Duke 65, Utah 54. March 25, 2003. Reynolds Coliseum.
Lost in the hand-wringing over Duke's non-domination of the NCAA
tournament thus far is the fact that the Devils have played some
high-quality teams. Georgia State was infinitely better than any of the
other 16's that Duke has faced in the past and even the 15's and 14's.
With a sticky defense and a high-powered scorer in Kim Smith, Utah was an
even tougher draw. The Utes play a style that is less than attractive and
that keeps the scores low: ball-control, using a lot of the shot clock to
wear out defenses and get the best possible look at the hoop. It doesn't
hurt when you have a potent three point attack and a scorer like Smith,
who is a bigger but slower version of Jackie Stiles, the former SMS player
who knocked Duke out of the tournament two years ago. The news that Alana
Beard had sprained her ankle in practice and was uncertain for this game
sent chills up and down the spines of the Duke fans who had heard the
news. As it turns out, the Devils were able to keep the Utes at arm's
length for most of the game, blew it open in the second half and played
possession basketball down the stretch. The final margin of 11 was
deceiving since Duke had a 21 point lead with under five minutes to go.
As always, basketball is a game of matchups. Georgia State had frustrated
Duke with an effective matchup zone, but the Utes were strictly a
man-to-man squad. This meant that Beard and Lindsey Harding would have
open lanes to the basket if they were aggressive, and that they were. But
what wound up winning the game for Duke was its defense and ability to
turn the Utes over for some crucial points. That, along with the freshman
class rounding into sudden maturity, gave Duke the edge they needed
against a superbly skilled and disciplined opponent.
Beard had iced her ankle for virtually the entire night before the game,
stopping only for six hours of sleep before she slapped the ice back on.
It certainly worked, because she forced a turnover at the game's onset and
then drove in for a three point play. Alana had that look on her face
where nothing will stop her. Duke took an early 8-2 lead after Vicki
Krapohl drove and kicked out to Iciss Tillis for a three, and then Beard
set up on the blocks and hit a turnaround jumper. Duke often likes to set
up Tillis for the three early in a game to give the defense something to
think about. After a Utah three, Beard drove and dished back to Harding,
who hit the open 10' jumper. The teams traded baskets over the next
minutes, with Duke maintaining a 4-6 point lead.
A Krapohl three was matched by a Utah three. A Harding drive was met by
yet another three. Tillis hit a 5' jumper and Beard a free throw to give
Duke a 19-13 lead with twelve minutes to go in the half. Duke went cold
over the next couple of minutes and Utah couldn't miss, going on a 7-0 run
to take their only lead of the game. Duke was getting plenty of
opportunities, but just couldn't take advantage. Jess Foley came off the
bench and proved to be a big spark, sticking back a miss to give Duke the
lead again and begin a 12-0 run that gave Duke the margin they needed in
this game. Harding drove and dished to Foley in the corner for a big
three. As Duke's defense turned up the heat, Beard noticed that the Utes
were playing her rather loosely on the perimeter. She didn't hesitate to
shoot and buried a couple of threes during the run. With under five
minutes left in the half, Duke suddenly led 31-20.
The Utes stepped up their defense and scored 5 straight points to cut
into Duke's margin. Beard responded once again with a drive late in the
half that provided Duke with a 33-25 cushion. The Devils actually shot
better from three than two in the half, going 5-11 from the bonus stripe
and 7-17 inside. Tillis was struggling, only hitting 2 of her 8 shots.
Whitley and Bass were a combined 0-4 from the field. The good news was
that Alana had scored 15 points and that the Devils turned Utah over 10
times vs only 6 Duke miscues.
Duke started the second half by turning up their defensive pressure,
which resulted in runouts after steals for Beard and Tillis. This
reestablished an 11 point lead at 38-27, but Duke again went cold for
several minutes, with only a Mistie Bass rebound going in Duke's column.
Utah rattled off 9 points in their run, including a couple of threes.
Smith had actually been shut down a bit in the first half, only scoring a
couple of late threes when Beard made a couple of bad switching decisions.
The Utes ran the offense through her in the second half, and the result
was 9 straight points.
The Devils adjusted and Beard went into attack mode, shredding the proud
Utes defense with a variety of moves. Harding fed her the ball in the
post, where she easily scored on a turn-around. Alana then managed to get
a crazy floater to drop as she was falling out of bounds. Combined with
an earlier jumper that bounced straight up and then into the basket, it
was clearly her night. Beard then hit a cutting Foley for a layup and
pulled up for a 15' jumper. The Utes were reeling and Duke kept
attacking. Mosch drove and was fouled, hitting a free throw. Tillis
pulled up from 15' in the lane and nailed the shot, giving Duke a 51-38
lead with under ten minutes to go.
Duke got even more intense on defense over the next few minutes, going
on a 12-4 run. Bass got a stickback, Foley hit a three, Tillis hit a
short turnaround jmper, Beard sank a 10' jumper and Harding scored on a
rebound basket to give Duke an impregnable 21 point lead. Good thing too,
because the Utes finished the game on a 12-2 run. The fact of the matter
is that the Utes ran too deliberate an offense to make any real kind of
comeback, and Duke successfully ran the clock down several times. In the
end, Duke came out on top in every category: rebounding (+6), shooting (45
to 41%), turnovers (+4), and second-chance points (+9), among others.
