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Duke Smothers Premier Players

Duke 118, Premier Players 56. November 4, 2003. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

A few things became apparent after Duke's dominating win over the
Premier Players squad. First, this team is staggeringly talented at every
position. Second, the sophomore class has noticeably improved and they
are ready to make significant contributions. Third, rebounding could be
an enormous team strength. Lastly, while Duke currently has an amazing
amount of individual talent, they are nowhere close to being a team--yet.
This showed during a 20-5 first half run by the P-Players, wherein Duke
suddenly looked baffled at having to face a zone and couldn't rotate over
to stop the three on 3 straight possessions. At one point, Duke went
nearly three minutes without a score. After a timeout and a rededication
to defensive pressure, Duke righted itself, took the lead for good with
about six minutes to go in the half, and went on a 25-5 run to end the
first half. A dispirited P-Player team only had 6 second half field
goals and allowed a jaw-dropping 65 second-half points. The keys were
Duke relaxing and the players developing a better feel for one another.

Certainly, the Premier Players did not lack for talent. Tonya
Washington is a shifty guard who broke off some nice moves for scores.
Tere Williams is a versatile inside-outside post who once beat Duke in
Cameron while playing for Virginia Tech, and did quite well in this game.
Angela Jackson played for Texas, India Lewis for an excellent Arkansas
team and Brandi McCain is a very talented player. The problem was that
once Duke started meshing as a team, there was no way to stop them.
Without a viable post threat or defensive stopper for the P-Players, the
Devils ran amok in the post, gathering up 23 offensive rebounds (to just
4 for the P-Players) and scoring 68 points. Duke had an absurd 33-4
lead in second-chance points.

The starters were Tillis, Bass, Beard, Currie and Krapohl. Currie was
clearly pretty nervous early on and barely touched the ball. Tillis was
also a bit tentative at times in the first half. While she only took 4
first half shots, she did her usual fine job on the boards (4 in the first
half on her way to 13 for the game) and in passing, dishing to a cutting
Beard for the first score of the game. Early on, Duke was trying to trap
and press a bit, but wound up leaving too many openings. It was clear
that Duke's foe had some players with a great deal of individual and
athletic talent, and were capable of making tough plays. A Currie pass to
Tillis for three put Duke up 5-2, and it stood at 5-4 when Brittany Hunter
entered the game. After a Krapohl steal, Beard missed a contested layup
but was backed up by Hunter, who grabbed the board and stuck it back in.
Her second basket was also a stickback, and she followed that up with a
perfect pass in transition to Beard. A Tillis rebound sparked another
break run by Beard and Currie, with Currie passing to Beard who passed
back to Currie for the easy score. That put Duke up 13-6 and prompted a

Duke went up 16-6 by going right and getting the basket and the foul and
left the game with about fifteen minutes to go in the half. Jess Foley
and Lindsey Harding had entered the game as well, and pretty much signaled
the extent to which Duke could present a bench. With Caitlin Howe and
Wynter Whitley out indefinitely, only frosh Alison Bales (on crutches but
still dressed out) will be able to add to Duke's reserve corps. The good
news is that there is quality up and down the bench as well as a
tremendous amount of versatility. At this point, Duke stopped attacking
the defense and started settling for awkward threes. Foley got pinned in
the corner and threw a pass at Mistie Bass's feet. The Devils stayed
ahead with a Foley three point play and a smooth-looking jumper from
Currie, but a 14-0 run by the P-Players had the crowd buzzing. India
Lewis and Tere Williams nailed consecutive treys to give their team the
lead. Worse than the disorganization on offense was the lack of defensive

Tillis and Currie turned things around quickly, however. With the focus
on Beard and what she might do individually, Monique and Iciss ran a
perfect give-and-go, resulting in a three point play for Currie. Duke
then threw on a full-court press, which resulted in Beard getting a steal
and quickly scoring to tie the game up. Beard left the game for a bit
thanks to a tight ankle, but a Harding dish to Foley from 15' gave Duke
the lead at 28-26. The P-Players took it back at 29-28, but the Devils
(sans Beard) cranked up a furious full-court assault to take control of
the game.

