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Duke Dominates NC State, Goes 16-0 Once Again

Duke 86, NC State 60. March 2, 2003. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The key to Duke's dominant run in the second half of the ACC season has
been Coach G's ability to hone in on the team's most glaring weaknesses
and find ways to fix them. In the first league go-round, Duke often had
trouble coming out of the gates, either trailing opponents or getting out
to very slim leads. That was true both at home and on the road. Giving
their ACC foes any kind of boost early in the game gave them the
confidence to stay in it, often until the very end. At the same time,
Duke started to tighten up a bit, playing like they were under pressure
instead of the heavy favorites. Only Alana Beard could resist locking up
under pressure in every game, thanks to her near-maniacal will to win. As
it has been stated before, UConn taught Duke a series of important
lessons. You have to play great help defense or teams will be able to get
open hoops when you are applying pressure. You must get out in transition
to stop easy layups. Passing or dribbling into double teams will lead to
immediate turnovers. Thirty seconds of great defense is useless if you
don't block out.

One thing that Coach G discovered in the UConn game is that Lindsey
Harding was finally ready to contribute at the offensive end. A great
defender and solid defender throughout her first year, Lindsey was
reluctant to shoot and at times didn't know what a good shot was.
Fighting back against UConn showed that Lindsey stopped thinking and
started making plays. Putting her into the starting lineup made Duke
smaller, but much quicker. Duke's quickness was already one of its better
assets, so Coach G decided to risk leaving Tillis & Matyasovsky alone in
the post in order to intensify the defensive pressure on the perimeter and
also open up more chances for Duke's fast break. It's been an excellent
gamble, as Harding not only has improved her numbers across the board, but
her presence has also allowed Vicki Krapohl to get more open looks,
and Beard to have more freedom to attack wherever she wants on defense.
Even Mistie Bass, whom she replaced in the starting lineup, has responded
by shooting a much better percentage off the bench. Tillis & Mattie have
not let down at all, even matched up against top post players like Candace
Sutton & Kaayla Chones.

The game against NC State in Cameron was a routine win precisely because
Duke treated it like any other game. They knew their opponent well and
respected them. The Devils played tough defense and moved the ball around
well. The comparison to the stagnant offense seen in the early ACC season
with the crisp passing and movement without the ball in recent games is
startling. Harding is a big reason for this, but the improved play of
Sheana Mosch and Jessica Foley is another. While no one has quite been
able to replace the imposing one-on-one presence of Monique Currie, the
bench has done a nice job in at least picking up the slack in terms of

Duke's first mission was to come out and put State in a hole. Mission
accomplished: the Devils broke out to a 7-0 in the game's first three
minutes. Beard acted as a playmaker early on: she drove and passed back
to Tillis for a three and then drove and dished to Harding for an 18'
jumper. A Harding rebound led to her throwing a perfect pass to Tillis in
stride for a layup. After State scored thanks to some free throws after
an offensive rebound, Harding scored on one of her one-woman fast breaks
and then dished to Beard for a drive. Duke was scoring before the
Wolfpack could set up their sticky 2-3 matchup zone. With six minutes
gone by, the Devils were up 11-2.

State scored 4 in a row, forcing Duke to take tough jumpers. After a
Harding turnover, they were threatening to make the game even closer until
Mosch swooped in and stole the ball, passing it down court to Beard.
Alana saw that it was 1-on-2 but attacked the seam between the two
defenders, somehow splitting them for a spectacular layup. Any questions
about her potentially gimpy ankles had been answered. Alana was really
feeling it out there, sinking a turnaround 15' baseline jumper after State
scored on a stickback. Duke was able to consistently either outrun State
or patiently slice up their zone. Mosch got on the board on Senior Day
with a cut off a Harding feed. Terah James drove in for a layup, cutting
the lead to 17-10 with ten minutes to go in the half.

