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Duke Outlasts UNC

Duke 79, UNC 57. January 11, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

After a very long week that featured an NBA-like 4 games in 9 days, Duke
proved that their conditioning and mental toughness are both top-notch by
dominating the Heels down the stretch. UNC was by far the most athletic
team Duke has faced all year, and that includes Texas and UConn. Frosh
point guard sensation Ivory Latta was every bit as quick as advertised,
while frosh power forward Camille Little is a lean but strong player. The
Heels returned their usual gang of tough, quick athletes, including
versatile La'Tangela Atkinson, shooter/ballhandler/elbower Leah Metcalf,
slasher Nikki Bell, willowy center Candace Sutton and solid forward Kenya
McBee. Latta, Little, Atkinson and Bell were all big-time high school
All-Americas, which goes to show that UNC does not lag behind Duke much in
terms of pure talent.

Where UNC has had a significant deficit is in leadership and mental
toughness. In some games, the Heels just weren't in it mentally and Duke
has romped to easy wins. In other contests where the Heels used their
punishing physical style to dictate tempo, they've been incredibly close
in recent years to knocking off Duke, but would always get outworked in
the end, take bad shots, or otherwise collapse. Though the final margin
in this game was 22 points, the game actually followed the latter model.
The results this year were a bit different, though. The model used to be
that Duke would get pounded by the Heels on the boards but would win by
running their offense and forcing a few bad shots. Duke would put up with
the physical play but it would clearly bother them. This year, the Devils
trotted out Monique Currie and Brittany Hunter. When the Heels last saw
Monique, she was torching them for 30 points en route to the MVP trophy of
the ACC tournament back in 2002. Hunter came out and showed right away
that the Heels didn't intimidate her one bit, and that she was perfectly
happy to give as good as she got in the paint. When you throw in perhaps
the most mature performance yet from Mistie Bass, it showed that Duke is
far more than just Alana Beard.

UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell is fond of reducing Duke's success to just one
or two players. She said it was "Van Gorp and Erickson" who did it in the
late 90's, forgetting that Hilary Howard, Peppi Browne and Georgia
Schweitzer tortured her plenty. Then she said "It was was Beard and
Tillis" recently, neglecting Currie lighting up her team for 30 in the ACC
tourney, Sheana Mosch regularly burning them, and Duke beating them in the
2000 finals with any of the players she mentioned. She also said that the
best thing about playing Duke now is that Beard & Tillis are seniors, but
Little & Latta are freshmen. Newsflash: Currie is a sophomore. Bass is a
sophomore. Harding is a sophomore. Hunter is a frosh. More great
players are on the way. Of greater hilarity was Hatchell's postgame
lament on how physical the game was, and how they plan to bring in the
football team to toughen up their players. Putting aside the notion that
UNC's football team somehow embodies toughness (better to bring in the
women's soccer team), hearing this statement from a coach whose team has
long been notorious as the dirtiest in the ACC is hilarious. Metcalf's
cheap-shot elbow into Tillis' gut as she was running up the court last
year comes to mind, as does Jessica Gaspar putting Georgia Schweitzer in a

Going back to the game itself, there's no question that Currie was the
big difference-maker in the first half. Coach G has noted that the one
player she never has to worry about motivating in big games is Mo. She's
simultaneously incredibly intense and yet completely unflappable. Never
too high, never too low. Mo lives for big games and the big moments
within, and loves to take shots when everyone else is looking a bit tight.
Her strong first half play gave Duke a large enough working margin to
endure UNC's comeback, giving Duke a chance to rest some players for the
stretch run.

