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California Hoops, Part I

Duke 90, Hampton 59. December 29, 2003. Gersten Pavillion.

The opener of Duke's field trip out west was not exactly one for the
scrapbooks. Playing against a hopelessly overmatched opponent, Duke's
defensive effort was inconsistent. That was matched by Duke's
carelessness with the ball. The result was a game that was far closer
than it had any right to be during the first ten minutes or so. Hampton,
a proud and scrappy program from the MEAC, has a certain relentlessness
that helps make up for their lack of talent and size. They stayed in the
game not because they were able to break Duke down defensively, but
because they outhustled the Devils for rebounds (19 offensive rebounds, 13
second chance points) and were able to get to the line after shots. They
also took advantage of their aggressiveness by breaking Duke's press early
in the game.

Hampton actually grabbed an early 6-3 lead thanks to a Beard turnover
and a couple of Pirate stickbacks. Free throws from Currie and Bass
quickly tied it up, but the Devils missed a couple of shots in a row while
Hampton used a fast break opportunity to retake the lead. Bass tied it up
again at 8 thanks to a nice find by Vicki Krapohl, and a Beard steal &
runout gave Duke a 10-8 lead with under fourteen minutes to go. The
Pirates scored on yet another offensive rebound to go up 12-11, and it
looked like this was going to be a game. They were employing a deceptive
sagging zone that punished careless ballhandling, neutralized Duke's post
play and forced Duke to prove that they could hit jumpers. Krapohl did
just that, hitting a three that made it 14-12. After a turnover,
Hampton's Kiesha Beard (no relation) drained a three to give Hampton what
would be their final lead.

This is when Duke intensified their defensive pressure. Going full
court, the Devils had a safety to help stop any transition opportunities,
and went full bore after the inbounder. It started when Currie rebounded
a missed Beard free throw and stuck it back in after some diving on the
floor. Then Alana had a steal and basket, and then Mistie Bass stuck back
a Currie miss. Duke suddenly had a bit of daylight at 23-15 and was just
beginning what would be a 19-2 run that gave them the game.

Tillis, Harding and Beard all hit the boards, and that allowed Duke to
run and penetrate. Beard scored 6 straight points and fed Harding on a
steal for another pair. That left Hampton down 33-17 with under five
minutes to go. Kiesha Beard scored 5 straight points and brought Hampton
to within 38-26 with under three minutes to go. Duke still had a
comfortable lead, but it was far from impregnable. Down the stretch of
the first half, Jess Foley hit the most important shots of the game for
Duke. Hampton had pulled within 38-26 when Jess hit her first three.
With seconds to go in the half, Hampton had pulled within 43-30, and Beard
found Jess for another three and a 16 point halftime lead. Duke took that
lead and quickly built on it, and Hampton never threatened again.

Duke made sure to finish the job quickly in the second half, starting
with a knockout 19-5 run to open the proceedings. Duke took advantage of
its superior quickness to blow by Hampton before they could set up their
zone, with Harding and Beard scoring either off the dribble or in
transition. When Currie hit a jumper, the Devils were able to confuse the
defense enough to attack them inside, with Bass and Hunter both doing
damage. The stunned defense allowed an easy play from Harding to Tillis
as Duke was inbounding the basket--a classic set play that involves
reading the defense. Duke followed up that run with a 12-5 run that saw
Currie and Krapohl hit threes. That gave Duke a 77-40 lead with under
nine minutes to go.

The rest of the game saw Coach G clear the bench, allowing the recently
injured a chance to get their feet wet. The results were mixed, as the
reserves committed 8 turnovers in the half, but ten different players
wound up scoring for the Devils. The most welcome returns were defensive
ace Wynter Whitley, superfrosh Brittany Hunter and deadeye shooter Caitlin
Howe, who had never played in an official Division I game. Hunter looks
like she's ready to dominate, but Howe and Whitley had more serious
injuries and so will take longer to get up to game speed and game
conditioning. With Howe and Bales in bulky knee braces, James Armstrong
noted their similarity to the Borg. In this case, Hampton was irrelevant.

** Negatives:

1. Boxing out. Duke was getting outworked for the ball on a consistent
basis, especially in the first half when they were outrebounded. Duke was
lucky that they weren't down by a significant margin early on, because
Hampton didn't convert on five offensive rebounds.