A Bass offensive foul gave the Pack a chance to cut further into the
lead, but Wynter Whitley (who had a superb day on the defensive end) came
up with a steal and passed it downcourt to Beard. State was ready for
her, having sent someone long just in case. It didn't matter. Beard spun
around the defender and put up a ridiculous circus shot for a three point
play. State may have been temporarily demoralized by the play, missing
their next 3 shots and 2 free throws. Meanwhile, Duke ran another fast
break, with Mosch pulling up from 15' to finish it. State missed again
but set up their tough defense. Harding penetrated and dished to Michele
Matyasovsky, who had not yet scored. Mattie swished the three and you
could see her eyes light up. She's usually content to rebound, pass and
screen, but she was hot and knew it. Her teammates responded by getting
her the ball, where she scored in the post on a hook, a 15' jumper and a
running one-hander. Tillis finished Duke's run with a turnaround jumper
in the lane, and the Devils suddenly led 33-12 with six minutes to go in
the half.

State got their act together, increasing their defensive pressure and
continuing to go hard to the offensive boards (9 in the half). That led
to a 7-0 run. Coach G let her team play through it, and Tillis responded
with a turnaround jumper that sparked a 9-0 run for Duke. The key was
Duke forcing State to take contested jumpers and then blocking out for
rebounds. Tillis had 2 key rebounds in this run, and then dished to Beard
for another three point play. After Jess Foley had airballed a three, she
got some of that back by taking her foe off the dribble and scoring on a
drive. On the next play, she was trapped on the baseline near the basket
by a much taller player. She didn't have room to dribble or
she passed the ball through her legs to a cutting Beard for an easy layup.
That put Duke up 42-19 with over a minute left in the half.

The Wolfpack hung tough in the waning moments of the half, with shooting
specialist Amelia Labador hitting a three and Terah James hitting a jumper
at the buzzer. Beard did score to break up that run, giving Duke an even
20 point lead at the half. State simply could not get the kind of shots
tht they wanted. Rangy power forward Alvine Mendeng was 2-7, mostly
confined to taking shots out of her range. Physical center Kaayla Chones
was 1-6, kept far away from the basket by Matyasovsky, who even blocked
one of her shots. The Pack shot 29% overall and turned the ball over 10
times. Meanwhile, Duke shot 56% (but only 2-8 from three), turned the
ball over just 4 times and was even on the boards at 19 apiece despite
trailing on the offensive end. Beard, after missing her first 2 shots,
finished the half having made 7 of her last 8. Tillis and Matyasovsky
both had 9, with Iciss snagging 5 boards.

The Pack regrouped and played Duke virtually even for the first fifteen
minutes of the second half. The problem was the 20 point hole they were
stuck in. NC State could never get a sustained run going. They might cut
the lead to 18, but Duke would then push it to 22, only to see it cut back
to 20 or 18. State switched to a more aggressive man-to-man defense, and
Duke exploited it with penetration. Harding dished to a cutting
Matyasovsky for one score, while Krapohl took a rare drive into the lane,
dropping it off for Harding. Tillis dished to Beard going to the hoop and
Harding pitched it out to Tillis for a 10' jumper. Four minutes into the
half, and the margin was exactly the same at 50-30. Duke was starting to
cover State's shooters a bit more, leaving Chones more room to operate and
unleash her dropstep for scores. Duke broke the pattern with a Whitley
steal and pass to Tillis in transition. A State three was offset by a
Beard three point play.

Finally, a Mosch lob to Tillis for a score and Mosch long rebound and
fast break gave Duke a 64-40 lead. The Pack would score 8 points in the
next two minutes, but couldn't chip away too much at the lead thanks to a
Whitley turnaround jumper and another runout by Mosch. NC State did bring
it back down to a 20 point deficit, but a Bass hook again broke their
string. Mosch was absolutely on fire and could not be slowed down by
State's slower shooters in the game. She scored on a pass from Mattie, on
a fast break after a Tillis steal, and on another fast break on a perfect
pass from her classmate Matyasovsky. State would close the gap again at
75-55 with under five minutes to go, but that was pretty much their last
gasp. Matyasovsky finished off the senior scoring with a tip-in, a nice
symbolic gesture of her willingness to do the little things on the court.
After that, Brooke Smith scored twice, Krapohl finally hit a three on her
fourth try, and Foley scored on a rebound basket.

