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Duke Mucks One Out Against Virginia

Duke 63, Virginia 52. January 18, 2004. University Hall.

There were a whole host of negatives in this game for Duke, yet the
Devils were able to put all that aside when they had to and secure the
win. First, Duke had to play without post sparkplug Brittany Hunter, the
kind of physical presence that would have been able to shrug off
Virginia's tough physical play. Second, the Iciss Tillis offensive slump
continues, to the point where she couldn't get point-blank layups to fall.
Third, the team in general seemed out of synch after a week off. Fourth,
they were playing against a team that had struggled to date, but had won a
couple in a row after the suspension of star forward Brandi Teamer. The
Hoos were hungry to win, had great chemistry and played as a team. They
were also highly motivated because of last year's controversial Duke win
on the same court. Throw in the fact that Alana Beard missed 12 of her
first 15 shots and you had a recipe for disaster. What prevented that
disaster from occurring? Above all else, it was the clutch play of
Monique Currie, once again proving to be the key difference-maker for this
year's team. We all know what Beard can do, but it's Mo's ability and
willingness to take clutch shots as well as do the dirty work that have
carried this team through its roughest patches this year. Throw in far
greater maturity from the sophomores (Bass, Harding and Foley) and you had
a win that, while ugly, was still very much a team victory.

Duke had a chance to take control of the game early on and didn't get it
done. Mistie Bass started the scoring with a stickback, and Virginia
surprised Duke by running for an easy score. Beard rattled home a three
but then missed a jumper. Bass later got fouled after a rebound but
missed 2 free throws. Virginia's Kate Kreager got an easy hoop as Duke's
defense looked disorganized. Alana then went up with a nasty two handed
block, snatching the ball out of the air. She sparked a break that saw
Currie finishing from Harding. Virginia played great post defense, with
Jocelyn Logan-Friend blocking Beard, and quick guard LaTonya Blue hit a
three to put the Hoos ahead 8-7. Tillis got the ball on the low block and
dished to Bass, who nailed a 15' jumper. Mistie has been hitting this
shot on a regular basis of late.

The lead went back and forth, with Logan-Friend getting a stickback and
Currie scoring on a pretty reverse layup. Turnovers by Tillis and Currie
helped Virginia take a 14-11 lead, but Duke started to tighten up its
defense, especially in the post. Beard drove and dished to Bass, who
spotted up and hit a 10' jumper to bring Duke a bit closer. Jess Foley,
playing in the frontcourt a bit more in this game, got a rebound and
passed to Harding, who knifed through the Virginia defense for a layup.
Duke was once again on top, 15-14, with under ten minutes to go in the

The two teams exchanged free throws for a little while, though Jawad
Williams' younger sister Siedah scored inside as well. Duke got a steal
and blew a fast break as Foley missed an open shot. Tillis got a rebound,
but Alison Bales brought the ball down too low and it was stripped away as
she was shooting. That seemed to get the team down as Virginia ran off 5
straight points. Every player was putting too much pressure on themselves
to make plays--Currie missed 2 free throws (almost unheard of), Tillis
drove straight into the teeth of the defense and turned it over, and
Krapohl followed up a great steal by throwing the ball away. Currie
rebounded a Krapohl miss and passed to Foley. Jess tossed it to an open
Tillis, who sank a huge three. Iciss couldn't make a 1' layup to save her
life, but made a 20' jumper look easy! Duke forced 2 straight turnovers
and Foley was able to stick back a Harding miss to tie the game at 23 with
four minutes to go.

After a long first-half nap, Alana finally started hitting some shots.
A 17' jumper tied the game again at 25, and a 15' jumper with a minute
left gave Duke a 28-27 lead. Duke turned Virginia over again and had a
chance for the last shot of the half, or close to it (3 second
differential). Inexplicably, Beard took a three with 16 seconds left in
the half and missed. After a long rebound, Virginia was able to get an
open shot and take a 29-28 lead. Needless to say, this did not please
Coach G. Virginia shot 46% in the first half, outrebounded Duke 23-19,
and had 9 turnovers to Duke's 7. The Devils weren't getting it done on
the foul line, shooting an awful 4-10. Duke would simply have to get
tougher and attack the basket more in the second half.