A Currie drive and dish back to Bass resulted in what seemed to be a
surprisingly polished-looking 10' jumper. Forcing a number of bad shots
now, Harding was carving up her foes left and right. She found Tillis in
stride for a fast break hoop, finished a transition basket on a Beard
feed, and dished to Beard for a three point play. She capped off that
portion of the run by snagging an offensive board and and finding Bass for
yet another nice-looking jumper. Beard was also going berserk, getting a
three point play after she missed a shot after her own steal. After she
had struggled a bit in the middle portion of the game, Hunter was starting
to warm up a bit as well. First, she located Krapohl for a three. Then
she smoothly finished a break started by Harding. She gave Duke a 21
point halftime lead by sticking back her own miss before the buzzer.

The second half got ugly in a hurry. Beard nailed an open three in the
corner, and then dished to a cutting Hunter in traffic for the basket and
the foul. Brittany missed the free throw but wound up getting the rebound
and going to the line again. Suddenly looking a whole lot more confident,
she was dominant down low. Coach G had made a few changes to the lineup,
starting Hunter, Tillis, Beard, Foley and Harding. After Duke went up
60-34, the P-Players had one last gasp and scored 4 straight points. A
10-0 Duke run put an end to any suspense, with Beard and Tillis nailing
back-to-back threes, Hunter hitting an exquisite turnaround jumper from
10', and Tillis draining a couple of foul shots.

After that, Tillis (18 second half points), Bass (12 second half points)
and Currie (12 second half points) took over, dominating a tired foe at
both ends of the court. Harding's one-woman fast break left a lot of
mouths agape, while Tillis was having her way in the paint. Meanwhile,
Bass was going to the foul line, hitting long jumpers (one from 18'!) and
generally looking for contact. Currie was hitting jumpers and finally
driving to the hoop. There were some tense moments when Hunter went down
clutching her leg in agony. It quickly became clear that she just had
some nasty thigh cramps, and so she was given a big bottle of water to
drink after she got some treatment. Walk-on Dana Morgan, after some
nervous moments in the first half, got a huge cheer when she hit a tough
driving layup in the second.

There was a lot to like in this game, but it's clear that we won't see
this team's real identity for about another month or so. They need to
prove that they can score against teams that play tough defense and have
efficient post games. Still, it's obvious that all of the parts are
there. Other than depth, there are no glaring flaws on this team. This
could be the start of a very interesting ride.

** Negatives:

1. Perimeter defense. The team did a poor job both in rotating over to
cut off players designated as shooters, as well as getting a hand in their
faces. Once Duke started jumping the shooters a bit better, the open
shots disappeared and the Premier Players had no chance.

2. Half court offense. At times, it looked rusty. Too many quick shots
were taken, and there weren't enough attempts at getting the ball inside.
At the same time, the posts didn't do a great job of getting open.

3. Cohesion. The difference between a group of talented players and a
talented team was quite clear. When Duke wasn't communicating well and
started jacking up shots, they fell behind. When forcing the P-Players to
do the same while working as a unit, they dominated.


1. Rebounding. While their foes weren't a great rebounding team, they did
at least have some size and experience. Tillis, Beard, Currie, Harding,
Hunter and Krapohl all had at least 6 rebounds apiece. Hunter forced two
over-the-back calls thanks to being in correct rebounding position. A
54-22 margin is difficult to comprehend, but there it wast.

2. Transition. Duke has always loved to run and it's clear that they will
try to do this as much as possible this year. With Beard, Harding,
Currie, Tillis and Hunter filling the lanes and a host of accurate passers
around, Duke will score a lot of points in transition. Harding in
particular looks completely in control of the offense.