While the Pack did score 36 second-half points, they had to play
near-perfect ball to do so against Duke's defense. The Pack shot better,
but not that much better, in the second half--39%. They did force 9 Duke
turnovers, but Duke got them for 8, while the Devils won the overall
rebounding battle, 40-36. Duke somehow shot even better in the second
half, with every player getting on the board. It was a satisfying team
win where everyone got to contribute, the stars played like stars, and the
seniors played like seniors. Duke simply has to keep applying the same
level of respect, consistency and intensity to their opponents in the ACC
Tournament this week. It must be noted that Duke has caught some of their
recent opponents at less than their best. Maryland was without leading
scorer and leader Renneika Razor; FSU was without defensive ace and
playmaker LaQuinta Neely and most creative post player Lauren Bradley; UNC
was without superior offensive rebounder Chrystal Baptist; and NC State
was without solid backup scoring PF Carisse Moody. This is not to
diminish Duke's achievement in getting these wins nor their effort in
doing so, but only to emphasize that overconfidence in the ACC Tournament
will be fatal. Duke will play Wake Forest on Friday night, a team that
was within 2 points of Duke in Durham with a minute left. Duke waxed them
the next time they played because superb team defense and made great
decisions with the ball. If the Devils continue to do that, they have a
chance to do some special things in postseason.

** Negatives:

1. Blocking out. State outscored Duke 15-13 on second chance points,
thanks to 16 offensive rebounds. To some extent, this was the result of
Coach G's gamble, letting State send a host of bigs to the boards. And of
course, missing 42 shots means that there are going to be a lot of
rebounds available--Duke still managed to get 29 defensive rebounds. The
Devils went on big runs when they were able to snag several defensive
rebounds in a row.

2. Fouls. The Pack got to the line 17 times and a fifth of their points
came from there. Part of this stemmed from not blocking out, but there
were also some breakdowns in stopping penetration.

3. Finding the shooter. Duke left Labador wide open a few times, which
was a big mistake. They later compensated by allowing her to drive and
letting her take twos, usually under pressure.

** Positives:

1. Team defense. Harding and Mosch both took high-impact charges. Beard,
Tillis and Matyasovsky all forced held balls. Whitley was everywhere on
defense. Duke forced State to become a jump shooting team that played at
a fast tempo.

2. Unselfishness. 39 field goals, 30 assists. Four different players had
at least 5 assists. Eight out of ten players had at least 1 assist. Duke
had 24 fast break points. Letting Duke get into any kind of offensive
rhythm spells doom.

3. Depth. Duke has really been using its depth to press their advantage
rather than as a delaying action until the big guns come back in. Mosch
is putting up double figures on a regular basis now while shooting a nice
percentage, Whitley continues to play outstanding defense, and the other
three frosh have shown tremendous improvement.


** Tillis: Iciss played a superb all-around game. The variety of ways in
which she can score never cease to amaze. In this game, it included a
three, a fast break basket, 2 turnaround jumpers, a lob finish, a post-up
and a 10-jumper. Tilliss also was excellent on defense, containing
Chones, blocking 3 shots and getting a couple of steals. The most
important thing she did was get 7 rebounds, providing a real presence down
low with excellent blockout technique and strong hands. Iciss has not
really played well in the ACC Tournament, and she now has a real chance to
prove herself before a larger audience. In the milestone department,
Iciss just passed the 100 block mark in her career.

** Matyasovsky: Michele had not shot very well in recent games, though I
kept insisting that a big game could happen any time now. Well, the laid
back senior showed an unusual flair for the dramatic by scoring 9 straight
points in the first half to really put the Pack away. It was great to see
her break out her dusty hook shot (last seen in late 2001), hit a three,
sink a runner and get a tip-in. Then she pretty much went back to doing
her usual thing: playing defense, keeping the offense in motion and simply
acting as a glue player. A fine senior day sendoff for a player who has
always subordinated her ego for the good of the team, and yet somehow
always manages to make a crucial play in seemingly every single game.