That's exactly what they did in the first four minutes of the half,
though it wasn't easy at first. Duke missed 4 shots and had 1 turnover in
the first two minutes, while Virginia missed twice with two turnovers in
the same period. Bass finally put Duke back on top with a turnaround
jumper. Duke forced 2 turnovers, which led to Beard getting fouled going
to the basket. She hit 4 straight free throws to give Duke a 34-29 lead.
Virginia moved the ball around nicely on their next two possessions (one
gained by a Foley turnover) to get 2 straight threes from Anna Prillaman.
She was wide open on both as Duke did not rotate quickly enough to stop
her. Harding attacked the basket and got a free throw, and Currie went to
the offensive glass for a stickback after a Beard miss. That basket felt
big because Duke was having so much trouble getting any easy shots to

Virginia went back up 39-38 thanks to a couple of free throws, but
another Blue turnover gave Duke a chance. Beard passed to Tillis on the
wing, who nailed another three to put Duke ahead 41-39 with about eleven
minutes left. Amazingly, she swished another shot despite missing so many
easier ones. Duke had their chances to increase the lead, but Tillis
missed a chippie, Bass threw the ball away and Currie was called for an
offensive foul. Blue drove and tied the game. The Hoos had a chance to
go ahead with under eight minutes to go, but Logan-Friend missed the front
end of a one-and-one. Beard cleared that rebound, and Currie stepped up
by burying a 17' jumper. Harding cleared a rebound and started a fast
break to Beard, giving the Devils a 45-41 lead. 2 Beard free throws were
sandwiched around 4 Virginia points to make it 47-45 Duke, but the Devils
were ready to make their move.

Foley dished to Alana on a cut, and Duke pounced on a Virginia turnover
when Beard stuck back a Currie miss. Monique then rebounded a Blue miss
and Harding was fouled, hitting both shots. All of a sudden, Duke led
53-45 with under four minutes to go. Tillis missed another shot and
Virginia managed to score quickly, reducing the score to 53-49 with under
three left to play. After a made free throw, Harding burst out of the
pack as no one on Virginia was fast enough to stop the ball, and Lindsey
scored easily for a basket Duke really needed. The Hoos turned the ball
over, but Alana turned it right back over after she bobbled the ball out
of bounds for a rare mental error. Foley blocked Logan-Friend on the next
possession and got the rebound. Beard was fouled and hit both to make it
57-49 as time was running out for Virginia. Bass took a charge on the
next play, but Foley blew a layup on the other end. Blue drove but could
only hit 1 free throw. Virginia pressed again, and this time Bass hit
Foley for a layup. Blue scored with under a minute left to make it 59-52,
but 4 straight free throws and steals from Beard & Currie gave Duke a
double-digit win.

Duke won because of the weapon they perfected after last year's loss to
UConn: their defense. The Devils held the Hoos to 29% shooting in the
second half and forced 14 turnovers. Beard, Currie and Harding went after
rebounds in the second half, especially when Bass went out with foul
trouble. The Devils still had problems with Virginia's defense (shooting
35% in the second half compared to 31% in the first) but were much more
adept at getting to the foul line, shooting 16-18. Beard hit all 10 of
her second half attempts. Virginia proved that they have the talent and
depth to compete with anyone in the league, though they desperately needed
another reliable scorer. Teamer can and has been that player in the past,
and one hopes that whatever her issues are with the team and coach that
they can be resolved. I expected Virginia to be the third best team in
the league, and with their excellent strength of schedule they can still
get to the NCAA tournament if they can continue to pick up their play in
the ACC. In terms of tough, physical (but clean)defense, the Hoos were up
there with Auburn, Texas and UConn. If their offense can catch up a bit
more (especially if Anna Crosswhile can recover from injury) with their
defense, they'll be there in the end.

** Negatives:

1. Valuing the ball. Until the end of the game, Virginia did not press at
all. Despite that, Duke kept throwing the ball away, often after making
good defensive plays. I can accept turnovers that are overthrown outlet
passes on fast breaks--those are errors of commission, at least. The
turnovers here were just sloppy.

2. Fouling. With Virginia using so many players and attacking the basket
so hard, Duke's occasional troubles on defense were magnified by fouls.
Not surprisingly, Duke committed just 4 fouls in the last eight minutes of
the game, coinciding with when they started to take over. Bass' foul
trouble hurt most of all because of her effectiveness down low.

3. Finishing. Duke was settling for 1 and 2 foot shots instead of going a
little harder to the basket at times. At least ten misses were easy ones.
Hard to say if it was bad luck, a lack of focus or a bit of rust after a
week off, but I've rarely seen that many easy shots being clanked.

** Positives:

1. Getting to the line. Duke scored 35 second half points. 16 of them
came from the line. This pretty much spelled the difference between
victory and defeat. Since nothing else was working, Duke went back to its
bread-and-butter, which was attacking the basket. The Devils put aside
their difficulties and simply went to work, and got it done.

2. Defense. After a few early lapses, defense is what kept the team in
the game. Duke scored 23 points off turnovers and made things very
difficult for Virginia's guards. In the post, Duke came up with blocks at
crucial times. Beard, Currie and Harding were all amazing defensively,
but Foley stood out as a player who surprised with some very effective
defense in the post.

3. Offensive rebounding. One of Duke's key weapons this season, Duke
outscored Virginia 16-7 in second-chance points, including getting 4
stickbacks. When the normal offense can't get it done, it's good to see
that Duke can muck it out and manufacture points.