2. Perimeter defense. Duke was allowing too many open shots, without even
throwing a hand up. The threeball was one of the few ways in which
Hampton could score.

3. Communication. Players didn't always communicate on defense,
especially in transition, in order to lock down the opponent. Players
also had some problems on offense, with a few screens coming too late or
not at all and passes being thrown downcourt to players who weren't
looking up.

** Positives:

1. Ball pressure. This is eventually what made the difference and broke
open the game for Duke. A series of steals by Beard and Currie flustered
Hampton, allowing the Devils to take control.

2. Balance. Duke got scoring off the dribble, from turnovers, off threes,
from the foul line and posting up. For the first time, this team can
score in a lot of different ways.

3. Depth. For the first time all year, Coach G had a chance to see
everyone play. It's obvious that there were significant cobwebs on the
games of some of the returnees, and players like Whitley are nowhere near
100% physically. Even Brittany Hunter, who had a strong return, got a bit
winded at times. Still, there's a lot to work with and it will be
interesting to see where the team stands in a month.


** Bass: Mistie had an active first half but was thwarted by foul
trouble. She scored on a cut, a stickback and a couple of free throws,
but an offensive foul gave her her third foul of the half and kept her on
the bench. A fourth foul three minutes into the second half abbreviated
her court time, though she did score on a hook. The numbers weren't bad
(3-3 from the field is great), but it wasn't a dominant showing.

** Tillis: Kind of an odd game for Iciss. She opened the game with a
three and a couple of blocks, but 2 fouls in the first three minutes of
the game made her ineffective on defense and on the boards. She did
rally towards the end of the first half with a 17' jumper and a hook shot
in the lane. Iciss was much more active in the second half, even if she
didn't score a lot of points. Instead, she moved the ball around well,
finding Currie for a jumper and later outletting the ball to her after a
rebound. Iciss did score on an easy inbounds play but made her mark in
the half by controlling the defensive boards. Not a dominant game by any
means, but one where she displayed her versatility and took care of business.

** Currie: Mo was relatively quiet in the first half, making herself
known only through some tough defensive pressure. She forced an inbounds
steal that led to a Beard basket, and later forced another turnover that
led to a Beard score. Her only basket of the half came after a steal as
well. In the second year, she was much more active--both for good and
ill. Currie was a lot more active offensively, taking 6 shots and
basically being given the reins when Beard was out. The result was a 15'
jumper, a three and a fast break basket, as well as a nice post feed to
Bass. Monique also worked harder on the boards, getting 5 in the half.
The problem was that the ball kept slipping out of her hands. She'd try
to drive on someone without having complete control of the ball, and it'd
either be a turnover or she'd have to take extra time to secure it. I've
never seen her have this problem before, so I'm not sure what was going
on. Regardless, it was good seeing her take a lot more jumpers than

** Beard: Alana was absolutely dominant in the first half, and was
instrumental in staking Duke out to its big lead. She was doing it all
within the flow of the game, often converting defense into offense. Beard
got on the board with a steal & layup, and later was part of the defensive
blitz that put Duke on top for good, scoring on an inbounds swipe. Later
in the half, Alana got going in transition, scoring on fast breaks on
feeds from Tillis, Harding and Currie. When the smoke cleared in the
first half, she had 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, a blocks
and 2 charges taken. Considering that her jumper wasn't even going,
that's a good day's work right there. Her second half consisted of 3 fast
break baskets, one generated by her own steal. Beard wound up with an
astounding 7 steals, tying a career high.

** Harding: The numbers may be modest, but this was a strong effort from
Lindsey. Her problem this year has been a lack of aggressiveness with the
ball. If she's just going to stand around or occasionally look to dish
off, she's not helping the team. With her tremendous speed, she can
create matchup problems for other teams and set up her teammates, and
that's just what she did in this game. But in order to set up her drive,
she has to take some jumpers. Happily, she even attempted a couple of
threes in this game. They didn't go in, but she stretched the defense
like a football team that airs the ball out does when they look to set up
the run. She scored on a fast break basket from Alana and on a drive of
her own, but it was her 8 assists that were her true calling card. They
included a dish to Krapohl for three after she got an offensive board, a
drive and pass back to Hunter for a jumper, a drive and kickback to Tillis
for a jumper, a pass inside to Beard, an inbounds play to Tillis and a
fast break pass to Beard. Lindsey also took a charge, forced a held ball
call and had 2 steals. Harding doesn't have to be a big scorer in order
to contribute, she just has to be active the whole game.