** Beard: Most nights, Alana makes the spectacular look routine, but she
topped even her usual exploits here. She was absolutely fearless in going
to the rim, achieving a near horizontal state on some of her drives.
State sent some big bodies to stop her by fouling her, but that simply
didn't work against this stronger version of Beard. Alana was called for
a couple of borderline offensive fouls (hooks) but also blocked 2 shots
(including a cuff block that she ripped out of the air), forced a couple
of steals and grabbed 6 boards. Another day at the office for Duke's

** Krapohl: Vicki couldn't hit the big three that would have buried State
until until the last three minutes of the game. Despite that struggle,
she still played State's point pretty well, forcing Nanna Rivers into 1-6
shooting and 2 turnovers. When Vicki's hot, Duke is a tough team to stop,
thanks to her range and confidence. She wasn't hot in this game, but
every opponent respects her range and always sends someone to shadow her
now. That in itself is a victory for Duke, allowing Beard more room to

** Harding: Lindsey follows Alana's lead on using her first step to get
to the rim. She is not yet as strong as Alana even if she is a bit
quicker, and as a result she sometimes winds up at the rim without a
really firm idea of what to do next. What she's stopped doing is turning
the ball over; instead, she puts up a shot in hopes of getting fouled
(which has happened) or a circus shot make (which has also happened).
She's not immune to the occasional bad pass or ballhandling error, but her
poise for such a young player is remarkable. For a player who was never
on a championship club in high school, she certainly knows a lot about
winning at a high level.

** Mosch: Sheana could not have had a better Senior Day. It's not Coach
G's custom to start seniors who normally wouldn't start, but Sheana was
out there before the game, firing up her teammates, and immediately made a
difference when she came in. Always somewhat uncomfortable with stardom
to the point of almost being embarrassed about it, seeing her play with so
much joy and exuberance has been simply wonderful. The game against State
was tailor-made for her talents: Sheana, go long! She finished break
after break against State, who were sending all five players to the boards
after misses. That meant a quick player like Mosch could leak out and
score easily in transition, and that's just what she did. It was nice to
see her hit a jumper on a break as well and dish out 5 assists. Sheana is
also playing the passing lanes well, picking up a couple of steals. She
definitely finished out her home career in style.

** Whitley: Wynter didn't put up huge stats, yet she played very well.
She helped make life difficult for Mendeng and Chones and hustled after
every pass that went near her. Forcing that duo into turnovers after they
got the ball saved a number of points. Wynter can score if need be and
will probably pop up with a double figure game at some point soon. But
she'll get her minutes because of what she does at the other end of the

** Bass: Mistie had significant foul trouble, fouling out in just 4
minutes of play. She was a victim of some questionable calls when matched
up against Chones, who was able to get whistles in her favor by leaning on
Mistie. She did manage one big hook shot at a time when scoring was

** Foley: Jess struggled from long range but found other ways to
contribute. I loved the way she scored off the dribble, using her
aggressiveness to get past a much quicker opponent. Her backwards,
between the legs pass to Beard was a thing of beauty, though one has to
wonder how she even knew that Beard was coming to bail her out. Jess
really took care of the ball, avoiding some of the sloppy crosscourt
passes that had led to turnovers in prior games. She made simple passes
to players who were cutting or posting up at the right time.

** Smith: Brooke continues to play quite well in the time she gets, and I
don't think Coach G would hesitate for a moment in using her in certain
key situations. Her gliding reverse under the basket was a pretty shot.
It's great to see her improve and look so much more comfortable with her

** Cameron Craziness: The crowd of 8,874 was the third largest in Duke
history, and nearly all of the fans were Duke fans. To honor the seniors,
Beard and Tillis had wrap around various limbs with their names and
numbers, while other players had "M&M" written on their arms. When Sheana
left the game for the final time, Alana jumped into her arms. Both
seniors spoke briefly after the game, with Michele thanking the fans for
their support, especially this year. She noted that coming out for
multiple sellouts was an amazing feeling. Sheana noted that they had some
more games to win, with the first goal being their fourth straight ACC
Tournament, then hopefully heading to Raleigh for the first couple of NCAA
rounds, and perhaps eventually in Atlanta. Cameron will miss both of