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Tillis, Duke Thrash The Terps

Duke 78, Maryland 48. January 22, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In a weird parallel to the Duke-Maryland men's game of a night earlier,
this game ultimately came down to one stat: offensive rebounding. Duke
tortured Maryland for 21 offensive rebounds and 7 stickbacks. That
included 7 straight points generated from stickbacks in the game's first
five minutes as Duke struggled to contain Maryland's explosive offense.
Maryland's sticky zone was causing some misses, but Duke's rebounding
negated 30 seconds of good defense. Once Duke found an offensive rhythm
and figured out how to prevent Maryland from getting easy looks, it was
all over, but those second-chance points prevented Maryland from getting a
significant early lead and robbed them of any potential confidence.

The two biggest individual stories from the game were Iciss Tillis and
Alison Bales. Icebox has been cold from the field for the last three
weeks, and this slump was starting to affect other aspects of her game.
Ali had been a bit of an afterthought in the rotation after trying to come
back from injury; she didn't inspire confidence in the Virginia game, for
example. But now she's healthy and is starting to believe in herself.
The more minutes she played against Maryland, the better she performed.
By the game's end, she was blocking virtually everything that came her
way, getting rebounds and tips and even hit a jumper. It was also nice to
see Brittany Hunter in the lineup, though she is far from 100% at this
point. Still, Duke needs both of their frosh to help out against
Tennessee's army of post players this weekend.

This game was no gimme, and in many ways was a classic "trap" game, with
the big contest against Tennessee less than 48 hours away. The Terps have
been the surprise of the league with a 12-5 record coming into the game
and wins against NC State, Virginia and Georgia Tech. The strength of the
team is in its dynamic but young backcourt of Shay Doron and Kalika
France. They complement the more experienced Vicki Brick, Anesia Smith
(who started at point) and Alli Spence, a transfer who leads the league in
three point shooting. What has helped the Terps most is that their
frontcourt has improved quite a bit. Veterans Crystal Washington &
Delvona Oliver are both in excellent shape and have contributed steadily.
Younger players like C'Vette Henson, Chrissy Fisher and Aurelie Noirez
have also helped off the bench. Coach Brenda Frese has a deep bench and
isn't afraid to use it.

The first ten minutes of the game made it seem as though the contest
would be a real scorcher. There were 7 lead changes and a couple of ties
as Maryland lured Duke into taking some bad shots. Meanwhile, hot three
point shooting kept the Terps close. The first ten minutes of the game
belonged to Monique Currie, but also featured the rebirth of Iciss
Tillis' game. Currie started the game with a couple of foul shots and
then passed to Tillis for a three. Oliver spotted up from outside the
arc and hit a three of her own to tie the game at 5. Beard hit a 10'
baseline jumper, but Doron sank a three with Beard in her grill. Currie
missed a jumper, but Tillis got the putback and the foul, firing up
the whole team.

The Devils forced Maryland to drive, where their superior size caused a
couple of misses. At the other end, Bass and Currie had back-to-back
stickbacks, with Mo rebounding her own miss after a steal. That put Duke
up 14-8, but Maryland came back with a France drive and an open three from
Fisher, who may be the best shooter over 6' in the ACC. Currie then
attacked the basket and finished with a pretty floater on a pass from
Vicki Krapohl. Duke missed 3 straight jumpers as the Terps stormed back
to take a 17-16 lead, but Tillis passed to Currie, who hit a 10' jumper.
Maryland came right back on a give-and-go to take the lead once again.
Their zone was shutting off driving lanes, and while it hampered their
ability to rebound somewhat, they had done a pretty good job at chasing
down long rebounds.

The shot clock started to run down for Duke and Currie had the ball.
She couldn't drive and couldn't pass thanks to Maryland's defense, and
finally realized that she had to shoot. Currie nailed a 19' jumper to
give Duke the lead once and for all. At this point, Lindsey Harding
started to step up her level of play, getting a rebound & going to the
line for 2 free throws, and then finding Beard for a 12' baseline jumper.
Doron hit another three to cut the lead to 24-22, but Beard found Foley in
the left corner for a three to counter that shot. Duke slowly started to
build their lead as Maryland was able to hang around. Beard forced Doron
into a tough shot and Bass got the board. Foley took another three from
the corner and missed, but Tillis was there for the stickback. This is
the kind of easy shot that she had been missing during her slump, but she
had no problems here. That gave DUkea 29-22 lead with six minutes to go
in the half.

A Maryland free throw was followed by Tillis finding Bass in a high-low.
More and more, Maryland was forced to settle for off-balance jumpers, and
Duke jumped on the offensive glass. Beard tossed the ball over the zone
to Bass, and Harding drove hard to draw a foul. With under four minutes
to go, Duke had its first double-digit lead at 35-25. By this point, both
Beard and Currie had two fouls and were on the bench. Bales & Foley
were in to replace them. Maryland scored 3 straight points, but Harding
once again was all over the place. She skied to collect a Foley miss for
a stickback. Bales then blocked Noirez (with perfect timing), and Harding
collected the rebound and found Tillis open for a 15' jumper. Bales got a
rebound and Harding zipped in and stuck a 10' jumper. Finally, Duke had
the last possession of the half. Harding drove and passed to Tillis, who
saw a three rattle in from the top of the key. All of a sudden, a close
game had been turned into a 44-28 bulge for the Devils. Duke went on a
9-0 run to end the half. The Devils were +9 on the boards, shot 48% from
the field and held Maryland to 32%. Duke did allow them to hit 4-8 from
three. One could sense that Doron & France were starting to get a bit
frustrated. The starting posts (Washington & Oliver) had zero rebounds
and combined for 4 fouls.

Currie quickly picked up her third foul to start the second half, but
Harding came up with a steal and Currie passed to Beard for a three from
the wing. Oliver missed a shot and Currie rebounded; Tillis posted up and
then spun to the hoop when she saw no one was guarding her. Harding
stripped Oliver and started a break to Currie, who passed to Beard for the
finish. With about three minutes gone by, Duke had a commanding 51-28
lead. The Devils extended that lead thanks to Tillis, who hit a 15'
jumper and scored 4 straight from the foul line. After Currie put Duke up
59-31 with under fourteen minutes to go, that was pretty much it for
Beard, Currie and Tillis for the night.

Though Maryland score on the next possession, Duke soon had the lead
over 30 with a Foley three and Bales post-up. The Devils concentrated on
post play, with Hunter and Bales getting plenty of looks. Interestingly,
when Duke's big three left the game, Frese decided to go with some of her
bench players instead of throwing a full-court press on the Devils. The
result was that Duke's bench outplayed Maryland's bench considerably. The
Bales-Hunter tandem was impossible to score on but Duke's bench perimeter
plays also had a nice effort, helping to limit Maryland to 2-8 shooting
from three in the second half. Duke's post rotation was just too much for
the Terps, as Bales, Bass, Hunter & Tillis combined for 39 points, 22
rebounds, 8 blocks and 4 assists. The intimidation that Hunter and Bales
brought to the floor couldn't quite be quantified in the stat sheet,
because they altered shots and forced bad ones thanks to their size.

In many respects, this game was just what the doctor ordered. Duke
played a good team with a lot of offensive weapons that they had to
respect, but not a squad that was at the level of UConn or Tennessee.
They attacked the boards, got a number of dispiriting (for the Terps)
stickbacks, and slowly wore them down. Duke did it without Alana Beard
having to expend much energy on the court, allowing her to rest her minor
injuries. Tillis finally broke out of her slump, Bales had her finest
game to date, Bass was stronger than ever on the boards, and
Harding demonstrated a high level of aggressiveness and intelligence.
Duke did this while being able to rest Currie as well, who merely held the
team together when Maryland was playing their best. No one played more
than 27 minutes, and the bench got 84 total minutes. Most importantly,
Duke took care of business against another ACC foe.