After Little scored to start things off for UNC, Beard nailed a 15'
jumper, stole the ball, and passed to Currie for a jumper of her own. The
Heels missed 4 early shots and committed a couple of turnovers, while Duke
had 3 turnovers as both teams were trying to feel their way. Brittany
Hunter entered the game for an ineffective Iciss Tillis, and immediately
hit a free throw and got a steal. Currie hit another jumper to push
Duke's lead to 7-4. Latta scored twice but Hunter had a turnaround jumper
from 5' and so Duke was up 9-8 with over five minutes gone by. Hunter
missed a couple of chippies and the Heels forced a turnover, taking a 10-9
lead. Hunter posted up against some strong opposition and scored, but UNC
scrub Carrie Davis hit a couple of freebies to give the Heels their last

Duke then went to an unlikely weapon: the three point shot. Beard
pulled up from the wing and drained one. Hunter grabbed a rebound and
outletted to Beard, who hit Foley for a three. Beard committed her second
foul right after that and went to the bench for a couple of minutes.
Currie stepped up with a rare steal & runout to give Duke a 19-12 lead.
Duke started pounding the ball inside against a soft Heels interior, and
Hunter & Bass both went to the foul line. The one player the Heels are
missing is Chrystal Baptist, a rugged power forward who would have been a
senior but was dismissed from the team for unspecified reasons prior to
the beginning of the season. Baptist was not a great offensive player,
but she was a fine rebounder and good defender. Duke had a 22-14 lead
with under nine minutes to go.

The Heels came back as Duke missed a couple of easy stickbacks and
Tillis missed a couple of free throws. In fact, Duke went over three
minutes without a single point, but a bunch of misses and turnovers from
the Heels kept them at arm's length. Finally, Metcalf picked Beard's
pocket and got it to Bell for an easy hoop as the Heels drew within 22-19.
The seniors stepped up as Beard passed to Vicki Krapohl for a three.
Currie once again stepped up, scoring on a drive. She then grabbed a
rebound and threw a perfect outlet pass to Beard for a fast break bucket.
All of a sudden, Duke had their biggest lead at 29-19 with under six
minutes to go.

Duke's defense broke down a bit as the Heels moved the ball around
nicely, getting back to back threes from Latta and Jessica Sell. Carolina
had their opportunities to draw closer, forcing a couple of misses, but
the Duke defense turned them over twice. Finally, Currie drove right into
the teeth of the defense and drew a foul, ending a two minute drought for
the Devils at the foul line. Latta missed a jumper and Hunter passed into
Bass for a classic high-low play. I've rarely seen Brittany that excited
after a play! The Heels attacked the glass and got a couple of free
throws for their trouble as Hunter picked up her second foul.

In a bit of foreshadowing, the end of the half was not kind to the
Heels. Bass used a head fake to get fouled and hit 1 one of her freebies.
Foley stole the ball and missed a three, but Currie was there to clean up
on the left block (a constant weakness for UNC all day long) and score.
After another UNC turnover, Currie went right at them and scored on a
tough drive. The Devils forced a missed with 7 seconds to go in the half,
but Tillis missed a layup at the buzzer. It was a solid half for Duke
overall, despite not shooting very well. UNC certainly had something to
do with that, of course; they have some of the best defensive numbers in
the ACC. Duke had a key 16-9 edge in points off turnovers and a 24-19
edge on the boards. The Heels had just 5 first half offensive rebounds,
which slowed down their offense considerably. Duke got to the foul line
but was only 7-12. The Devils had been on the verge of taking complete
control of the game but couldn't quite get it done. Latta and Bell kept
the Heels in the game, combining for 13 points. Latta was 3-6 from the
field, but wound find it a bit tougher sledding in the second half.
Lastly, Duke had 9 turnovers and UNC 13; the Devils had to take care of
the ball against the aggressive Heels and did a decent job.

Duke was cold to start the second half, with Beard, Currie and Tillis
all missing shots. Bell and Latta both hit shots (with Latta having too
much time to shoot) to cut the lead to 38-32. A couple of Hunter
stickbacks were Duke's only offense in the first six minutes of the half,
blunting UNC's comeback a bit. The Heels pulled within 42-37, but Currie
drove and passed to Bass, who hit a foul line jumper. Mistie generally
doesn't shoot outside of the paint, but it's clear that she's been working
on this shot, which we saw a bit of in the preseason. The Heels went on a
6-1 run, with Little and Latta scoring all of them. One Latta layup came
when Krapohl simply couldn't get in front of her to stop the ball. At
that point, everyone sensed it: it was time for Alana to step up.