3. Unselfishness. Seven of the nine who played had at least three
assists. There were a couple of missed scoring attempts because of
overpassing, actually.

4. Defensive pressure. Once the team cranked up the press, it had the
P-Players a bit itchy, and the result was a lot of easy fast break
opportunities. Duke had 38 points off of turnovers and had 24 on the


** Bass: Mistie started a bit slow, missing a shot and not doing a lot of
work on the boards. She looked a bit confused in the offense at first and
didn't do a good job of getting open. In the second half, she took
advantage of her opportunities and hit several jumpers, as well as a
sweeping hook. Bass also did a good job of doing what she must do in the
regular season: get to the foul line and convert. She showed off her new
body a bit by sprinting down the court. It's going to take time for Duke
to adjust to its new inside power, but Mistie will be a big part of this.

** Tillis: Iciss was another slow starter, and seemed to have some
difficulty in taking the full measure of her opponents. She certainly did
show off the range of her talents early on, with slick passes to Beard and
Tillis for scores, several rebounds, a three and a fast break finish. But
she really dominated in the second half, using her three point stroke to
set up her inside game. Integrating her floor vision and skill set, she
found Beard and Hunter for early second-half baskets while she was hitting
another three, getting to the foul line, and finishing off a Currie drive.
Later on, she went down low for a stickback and a pure back-to-the-basket
score. With 23 points and 13 boards, she was there to take care of some
business. This is the mentality she needs to have every night, and with
Currie around to help, it just might happen.

** Currie: It is a genuine pleasure to type her name into a game
description once again. She certainly made a triumphant return after
almost exactly one year to the date of her injury. In terms of what she
can do on the court, there's almost no difference between now and then.
In terms of what she WILL do on the court...that's a different story. Mo
was well-known for her fearless, acrobatic style of play built on strong,
aggressive cuts to the basket. Early in the game, she had lanes to the
basket that would have required dealing with a little contact, and she
hesitated on them. However, the new Mo Currie has a much more nuanced
understanding of the game than the frosh version, and so was able to
contribute in different ways. She ran the court well, finishing on a
layup. She demonstrated her much-improved jumper with a smooth 15' jumper
and a good-looking three that should have gone in. As the game went on
and she weathered some hard collisions, she got braver and braver. Mo
used her crossover to open up some driving room, and went to the foul line
several times because of it. Mo went harder to the hoop in the second
half, continued to pass the ball, and was now scoring on drives and
stickbacks. Currie looked a bit winded and emotionally exhausted after
the game, but one could sense that the entire experience was a big sigh of
relief for her. This was a fine return overall, but it's clear that her
best basketball is still in front of her. When her confidence in her knee
gets to a level where she can do some of the same things she tried as a
frosh, there will be no stopping her. Her give and go with Tillis in the
first half was a crucial play in all sorts of ways. It was an important
play within the game because it stopped an opponent's scoring run. More
importantly, it proves that Duke has a Big Three scoring group, one that
doesn't necessarily always have to rely on Alana Beard. Tillis and Currie
set up that play alone and worked it to perfection. This can only help
Beard, and the rest of the team, in the long run.

** Beard: Those detractors that claim that Alana can't go right should be
made to watch highlights of this game on the inside of their eyelids for
eternity. While Beard is certainly inclined to go left, she was
unstoppable going right as well. She hit the open three and attacked the
boards and defenders like her life depended on it. Having to do a little
less overall will free her up to cause more defensive havoc and freelance
a bit on the offensive end. The P-Players were clearly unprepared on how
to deal with a player of Beard's intensity level. Long-time observers
have seen it all before: the ball pressure, playing the lanes so well,
making instant transitions from defense to offense and back again, the
crisp passes, the difficulty her long arms pose on defense. On a team
jammed with talented players, Beard's own ability and relentlessness still
stand out after all these years.