Utah's 7 three pointers (on 20 attempts) were the only thing keeping them
in the game. While Smith got her points, the Devils were able to limit
everyone else. Shona Thorburn, who had a double-double in her previous
game, was held to 4-13 shooting. Overall, it wasn't a pretty game, but it
got them to the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth year in a row. Considering
that reaching that level eluded the program for three straight years when
Coach G was building the program, it's nice to see the team reach this
1. Perimeter defense. I loved the fact that Duke was playing such a
hot-shooting team, because it really exposed the fact that Duke is
sometimes a bit lazy in making quick switches on the perimeter. Smith is
as deadly a shooter as I've ever seen, and her 35 points against DePaul
certainly proved that. Duke made their run only when they were really
able to properly clamp down on Utah's shooters, but they still were a bit
lax throughout the game.
2. Free throw shooting. A minor concern; Duke still shot a reasonably 64%
but Beard did miss the front end of a one-and-one in the last five
minutes. Five different players took free throw attempts; all five missed
at least 1 shot.
1. Rebounding. Iciss had a really strong effort in particular with 10
rebounds, though Mistie was also pretty spectacular with 7 rebounds (4
offensive). This is a team that Duke should have dominated, and they did.
2. Post defense. Tillis shut down an effective scorer in Carley Marshall,
limiting her to 2 points on 1-3 shooting. Bass provided a physical
presence for Duke while Tillis used her quickness to attack Utah's front
3. Defensive pressure. This was the biggest key of the game. Duke had 22
points off 13 Utah turnovers, a remarkable rate of conversion. The steals
also seemed to come at key junctures, allowing Duke to build quick leads.
** Tillis: A very tough shooting game for Iciss, who missed a lot of
close-in shots. To her credit, she stepped up her performance at the
defensive end and on the boards, and did come up with 7 second-half
points. It was also nice to see her go through the game without a single
turnover. A solid supporting role kind of game, though Duke can't afford
many more of those sorts of performances from her this year--they need
star power, especially at the offensive end.
** Matyasovsky: With a perimeter-dominated opponent, Mattie got a bit
squeezed out in terms of playing time. Offensively, she has almost
disappeared, but she still did a few nice things on defense, including a
block and solid positional play. Her minutes have started to dwindle as
the frosh have finally proved themselves ready to play, but I still sense
that her experience will help the team at some point in the tournament.
** Beard: If this is how Alana plays with one sprained ankle, someone
take a hammer to the other one! She dominated Utah from start to finish,
bewildering their defense and harrassing their star players. She
blanketed Smith in the first half and even picked her clean. Alana took a
charge, forced a held ball, blocked a shot and was unstoppable at the
offensive end. Beard scored in nearly every way imaginable, from
post-ups, to threes, to short jumpers, to floaters to drives. It was good
to see her so aggressive on offense, because it set the tone for the rest
of her team. Smith did manage to get 20 points off of her, often needing
screens to get rid of Alana. Still, if Beard plays like this against
every opponent, it will be very difficult to beat them.
** Krapohl: A nice active game for Vicki, who was more than just a spot-up
shooter. She chased down rebounds, applied defensive pressure and dished
for assists. Her shooting overall is a bit off; one can tell that she's
forcing shots. She simply needs to relax, take open shots when they're
available and move on to the next play if she misses. Another problem
came on defense; it's not that she's not hustling, but that her height has
made her the focus of some defenses, who will try to post her up for
** Harding: An OK game for Lindsey, who shot a bit too often out of her
range and who was picked several times for runout baskets. She did hit a
short jumper, a stickback and a drive, and had her usual solid showings on
the boards (5) and for assists (4).
** Whitley: Wynter's role is to defend and rebound. When instead she
took 2 bad shots and allowed a player to score on her, she went back to
the bench for the rest of the game in favor of Bass. To be honest, Wynter
is much more effective against bigger, stronger players than the perimeter
specialists she faced in this game. That said, this is a couple of
straight games were Wynter worried too much again about shooting instead
of buckling down on defense. Duke will really need her to step up against
the best post players in the country, so hopefully she can turn it around.
** Mosch: Sheana was simply not effective on offense, taking just one
shot and not coming close to going to the rim, other than 1 runout. She
did managed to collect 3 rebounds, but was largely unseated by the more
** Foley: Jess' confidence continues to grow by leaps and bounds as she
had yet another solid postseason game. She was Duke's x-factor in the
game, the player who steps up to help Beard & Tillis. What I liked best
was her ability to score in different ways: the three, on cuts, and
rebound baskets. Utah was a perfect matchup for her because while this
was a skilled team, it's not a super quick or physical one. Jess could
operate quite comfortably and didn't have to fear physical play throwing
her off her game.
** Bass: Mistie is starting to resemble the dominant, confident player who
demanded the ball back in December instead of the timid player overwhelmed
by the rigors of conference play. Instead of getting down on herself when
she missed a couple of first-half shots, she instead worked even harder
and hit 2 big stickbacks. Her rebounding was at a much higher level than
usual and her willingness to accept contact is as good as anyone's on the
team, including Beard. Mistie is starting to perform at close to a
starter's level, and if she doesn't start the rest of the year, she may
start to get starter-type minutes.