On cue, Beard posted up and got a three point play to give Duke a 48-43
lead. She was just too quick for Little to handle, who wound up with the
foul. UNC kept on coming, scoring 5 in a row, mostly on the foul line, to
tie the score at 48 with under eleven minutes to go. Notably, Duke held
out Mistie Bass during UNC's run as well as Brittany Hunter, who picked up
her fourth foul. With a smaller lineup from Duke, UNC was able to do some
damage. Coach G was trying to buy some time for her bigs so as to keep
them fresh down the stretch, and was hoping that Tillis would get back in
the game and make some plays.

Beard drove again and scored. Both teams exchanged misses for a couple
of minutes until Foley grabbed a Latta miss and passed to Harding.
Lindsey zipped downcourt and passed to Beard, who drove in for a three
point play, muscling past Metcalf for the score. UNC got a bloop
offensive rebound layup, and then Latta was left open again after a Beard
miss, and nailed a three to make it 53-53. Amazingly, that Latta basket
would be UNC's last field goal of the game, coming at the 7:54 mark. Bass
hit 1 free throw and McBee matched her, tying it again at 54. It was
crunch time, with all of Duke's starters on the floor.

Beard drove and passed back to Harding, who confidently took a three
from the wing and nailed it, causing the crowd to go into a frenzy. This
was the biggest shot of the game for Duke. Beard took a charge from
Atkinson, and then Bass got fouled, hitting 1. Harding went high to
secure a Metcalf miss, and Bass faked out Sutton again, getting fouled and
hitting both of them. Bass blocked Metcalf and got the rebound. Harding
and Beard both missed threes, but Currie was there for the rebound. In
fact, Mo was flat on her back when the ball came to her, and she calmly
passed the ball to Tillis, who hit a twisting layup to give Duke a 62-54
lead with under five minutes left. One could sense things starting to
slip away for the Heels. Latta drove on Bass and got the call. However,
she bricked 2 free throws, in a sequence that seem to crush Carolina's

Beard came back, drove and hit a nice bank shot to put Duke up 10.
Latta missed 2 shots in a row and then fouled Harding, getting style
points for the half-nelson she had Lindsey in. Harding hit the first and
missed the second. Bass was there on the left block to get the rebound,
the basket and the foul. Though over three minutes remained, that was the
play that caused the Heels to surrender, putting them in a 68-54 hole.
Tillis came up with a big block on Bell, showing that Duke wasn't going
to relax for one second down the stretch. Currie then blocked 6-4 Carrie
Davis and got the rebound, drove and dished to Bass for another 15'
jumper. Beard then hit an 18' jumper, stripped Latta at midcourt, and
went in for a layup. Bass finished the party by rebounding a Harding miss
for another three point play, and Harding dished to Tillis for a layup
after Iciss had blocked a three point attempt by Little.

The Heels missed their last 12 shots and 3 free throws in that last 6:56
or so, and turned the ball over 3 times. The Devils scored an astonishing
25 points in the same time span, hitting 9 of their last 13 shots and and
5-7 from the foul line. There was not a single turnover during this
stretch for Duke. Bass scored 14 of her 18 in the second half, while
Beard notched 15 of her 22 points. The crucial second half stat for Duke
was a 12-5 edge in second-chance points, and that was thanks to Hunter and
Bass. Beyond the numbers, Beard's leadership down the stretch was a key
factor. For all of the hoopla surrounding Latta and Little, they are
still only freshman. And while Beard & Tillis had great frosh years
themselves, they still had Georgia Schweitzer and Rochelle Parent around
to act as mentors and leaders. UNC at this point doesn't have a strong
senior voice to calm the team down, and the end result was Latta and
Little trying to do too much on their own. The rematch in Carmichael will
certainly be fierce, however. Latta & Little probably learned a lesson or
two in this game, but the rest of their teammates will need to come along
with them.