** Foley: Jess struggled a bit early on, missing her first three shots
and getting a couple of turnovers. Hitting those two big-time shots
toward the end of the first half turned things around for her, as she was
a lot more relaxed both in this game and the next. Jess hit another three
and later found Currie for a three. While not a perfect game (she was
only 3-9 from the field and had 3 turnovers), she made some important
contributions and in many ways is Duke's top reserve.

** Krapohl: Vicki continued her strong play by nailing a couple of threes,
with one of them giving Duke a lead. She also showed off her playmaking
with a dish to Bass on a cut, Hunter in the post, and Howe & Foley for
threes. Krapohl was her usual scrappy self on defense, going after loose
balls and picking off a couple of passes.

** Hunter: Brit basically looked like she hadn't missed a single minute.
While she missed a couple of close-in shots in the first half, she sank a
pretty 15' jumper on a Harding feed and then nailed some free throws.
It's clear that she's been practicing her shooting because her form is
much smoother now. In the second half, she had a stickback and a couple
of power moves in the post, and absolutely owned the boards. Her most
spectacular play of the game was a "get that outta here" block. As
always, Brittany was powerful, efficient and relentless.

** Howe: When Caitlin first stepped onto the court, a few of us gave her a
standing ovation. It was obvious in the early going that she was a little
overwhelmed emotionally simply to be playing in her first official game
since the one and only game of her senior year of high school. She
settled down and just tried to keep up with the pace of the game, and
wound up with a perfect strike to Tillis inside. In the second half, she
got a lot less shy and hit a three with that perfect form of hers.
Reality came calling when she was whistled for a foul and then turned the
ball over after driving inside without a real plan. Still, she got
through the jitters and made some contributions. The best is certainly
yet to come.

** Bales: Ali had trouble finishing, but she was aggressive on the
offensive boards. She also had a nice assist to Jess for a three. With
regard to her game, there are things she does defensively that don't show
up on the stat sheet. Simply by keeping proper position in the post and
her hands up, her sheer size intimidates many opponents and alters shots.
Hampton made a couple of shots over her, but they were certainly
high-difficulty attempts. You can get by her with a hard dribble and a
fake, and Ali must learn never to leave her feet. Bales is also not in
ideal shape, and should be better conditioned as the season goes along.

** Whitley: It was wonderful to see one of my favorite players back on the
court, but she's obviously still got a long way to go. Wynter's
contributions have often been subtle, and yet she's always been able to do
so much for a post player. Her ability to shoot, handle the ball, play
defense and rebound will surprise someone not familiar with her game,
especially since she's so devoted to being a good role player. The
example from this game came when she drove to the basket and seemed stuck
when a defender rotated over to stop her. She waited a second and then
dished to a cutting Alison Bales for an easy score. The rust on Wynter's
game was evident when she was called for shuffling her feet. Wynter will
definitely help the team this year, but it won't quite happen now.

** Marsh: Kalita lined up for a three that didn't fall.

** Morgan: Dana just got a minute or so but didn't get to do much.

** Gersten Goofiness: I had the pleasure of attending the game with DBR's
own Alpha Geek, James Armstrong, as well as board contributor JulesinLA,
who was kind enough to host pre-game parties before both games. Julie's
efforts attracted a number of Duke fans to the game, and the players and
coaches definitely noticed, thanking everyone after the second game.
There were a few oddities surrounding the first game. The referees were a
good 45 minutes late, so there was a sizeable delay. Apparently, they
thought the game was later in the day. They got a bit of a razzing when
they finally did show up and one could see their embarrassment. There
were several luminaries in the house for the first game: LA Sparks coach
Michael Cooper, basketball legend Ann Meyers, and Sparks GM Penny Toler
were all out scouting. Lastly, it was interesting to be in a historic
building, even if it was for a tragic reason: Gersten is where LMU legend
Hank Gathers died. There's a big "Hank's House 44" banner hanging on the
wall, in addition to his retired jersey (along with Bo Kimble's.)