** Bass: Mistie hit some really big shots in this game, including 2
jumpers that were high-pressure attempts. Bass looks so much calmer and
under control this year than last. She's a lot more comfortable in the
offense and is using her body well. Mistie did make a few mistakes in
this game, however. She misjudged Logan-Friend's shotblocking abilities
and had a couple of her shots sent back as a result. Bass should have
either tried to pump-fake or drop-step to get a better shot. Mistie was
also whistled for a three second violation. Her foul trouble made her
very tentative on defense, which hurt a few times. Bass did take a charge
down the stretch and was careful not to foul out, and also made good
decisions with the ball. Not her smoothest game but one in which she
found ways to contribute.

** Tillis: When Iciss' first easy attempt didn't fall, I knew it would be
a long game for her. The problem is that she's passing up open shots that
she can make in favor of putting the ball on the floor and attempting more
difficult or awkward attempts. The results are predictable. Iciss did
step up by hitting 2 threes that were absolutely crucial. The first cut
into a 5 point Virginia lead, and the second put Duke on top in the second
half--the Devils would never trail again. The problem was not that Iciss
missed a bunch of shots, it's that she committed 3 turnovers and only had
2 rebounds in 29 minutes. Mentally, she wasn't ready to have an impact on
the game and it showed in her one-on-one play. One could sense that she
at times was more worried about her own play than the team's play, which
is understandable considering her struggles but certainly didn't help the
team. Iciss simply needs to relax, concentrate on what she can do
(defend, rebound and pass) and shut everything else out.

** Currie: A fine, fine game for Monique. She played outstanding,
physical defense against a tough squad. Currie hit a clutch long jumper
to put Duke ahead for good and came up with every important rebound down
the stretch. Late game blocks and steals only added to her performance.
She brushed aside a mediocre first half (2-5 from the field, 0-2 from the
foul line) and proved invaluable in crunch time. Beard took over down the
stretch, but Currie set her up by keeping Duke in the game. She just
needs to rely on her jumper a little more. Monique has definitely played
herself into All-ACC status and is looking more and more like an
All-American as well. Though she's averages just 13.5 ppg, she leads the
team in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and is shooting 52% from the field.

** Beard: Generally speaking, the presence of Currie & Hunter along with
the maturation of the sophomore class has meant that Alana doesn't have to
go all-out in every game. She can relax a bit and let things come to her,
even setting up her teammates with her passing. That way, she has more
energy to spend on defense and even can rest a bit on the bench. As a
result, her overall numbers are not quite as impressive as they were last
year, when she was forced to do more. On a scale of 1-10, Alana has had
to average maybe a "5" in terms of all-out effort this year--which is
still more than most players, of course. Beard relied on her jumper early
on, and it just wasn't falling--she started off 1-7 from the field. Alana
was still working hard on defense (4 blocks!) and pressured the ball, but
after a while it became obvious that she needed to take over a bit. She
hit some shots late in the half, though did jack up a three she didn't
need to take. In the second half, Alana turned it up to about an "8" as
she attacked the basket again and again, scoring 16 points, getting 5
boards, taking a charge and coming up with a key steal. 12 of her 24
points came in the last seven minutes of the game. When it comes to
winning time, Alana always shows up. By the way, she passed Linda Page
for #3 all-time in ACC scoring with 2311. Next up is Genia Beasley, who
has 2367 (though some of that came before the ACC was actually formed)
and played at NC State, just like Page.

** Harding: Lindsey had a solid all-around game. It seemed that all of
her scoring was significant, because Virginia was paying so much attention
to Beard and Currie. After a couple of early assists, her drive gave Duke
a lead in the first half. She tied the game and later gave Duke leads
because of made free throws. A rebound jump-started a break that gave
Duke a 4 point cushion. Most importantly of all, her fast break explosion
with under three minutes to go stopped a brief Virginia run and put Duke
up by 6. Lindsey also valued the ball (1 turnover), played physical
defense and hit the boards. A winning performance.

** Foley: Jess battled the entire game despite not having any of her
jumpers fall. She did get a late layup that helped clinch the game as
well as a stickback. Foley also had assists for a couple of big baskets:
a Tillis three and a Beard drive. More importantly, she had a big blocked
shot down the stretch, played credible post defense and overall displayed
some nice versatility. While I wouldn't want her playing at power forward
all the time, she did a good job in a pinch.

** Krapohl: Vicki missed a wide-open three where Mistie was setting a
monster pick and generally seemed reluctant to shoot. She did come up
with a couple of steals, though she did throw one of them away right away.
Virginia was obviously trying to drive on her as much as possible, but she
did battle. Not her most effective game.

** Bales: Ali got in briefly, went a little too softly to the basket, and
got rejected. With the score that tight, Coach G couldn't risk giving her
extended minutes, especially since she clearly looked nervous going in.