** Negatives:

1. Valuing the ball. Duke had 16 turnovers but only 7 of them came on UNC
steals. Currie in particular was sloppy with the ball at times, carrying
her dribble a little too far from her body. With the quick hands of
Metcalf and Latta, this was a mistake. There were also a couple of plays
where UNC trapped a Duke player and no one came over to help, resulting in
bad passes.

2. Fouling. Some of the calls were bad ones, but there's no question that
early foul trouble hurt Duke's effectiveness on defense and kept players
on the bench for far too long. It's no coincidence that during Duke's big
run, they only committed 4 fouls, while UNC committed 7.

3. Perimeter defense. Latta got plenty of open looks and Sell had all day
to shoot her three. The defense simply didn't rotate over quickly enough
to disrupt the shot. Duke was obviously playing the Heels for the drive
and inside and so they couldn't cover everything at all times, but this
was a breakdown that hurt Duke.

** Positives:

1. Conditioning. The biggest factor down the stretch. Bass looked fresh
and outworked Sutton inside. Beard and Harding got stronger as the game
went on. The Heels, especially their youngest players, didn't know how to
conserve energy and made tired decisions down the stretch.

2. Rebounding. Currie had an insane 15 rebounds (a career high), Bass had
6 and Hunter 8. The only starter who had fewer than five was Beard! The
Devils had an impressive 16 offensive rebounds and held UNC to 13, and
overall outboarded the Heels 50-40.

3. Physical play. Normally a Duke weakness, it wasn't just Currie and
Hunter who dug in. Tillis had some nasty plays down the stretch, Harding
showed some toughness when needed and Bass of course was everywhere.


** Bass: Mistie had a solid first half, scoring on a high-low, getting to
the line a few times, grabbing 3 rebounds, and blocking a shot. Most
importantly, she didn't pick up any fouls. Bass has a tendency to force
things at both ends of the court, becoming impatient when she doesn't get
the ball and flailing at players when she gets a bit out of position. As
she's matured as a player, she's slowed down a bit and let the game come
to her. In the past, she'd pick up 2 quick fouls, sit on the bench for
ten minutes, and then never get into any kind of a rhythm. In this game,
she stayed confident and alert. I loved that she hit a couple of foul
line jumpers, a shot that every opponent will cede to her. And of course,
scoring 11 points in the game's last six minutes was huge. UNC was simply
not ready to deal with an active and strong player going after missed
shots. Bass went up strong each time, allowing her to finish three point
plays. Mistie also took her time at the foul line, relaxing and following
through nicely. Another big factor was how patient she was in setting up
her shots before she got fouled. Instead of just bulling her way in, she
used a nice series of fakes, and was strong enough to sell calls.

** Tillis: Iciss was tighter than a drum in the first half, badly missing
her three shots. She even missed 2 free throws (she's normally automatic)
and a layup at the end of the half. As a result, she only played 9
minutes. She did get 3 rebounds, but it was clear that she wasn't playing
at the same level as everyone else. Her confidence in her shot just
wasn't there, and it was carrying over to other parts of her game. When
Hunter left the game with around seven minutes to go, I could hear the
Heels fans around me celebrating. Tillis went back in, and though she had
been ineffectual, I knew that she somehow would contribute in this game.
I was right. While Tillis' twisting layup that put Duke up 62-54 was
crucial, even more important was her excellent defense. The Heels went
right at her, and she responded with a couple of blocks, a held ball and a
few rebounds down the stretch. It was great to see her get a fast break
layup down the stretch. Hopefully, this game will respark her confidence,
because Duke needs her to play big in future games.

