulsa.