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California Hoops, Part 2

Duke 81, Loyola Marymount 53. December 29, 2003. Gersten Pavillion.

On paper, the Duke-LMU matchup did not look to be a blowout, especially
not in the first half. The Lady Lions were undefeated at home and knocked
off Providence, Arkansas (a very good team), and UNLV--all teams from
bigger conferences. Duke had put up an inconsistent effort against
Hampton in their first-round game of the Marina Del Rey Marriott Beach
Classic, while LMU whipped Northwestern. Duke had lost a similar road
game to Toledo a couple of years ago, and while I didn't think Duke would
lose here, I did think it could be a closer matchup than anyone thought.
As it turns out, I was dead wrong.

The mediocre showing of a day earlier proved to motivate the team to
take control right away and not let up. The results were scores of 16-2,
28-4, 37-6 and 42-9. Utter domination from the word go, as Duke sliced
LMU's defense to pieces and shut them down defensively. The Lions had
only 4 field goals up until the last four minutes of the half, shooting an
abysmal 3-26 from the field. Ten turnovers didn't help their cause any
either. Meanwhile, Duke shot 53% in the half, dominated the boards 27-18
and only turned the ball over 4 times. While everything flowed from Alana
Beard, who had an unusually good shooting performance, Iciss Tillis and
Monique Currie also had very impressive showings in the half.

After Lindsey Harding opened the scoring on a drive, Beard got a couple
of offensive rebounds and tapped in a rebound. This showed right away
that Duke was going all-out in this game. Duke's transition game got off
the ground when Harding whipped an outlet pass to Beard, who hit Iciss
Tillis in stride for a fast break basket. After an LMU score, Duke really
went to work. Beard scored on a lob from Harding and then on a
spectacular steal and spin move. Alana kept coming, with a lob to Currie
for a score, a scoring drive and a dish to Currie in transition. LMU
simply wasn't getting down the floor fast enough to set up their zone,
which actually worked pretty well in set situations.

Of course, Duke started busting it with short jumpers from Currie and
Beard. The Devils were making leading scorer Kate Murray's life
miserable, holding her to 2-6 in the first half. Harding connected to
Beard in transition a couple of more times, while Currie scored on a cut
and Brittany Hunter hit a post-up. With under ten minutes to go in the
half, Duke led 28-4. Duke kept attacking, with a Harding-to-Jess Foley-to
Tillis fast break being the prettiest of the game. Beard scored again on
a lob and then found Tillis for a three. Duke's final big run of the half
began when Hunter shocked the Lions by putting the ball on the deck and
driving to the hoop. Currie then found Beard twice--for a three and a 15'

After that, LMU started to tighten up their zone a bit and forced some
stops. Duke accomodated them by taking a few quick shots, and the Lions
managed to double their scoring output in the last three minutes of the
half, from 9 to 18. That run extended into the second half as LMU scored
the first 6 points, cutting Duke's lead from 32 to 20 in the process.
Interestingly, the player who ended the brief comeback was not Beard, but
Currie, who drove hard at 2 players to draw the foul. After a few misses
by both teams, Foley found Beard for a three to give Duke a 49-24 lead.
The rest of the game was pretty much a foregone conclusion as Duke called
off its press.

The last six or seven minutes was given over to the reserves. A combo
we saw a lot of was Foley, Whitley, Howe, Hunter or Bales, and Krapohl.
This group actually put up 18 points in the last six minutes of the game,
with Caitlin Howe leading the way with 8 points. While there's still
plenty of rust on everyone's games, they had to be pleased with how they
played together. Team continuity is still a concern, and games like this
will go a long way towards building chemistry. Even though the UConn
games looms, this team is not yet near its peak.

** Negatives:

1. Fouling. LMU worked really hard on getting to the line, especially in
the second half. Part of that was a result of a group unfamiliar with
each other playing poor help defense. But there were plays where Duke
fouled the jump shooter or just plain got beaten to the basket.

2. Going up strong. Tillis and Bass had a number of shots rejected by the
rangy Adrianne Slaughter. They continually underestimated her and didn't
try to use a pump fake or a more physical approach, and they paid for it.

** Positives:

1. Rebounding. A dominant showing, especially with 17 offensive boards.
All five starters had at least 3 rebounds, and reserve posts Bales and
Hunter combined for 16 rebounds. Duke definitely has options inside.

2. Transition offense. A thing to behold, as the Currie-Harding-Beard
troika ran all over LMU. The nice thing about it is that other than
Tillis turning the ball over because she wasn't looking up, the team
converted virtually every time they had a leakout.

3. Ball movement. Two of the team's biggest scorers (Beard & Currie)
combined for 12 assists. It shows how unselfish and smart they are,
because when double-teams came, they immediately found an open teammate.
Overall, 29 of Duke's 34 field goals came on assists, and 2 of the ones
that weren't were stickbacks.


