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Rob on Duke-Elon

Duke 108, Elon 26. November 21, 2003. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Here's all you really need to know about the Duke-Elon game: Elon had 26
points and 35 turnovers. In points off turnovers, Duke had a 48-2
advantage. The Devils had 21 offensive rebounds--3 more than Elon's total
on the boards--and led in second-chance points 28-0. One might ask what
was gained from such a lopsided matchup, and the answer is that it had
more to do with how Duke played than who they played. Thanks to a lack of
offensive continuity, the Devils were out of synch against Texas. They
didn't pass with a purpose and took too many bad shots, and were
frequently out of position on defense. They played hard, just not smart.
Playing Elon gave Duke a chance to see how much progress they made. How
well Duke played shouldn't be measured from the final score, but rather
from the overall level of discipline and cohesion that was evident on the
floor. Duke did not slack off at any time, made smart decisions, looked
for the extra pass, and played smothering defense. All in all, it was a
good test for their matchup against Purdue.

Duke started the game on a 15-0 run in the first five minutes of play.
Mistie Bass, Lindsey Harding and Alana Beard dominated in the early going.
Beard hit Bass inside and Harding in transition off a steal, and then hit
jump shots from 17' and 15'. After Elon finally got on the board, Duke
ripped off an 8-0 run, with Iciss Tillis hitting a jumper, Beard finding
Monique Currie & Tillis on cuts and Jess Foley hitting Brittany Hunter
inside on a turnaround jumper. Elon then played Duke even for a few
minutes, as Duke's margin hovered around 21 points. The Devils ran off 7
straight points, with Currie scoring 5 of them, including an nifty
up-and-under. After an Elon three, Duke went on a 10-0 run that
essentially put the game away for good. The Devils showed off their
outside shooting touch, with Vicki Krapohl hitting a couple of threes.
Meanwhile, Currie hit a tough turnaround jumper from 8' and Foley found
Hunter on a simple inbounds play. The Devils cruised to a 55-17 halftime
lead, with walk-on Dana Morgan getting some early game action. She used a
crossover to set up a nice-looking 17' jumper.

There wasn't much that Duke did wrong in the first half, but they were
even better in the second half, holding the Phoenix to just 9 points.
Elon did hit the last shot of the half on a buzzer-beater, which just
served to get Duke mad. Duke continued to play all-out in the first five
minutes of the second half, and the result was a 20-0 run that really
served to crush Elon's spirit. Seven different players scored during the
run: Beard on a three and runout, Tillis on a turnaround, Krapohl from
three, Currie in transition, Hunter on a couple of post-ups, Bass on a
three point play and Harding on the foul line. The bewildered Elon team
never gave up and kept fighting hard, but they kept coughing up the ball
facing even the most passive of zone defenses.

Some more good signs for Duke: they got to the line and converted (15-20
for 75%), they didn't turn the ball over much (13 times), and everyone
shared the ball (everyone except Morgan had at least 1 assist, and there
were assists for 75% of Duke's baskets). Duke didn't take any plays off
against a team that they were supposed to beat and never let them even
think that they were in the game. This is the first real sign I've seen
that Duke is learning to come together as a team.

** Negatives:

1. Feeding the post. The only real negative was that there were a few
bad passes into the post, and the result was either a turnover on the
pass, a turnover when the player fumbled the ball, or a block by Elon
thanks to a bad angle.

** Positives:

1. Ball pressure. The Devils attacked the ball handler, overplayed the
passing lanes and collapsed around post players, resulting in a fantastic
defensive performance. Duke forced a shot clock violation and Harding &
Currie both forced held balls. Special kudos to Jess Foley for her 6
steals, mostly gained simply by anticipating the pass.

2. Unselfishness. Everyone was trying to set up everyone else. Beard fed
the post all game long, as did Foley. The team did a good job of
recognizing cutters and dishing off to them at good angles. The threes
that Duke made came off relocation passes.

3. Rebounding. Duke is simply punishing every opponent on the boards, and
everyone is contributing. One would expect Beard, Tillis, Hunter and
Currie to do well in this category, but Bass had a breakthrough game with
10 boards and Foley had 6.


** Bass: This was one of Mistie's best games as a Blue Devil. In
addition to posting up harder than usual, she was also very quick in
getting after the ball. One can see the improvements she made over the
summer starting to emerge in terms of her play, especially with regard to
her conditioning and stamina. This was the first time she had reached
double figures in rebounding in her career, and she proved that she
deserves to start with her aggressive and physical play throughout the
game. Mistie also did a nice job of passing out to the open shooter,
played solid defense and got to the foul line. The big change in her
offensive approach is that she has stopped putting up wild hook shots and
has started using the dropstep more often, as well as using her body to
shield her shot from the defender. She is so strong that she should be
able to do this much more often.

** Tillis: Another solid all-around game for Ice. She scored in a
variety of ways, including a three, a pull-up jumper, a spectacular lob
finish, a cut, a transition hoop and a turnaround jumper in the lane.
Tillis was strongest on the boards in the decisive first half. One can
really see that she is enormously confident right now and that her
teammates are looking to get her the ball. She's also looking a step
quicker than last year, at least in terms of reaction time, because she's
now chasing down balls that would have gotten away from her in the past.

** Currie: Monique is still not 100% on the floor. She's not pushing off
on her left leg as much as she could and is still hesitant taking the
jumper. That hasn't stopped her from being a big factor, however,
especially as a playmaker. Mo also moves as well without the ball as
anyone on the team, finishing a perfect cut. She did hit a couple of
short jumpers, including a gorgeous turnaround shot. The intensity and
the intelligence are in full effect, but the all-out aggressiveness has
not yet come back. It's important to note that Mo doesn't have to get it
all back in one game, one week or one month, and that her ability to take
the pressure off Beard & Tillis has already been a big plus.

** Beard: I think that this year's Duke team will most likely lose more
games than last year's edition, but will wind up being a better team down
the stretch. Likewise, Beard's stats will likely not be as impressive in
2004 than in 2003, but I think this will make her a more effective player.
Alana doesn't need to take 20 or 30 shots in a game anymore, and prefers
to set up her teammates when possible. Her 9 assists against Elon are a
testament to this, and put the lie to the claim that she's a
one-dimensional offensive player. Beard managed to lead the team in
scoring by being tremendously efficient. She did hit a couple of jumpers
early on, but also had 2 tip-ins, a runout off a steal, a three that set
the tone for the second half, a post-up, and a hook shot in the lane. It
was obvious that she could score whenever she wanted but did a nice job in
reading the defense. Relieving some of her offensive burden has also
allowed her to go after the other team's point guard a bit more, and she
wreaked all kinds of havoc with her ball pressure. Elon's players frankly
seemed in awe of her.

** Harding: Lindsey bounced back from an awful first game with a fine
floor game. She hit a jumper early on, finished in transition, and then
dished to Tillis for a three to put Duke up 11-0. Harding later had
another transition basket, a halfcourt drive, and a spectacular spin move.
There was no wasted motion for Harding, no poor decisions, and yet she was
as aggressive as ever. With Coach G instituting a five-pass rule in
halfcourt possessions (straight out of Hoosiers!), this served to calm
everyone down, and Harding in particular.

** Hunter: The only thing Brit did wrong in this game was bring the ball
down a couple of times, leading to a few turnovers. Other than that, she
was her usual terrific self, especially on the boards. Hunter may be the
best rebounder I've ever seen, in terms of aggressiveness, positioning,
quickness and strength. She's almost impossible to box out. The one
thing she needs to continue to work on is her hands, because she sometimes
tips the ball instead of grabbing it. Hunter is a big target down low and
she's doing a nice job of getting open, hitting a turnaround jumper,
scoring off an alert inbounds play, converting on a high-low pass from
Mistie Bass and converting 3-4 from the line.

** Krapohl: After a number of games where she was ice-cold from three,
Vicki heated up with a 3-5 showing from beyond the arc, and did a lot more
besides. She played the passing lanes and hit Currie and Harding in
transition. In general, she played with a lot more energy than I've seen
in recent games and looked to be a difference-maker off the bench. I
think coming off the bench has been a bit of a tough transition for her,
but she's now adjusting a bit better.

** Foley: An excellent floor game for Jess, who is still having problems
getting the ball to drop (2-8 from the floor). Instead of getting
discouraged, she has found other ways to contribute, either by finding her
teammates (7 assists, 0 turnovers, and most of the assists were in the
first half), hitting the boards (5 in the game, most in the second half)
or playing the passing lanes (3 steals). Jess made great decisions,
protected the ball and made her teammates better. She's got to start
hitting some shots and find other ways to score than her jumper, however.

** Morgan: After shooting an airball on her first attempt, Dana's swish
off a jumper after a nasty crossover brought huge cheers from the crowd.
She missed another jumper and had another shot blocked.

** Cameron Craziness: The crowd was excellent in this game, with nearly
5000 in attendance. Moreover, there was a good student presence, all of
whom stood and were loud throughout the game. They went back and forth
with a decent-sized Elon contingent, who cheered loudly the entire time
(even when they didn't have much to cheer for--I heard a cry of "Hold them
under 110!") and even taunted Duke a little bit. A chant of "Texas
Longhorns" was met with "You're no Texas". The coaches and players
definitely noticed the student presence, and they went over to exchange
high-fives with them as they ran off the court. In attendance tonight:
one Nikki Teasley, who looked like she had a makeover courtesy of the WNBA
charm school. Why she was in Cameron (her personal house of horrors) and
not over in Chapel Hill (where UNC was playing a game!) is beyond me.