** Currie: Mo was sensational in the first half, trusting in her jumper.
She hit a couple of those early on, and then closed out the half with a 4
point flurry. Currie matched up against both Little and Bell, and neither
player shot well. Most importantly, Currie was simply huge on the boards.
Though she didn't score in the second half (and she was open a few times
when she didn't get the ball), she had 3 huge assists: 2 to Bass for
jumpers and 1 to Tillis. That was a highlight-reel type play, since she
was flat on her back when it happened. Throw in a steal and an amazing
block on Davis and you had a player who took big shots when she needed to
and then concentrated on doing the little things when she needed to. Once
again, Mo proved that she was a true team player.

** Beard: In the first half, Alana was content to settle for the jumper
and create opportunities for her teammates. She opened with a 15' jumper,
hit a three and had a fast break basket, but not a single free throw
attempt. Meanwhile, she dished to Currie for a jumper, Hunter for a post
up, and Foley & Krapohl for threes. The team did well without her when
she went out with 2 fouls. She scored her last fifteen points of the game
in the last thirteen minutes of the game, 11 of them in the last nine
minutes. Alana went to her bread-and-butter moves against a weary UNC
team: post-up turnaround jumper (+1), drive to the left, drive off of a
cut (+1), bank shot after drive. Throw in a bonus 18' jumper and a steal
& runout to really go for the jugular, and you have an All-America kind of
afternoon. In some ways, her biggest play was driving and kicking back to
Harding for three. It showed that Beard is unselfish, and that she
furthermore trusted her teammate to hit that shot. Alana did turn the
ball over a few times, one of them a questionable charge and another when
she was picked clean. Beard did take a charge and absolutely shut down
Atkinson, who never had an open look at the basket.

** Harding: Another solid afternoon from Duke's quietest starter. The
biggest question before the game was: Can Harding handle Latta? For the
most part, the answer was "yes." Latta did a lot of her damage when
Krapohl was on her. For the most part, Harding was fast enough to keep up
with her, and strong enough to force Latta to take bad shots. Despite
battling foul trouble, Harding shut down Latta in the last six minutes.
Of course, Lindsey's three sparked Duke's run and was the shot of the
game. Amazingly, it's just her fourth career three-pointer and third of
the season. Like Currie, Lindsey seems to play best in tight situations,
with her precise pass to Beard for a three point play another good

** Hunter: If not for her foul trouble, Brittany could have wound up with
monster numbers. As it was, 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks
ain't exactly chopped liver. She forced her shot just a bit at first, but
soon relaxed once she took the full measure of what UNC was throwing at
her. I can't overstate how big her second half stickbacks were; UNC would
have had a lot more momentum earlier in the game if it wasn't for her.
While she does need to avoid foul trouble, I have no problems with how she
played defense. She moved her feet well and was nearly impossible to move
out of the block. Best of all, she shrugged off the physical play and
kept on coming. There were a few slightly nervous moments when she'd hit
the ground, but she managed to pop up every time. Showing what kind of
player she is, Brit got most excited after an assist. There's no question
that she's one of the biggest cheerleaders from the bench, bouncing up and
down as the game began.

** Foley: Jess hit a crucial three early in the game but her shot was
just not falling otherwise. She took good shots, though I'd like to see
her pop more from the wing rather than the corner.

** Krapohl: Vicki was overmatched defensively by Metcalf and Latta.
Metcalf was too strong for her and Latta too quick. Despite that, she
gave the team some important minuts, getting a big steal, sneaking in for
a couple of rebounds, hitting a big three and forcing a jump ball. One of
her turnovers was an offensive foul; a push-off that was questionable to
say the least.

** Cameron Craziness: The game was a sellout in terms of tickets sold,
though there were a few empty seats upstairs. Still, the crowd played a
huge factor, especially down the stretch. There was a big student
presence for this game, with many of the most notable Crazies seen at
men's games in attendance. The downstairs was absolutely jam-packed with
fans, and there were a decent number of Carolina supporters. Needless to
say, this was very nice for a nationally televised game. Down the
stretch, chants of "Our House" rang out through Cameron and chants of
"Just like football" and "0 for 10" could also be heard.