** Krapohl: Amazingly, the scrappy Vicki is clearly the least talented of
the regular players, but still manages to make herself into a factor. An
indefatigably cheerful leader and presence, she also fires the team up
with her intensity. She hit a three that put the team up by 18, but more
importantly ran the break well and put a lot of pressure on the ball. Her
traps with Beard worked quite well. Vicki may not start or get as many
minutes as she is perhaps accustomed to this year, but she's still a huge
part of the program.

** Hunter: Brittany plantar fasciitis in her feet is definitely limiting
her movement a bit. But this is relative, because the agility she
displayed for a post player was remarkable. Her first two baskets were
stickbacks, but she missed her next few shots and looked frustrated. Her
reputation as a perfectionist was quite clearly well-founded, as her
frowns seemed to be aimed strictly at her own perceived failings.
Hunter's strong play down the stretch of the first half help repair those
feelings, as she could do no wrong down low. Restricted at first to
hitting simple stickbacks, she expanded her range a bit to include tougher
turnaround jumpers. With her power, size and solid form on her shot, she
became very tough to stop. While not strictly a banger like Mistie Bass,
she used her strength to draw fouls, power up for shots and grab rebounds.
Quite simply, she can do things no other Duke player can on the floor.
When she's fully healthy, expect to see her become even more dominant on
the boards and aggressive down low. As it stands, it was a strong first

** Foley: Jess's offensive numbers (2-6 from the floor) were deceptive.
In fact, she had an excellent floor game, contributing in ways she never
was able to last year. Jess needed a year to adjust to the American style
of play...not to mention adjusting to America itself! With her remarkable
ability to move without the ball and play the passing lanes, she has
suddenly become a huge x-factor for Duke. Her 6 assists and 7 rebounds,
not to mention numerous deflections, wound up having a significant impact
on the game. Her assists were both on cuts and relocations, and she used
her size and improved quickness to track down rebounds. Foley's height
(6-0) made her an ideal choice to trap opponents near the sideline, and
her court sense will make her an important decision-maker on the floor
this year. While not a true point guard, Jess nonetheless is a great
passer and improved ballhandler. It was pointed out to me that she ran a
couple of plays (spotting up for a jumper on a particular kind of cut)
that used to be run for Georgia Schweitzer, and there similarities beyond
the two really seem to go beyond simple body type and hair color. Most
important of all was that Jess had an impact on the game without even
taking advantage of her greatest ability: hitting the three point shot.
This will become much more important down the line.

** Harding: For a player who's only been practicing for a few days, she
was nearly flawless. Other than a mediocre showing from the foul line
(2-6), she simply put on a show. Using her blindingly quick first step,
the Blur ran roughshod over the P-Players, creating break after break with
either one of her skywalking rebounds or nasty steals. 8 assists and 0
turnovers for a player just getting back into the thick of things signals
that she's ready to run the team, ready to take the "keys to the Ferrari",
as the DBR crew likes to say about point guards running talented teams.
In addition to getting the ball into the hands of Beard, Currie, Tillis,
Hunter and Bass, Harding also sank an 18' jumper and outran the defense a
few times for easy scores. She still needs to prove that she can hit that
jumper on a regular basis under duress, but she played with a high degree
of focus and excitement. Harding will be a perfect complement for the
team's big scorers and will put up a few points herself when the
opportunity presents itself.

** Morgan: Dana played a minute in the first half and looked incredibly
nervous, but relaxed in the second half and did quite well. After scoring
on a break, she drove and dished to Bass for a jumper. She was beaming
after the game and really proved that she belonged.

** Cameron Craziness: A very good crowd for an exhibition game (I'd
estimate at least 2500, maybe 3000). It was announced that Duke's
season-ticket holders had gone up to an all-time high of 3500, remarkable
for a program that only started selling tickets about 6 years ago. There
also seemed to be a greater number of students than usual. One young man
held up a sign that said "Have My Baby, Ice!!!". Oh, and the new
chest-bump maven (replacing Sheana Mosch) is Mistie Bass.