** Bass: Mistie played solid defense in the first half, picking up a
couple of steals, but was shut down on offense. Worse, she started
turning the ball over, including a moving screen. Mistie is a player who
can dominate but who doesn't always react well when faced with zones or
sagging defenses. Above all else, she needs to keep moving, because a
stagnant player against that kind of offense is useless. She loves
getting the ball, but must prove that she's willing to go strong and rely
on her footwork rather than tough shots. Bass will face some big tests

** Tillis: Solid first half for Iciss, but an awful second stanza. She
scored twice in transition and once from three, but was shut out the rest
of the game as her attempts were batted back. Iciss really needs to have
a breakout game, one where she gets it done inside and out. UConn will
certainly be the ultimate test, since they pushed her around last year.
If Iciss can respond well to the kind of pounding I expect UConn to dish
out, then that can set the tone for the rest of her season.

** Currie: Monique was smooth and in control, having conquered her
ballhandling problems from the first game. She and Alana were practically
interchangeable on offense, both scoring on lobs and mid-range jumpers and
dishing out assists. In the second half, she hit a long jumper and
finished off another lob (again from Alana). Other than picking up some
late foul trouble (including an offensive foul), Mo provided the perfect
balance for Duke on the wing. Last but not least, her defense continues
to improve as she becomes more aggressive.

** Beard: Though she had a lot of FG attempts in the first half, they
were all efficient shots. She scored 2 baskets off fast breaks, another
off a steal, one off a stickback, 2 by finishing off lobs, hit 3 jumpers
and scored on a drive. At the same time, she had 4 assists in the half.
Duke went to her because she was in the groove, but Mo Currie and Iciss
got plenty of shots in the half. Beard barely had to break a sweat in the
second half, hitting another three and getting style points with a
twisting layup. Throw in the usual stellar defense and you have an
MVP-caliber performance.

** Harding: Don't let the 1-6 mark from the floor fool you: Lindsey had a
fine overall game. She led the break in the first half and also hit Beard
on a perfectly-timed lob. Her defense was ferocious (2 steals and a held
ball), but it was the kind of shots she took that was interesting.
Harding fired away from three a couple of times and missed another short
jumper. Her range has always been limited, but she can stick the jumper
if given time. Lindsey's ability to drive alters the game plans of many
coaches as well. If that shot begins to fall and she gets used to taking
it, that will only give Duke a more versatile attack.

** Hunter: Brit duplicated her numbers from the previous night with 12 and
9. It is a pleasure to watch her rebound. Her power means that once she
gets position, she keeps it. Her court sense allows her to anticipate
where the ball will go. And her amazing hands apparently have vacuum
cleaners attached to them, because no matter where the ball goes, it's
apparently sucked to her hands. Her footwork is excellent, twisting other
players around so she can power up easily. Brit's ability to handle the
ball is also impressive, even if it's obviously not her greatest skill.
It's clear that she's been working on her turnaround jumper, because it's
looking like an effective weapon. Brittany can score in a number of
different ways, but it's best to keep her near the basket because of her
rebounding ability and footwork. I am eager to see how she develops after
she had a month or two to really absorb the system.

** Krapohl: Not a bad game at all for Vicki, despite modest numbers. She
took good shots that just didn't fall, but did get a rare trip to the foul
line thanks to being hacked while shooting a three. She also forced a
couple of held ball situations and generally played very scrappy defense.

** Foley: Jess struggled from the field, hitting just 1 three, but put on
a show from the floor with her passing. She had the last five assists of
the game, ranging from getting the ball to Howe for three, inbounding to
Whitley or pounding it inside to Hunter. Jess really thrives against
teams that play a lot of zone, because her main weakness is her
ballhandling. If she's not pressured, she'll have plenty of time to make
the right play.

** Howe: A day after looking very rusty and just relieved to be back on
the court, Caitlin quickly proved that she will earn more than sympathy
applause from the fans. She meshed instantly with her (academic)
classmate Foley, and was at the right spot at the right time when Foley
passed her the ball. Caitlin uses screens like an expert, and her first
shot, a 15' baseline jumper, barely disturbed the net. Jess fired the
ball to her behind the three point arc and Caitlin dropped that one in as
well. Her next three attempt rimmed in and out, but she drained the third
one. A timeout occurred after that, and Alana Beard ran halfway across
the court to celebrate with her. You could see how emotional she was when
she realized that she was now a difference-maker on the court. A healthy
Cait changes a lot of things for Duke. While more than a shooter, her
beautiful stroke is her calling card and could be a game-changer for Duke
in certain situations. If she continues to move well without the ball,
she could be the deadeye zone-buster that Duke has needed the past few
years. It'll be interesting to see how she continues to develop this

** Bales: Ali wound up not taking a single shot, though she did have one
potential attempt go by the wayside when she brought down an offensive
rebound. That aside, she cleaned up with 7 rebounds. As a young player,
it's good to see her concentrate on just a couple of things to do well,
because the coaches will call on her to perform them. If she can
establish herself as a good defender who gets every board, that will get
her playing time. We already know that she can post up, pass and shoot,
but if she can master the little things at a high level, that's how she'll
help the team the most.

** Whitley: Wynter scored her first basket of the year on an inbounds play
from Foley, but blew a couple of layups. It was clear that she was really
frustrated after the game, but it will take a while for her to get her
timing back.

** Gersten Notes: Alana was MVP of the tourney while Monique made it to
the all-tournament team. There wasn't much of a turnout,
unfortunately--912 and many of them were Duke fans. The team and coaches
thanked the Duke fans for coming out to see them, a nice reward that one
often sees in women's sports but not men's basketball.