** Negatives:

1. Rotating to the shooter. The only significant flaw of the night.
Maryland was making the extra pass early in the game and got wide-open
looks for Doron, Fisher and Oliver. Duke had trouble dealing with the
screens that opened up these looks. The Devils countered by turning up
their defensive pressure and attacking the point guard with a series of

2. Transition offense. Maryland made a point of trying to stop it, but
Duke's break didn't seem quite as smooth as usual.

** Positives:

1. Offensive rebounding. The stat of the night: Duke won this battle
21-12, with 5 from Tillis and 3 from Bales & Currie. Six different
players had at least 2 offensive rebounds. Duke's relentlessness
eventually wore down the game Terps.

2. Patience on offense. Early in the game, Duke was setting for the first
open jumper instead of trying to get the best shot. By settling down,
passing the ball around a bit and often getting fouled, Duke slowly wore
down the Terps. Duke probed for weaknesses in the zone and found them.

3. Interior defense. Duke held Maryland to 6 points in the paint and
blocked 8 shots. Tillis and Bass did a nice job at first, and then were
backed up by Bales & Hunter, who were even more impressive.


** Bass: Mistie was really tough in the game's opening minutes,
especially on the boards. She's been studying Monique in trying to
rebound as well as she does, and I think it comes down to timing and
desire. Mistie's size simply isn't sufficient for her to get rebounds,
but she's now using her increased quickness to really get after boards.
The beautiful thing about her game tonight was that it was quite
efficient, which isn't normally a word one would use to describe it.
Mistie was 4-6 (a stickback, a couple of post-ups and a jumper), with 7
rebounds, 2 blocks, an assist, a charge taken and zero fouls & turnovers.
Bass sometimes used a lot of energy to accomplish less than what she
wanted on the court, or would compound mistakes with fouls. As she
matures and evolves as a player, the game is easier to break and things
move a lot slower. As long as she continues to keep it simple, she will
have a big impact.

** Tillis: The slump ended for Iciss in grand fashion. Once she converted
that three point play after a tip-in, all of the frustration of the last
three weeks seemed to pour out of her in one punch. Of course, she nearly
decked Currie in her enthusiasm, so Iciss will need to practice her
on-court celebrations as well! After she hit that shot, Iciss suddenly
was everywhere. She was hitting jumpers, drawing fouls, spinning to the
basket, rebounding and playing defense. When Iciss is on, she is the one
player that most teams can't handle. While not a back to the basket
scorer, she has a feathery turnaround jumper and is tall enough that her
shot is nearly unblockable. Of course, she's a fine spot-up shooter as
well. Iciss noted that what helped her in this game was a very simple
imperative: "Don't think". She didn't worry about missed shots or
mistakes, and simply went on to the next play. Getting that first layup
to drop was big, but her play late in the half was even more important.
She had a stickback with about six minutes to go in the half, sparking a
run where she scored 7 of Duke's 15 points and had an assist. The biggest
shot was a three as the half wound down. That was a momentum-swinging
shot, giving Duke a big boost. Iciss then absolutely dominated the first
six minutes of the second half, scoring 8 points and actually getting to
the foul line. Tillis did have a few turnovers on bad passes, but I'll
take it if it means that she just plays and doesn't worry.

** Currie: Mo was the offense for about a five minute stretch in the
first half. She had 10 of Duke's first 20 points and kept the Devils in
the game. After drawing her second foul, she sat for much of the rest of
the half. Her job was done, setting a tone for Duke's defensive and
rebounding efforts for the evening. She had a lot in her bag of tricks: 2
stickbacks, a finger roll, a short jumper and a long jumper, along with
her usual strong rebounding effort. Monique's only three attempt was a
bit shaky, and it was clear that she thought about the shot for too long.

** Beard: After a groin pull in practice on Tuesday, Alana had a rough
shooting game. She also sat for a long time after drawing a second foul,
and thankfully her teammates didn't need her for this game. Maryland was
laying off of her the whole time, often giving her 2 feet to work with,
trying to bait her into taking quick shots. Alana realized this and
didn't play that game, instead waiting for good shots to open up. Still,
this was one of her worst shooting games, though I imagine she would have
heated up in the second half if she had been needed.

** Harding: A manic, all-out effort by Lindsey, who flew out of bounds on
several occasions to track down loose balls and rebounds. There was one
play where she flew out of bounds to save a ball. The team ran upcourt
and she was still under the opponent's basket. Next thing you know, Duke
turns the ball over and Lindsey is the last point of defense. Standing
her ground, she forced Anesia Smith into taking a bad shot instead of
holding the ball. Harding hit both of her jumpers, was 4-5 at the line
(this has been a major problem this year), and was constantly initiating
double-teams on the ballhandler. Harding's career numbers are starting to
look interesting. She's approaching 350 points and 200 assists, already
had 100 steals and 200 rebounds.

** Krapohl: Nice floor game for Vicki, who drew enough defensive attention
to prevent her from forcing a shot. It was weird to see her guard Spence,
who looks like Vicki's long-lost sister. Vicki may actually be a
half-inch taller, though, and is clearly in much better shape.
Defensively, Krapohl did a nice job on her, never letting her get a good
look at the hoop. She also did well in feeding Bales, first in transition
and then for a jumper. It was odd to see her eschew all shot attempts,
considering that Duke was playing against a zone, but it was clear that
she was deliberately trying to slow the offense down and get them to slow
down and concentrate.

** Foley: Not a high-impact game from Jess, but she did hit a couple of
shots and had some hustle plays. Her three in the first half was
important because it revealed some cracks in Maryland's zone. Foley's
other three bounced on the rim a couple of times before dropping. Jess
was one of the players active on the offensive boards, helping to create
some second chances.

** Bales: This was the best all-around game of Ali's career at Duke,
considering the opponent and her overall level of play. Her first problem
at Duke has been dealing with her knee injury. That slowed down her
conditioning and wiped out valuable practice hours. The preseason is when
young players learn the most through exhaustive, skills-based drills.
Alison lacked the same basic foundation and level of cohesiveness with her
teammates, and so had problems with confidence. The key to overcoming
this is to work harder in practice, and it certainly paid off in this
game. In the first half, she had a perfectly-time block and also ripped
the ball out of her opponent's hands after a miss for a steal. Bales
played a lot of minutes in the second half and blocked 4 shots, including
a 2-handed grab out of the air. In transition, she was wide open near the
basket and demanded the ball. Krapohl found her and Duke got an easy
score. She followed that up with a rebound basket and finished the game
by hitting a 17' jumper on a great pass from Krapohl. Maryland does not
have top-notch post talent, so this was a good "training wheels" game for
Ali. With Hunter not 100%, Duke will need a player who can rebound and
defend. Bales can still help the team quite a bit this season, especially
if she comes into games showing a lot of desire. She's still not grabbing
rebounds with both hands, but has become a lot more adept in tipping the
ball out to her teammates. Definitely a game to savor and then build on.

** Hunter: Brit looked several steps slow in her brace and obviously
wasn't running at full speed. The result was her being a bit slow to the
ball at times. She did rally for a couple of second-half scores. Her
first basket with under seven minutes to go seemed to energize her a bit.
On Duke's next possession, she relocated the ball to Bass for a jumper.
Then she hit a turnaround jumper from 15'. Brit did miss 2 free throws
and commit an offensive foul, however. The most shocking stat of the game
was zero rebounds for her. That may never happen again. This game was
more about getting her feet wet again and testing out her knee than coming
out to dominate.

** Howe: Cait missed her only three but found another way to score,
driving for a tough 15' jumper. Caitlin got a couple of boards and was
very active--she just couldn't quite get her shot to fall.

** Cameron Craziness: A very loud and boisterous crowd was in attendance,
including many students. Best cheer of the night was "Just like last