clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tennessee Spoils Alana's Party

Tennessee 72, Duke 69. January 24, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In some respects, Tennessee's victory over Duke was a mirror image
of sorts to Duke's upset victory over the Lady Vols in 1999. In both
cases, the team with superior athletes and more dominant scorers lost to
the squad that executed better and who exploited the weaknesses of the
other team's stars. In 1999, Duke bodied up the legendary Chamique
Holdsclaw and frustrated her into a poor shooting performance. In this
game, Tennessee cheated to Alana Beard's left hand and used a shifting
variety of defenses to keep the ball out of her hands. The result was a
hard-fought road win, one that was especially disappointing for an
extraordinarily special night for Alana.

Duke probably has the most athletic starting five in the country, but
the outside shooting of that particular group has been erratic at best.
What has changed for the Blue Devils is that a program once known for its
finesse play has caused both Pat Summitt and Sylvia Hatchell to talk about
how physical they've become--and coming from that pair of coaches, it's
quite a statement. Meanwhile, the Lady Vols lack All-America firepower
but are blessed with depth, balance and experience. Summitt talked about
how pleased she was with the team's collective responsibility, especially
on offense.

Both teams had similar goals: control the boards and make the other team
uncomfortable on offense. Duke did a slightly better job of this than
Tennessee in the first half. Any concern that Duke might be too juiced
up emotionally to start the game were quickly banished as Beard scored 6
quick points. As the game progressed, there was one pre-game bit of info
that started to become relevant: Beard suffered a pulled groin on Tuesday.
She had to skip practice the rest of the week and played limited minutes
against Maryland on Thursday night. Watching Alana, her lateral quickness
was obviously diminished, which wound up hurting her at both ends of the

Still, Duke had an early 12-6 lead and had their chances to push it up
even further, as Tennessee looked disorganized on offense. Alana started
the game off with a bang by driving in for a layup. After UT center
Ashley Robinson scored to tie it up, Mistie Bass dished back to Monique
Currie for a 15' jumper. Alana came back and pulled up for a 15' jumper;
if Duke was going to make those shots all game, it was going to be a long
night for UT. The Lady Vols tied the score after a Bass turnover, but
Lindsey Harding blew by Shanna Zolman for a layup. Duke started to assert
themselves defensively over the next few minutes, turning over Moore,
forcing tough long-range jumpers and bumping players off cuts. The result
was 2 straight stickbacks for Duke, giving them a 12-8 lead with thirteen
minutes to go in the half.

The Devils had their chances to extend that lead, but turnovers and
multiple offensive rebounds by Tennessee allowed them to creep back to
13-12. Currie broke up their mini-run with a strong drive and Tillis hit
a free throw after getting fouled going to the basket. Duke threw on a
half-hearted press that Tennessee easily shredded, something that might
have become a factor later in the contest. Currie missed a jumper and UT
got an easy basket off an inbounds play to tie the game at 16 with six
minutes left.

Beard and Tillis kept attacking the basket and wound up with 4 straight
free throws, while defensively Brittany Hunter had a block and Jessica
Foley a steal. Little-used frosh Dominique Redding came off the bench and
stuck a three to halt Duke's momentum. Beard found Tillis inside for a
score, but Loree Moore stepped up to tie the game with three minutes left
in the half at 22. That would be UT's last score of the half as UT missed
3 shots. Meanwhile, Duke used 3 offensive rebounds for a Brittany Hunter
score, and Harding cut through the defense for a layup. Tillis blocked a
Redding shot with one second left in the half to preserve a 26-22 lead.

Duke had their chances to pull away, but too often settled for jumpshots
instead of taking it to the basket, and the resilient Lady Vols crawled
back into the game. Despite shooting just 26% in the half, two things
aided Tennessee: hitting two three-pointers late in the half,
and having an 11-6 edge in second-chance points. While Tennessee was not
executing well, there was no problem with their overall effort as a team.
Six rebounds in the last 1:26 of the first half helped Duke to their
halftime lead. Still, Beard didn't have any field goals in the last
fifteen minutes of the half, so Tennessee was still in great shape, and
Coach G had to be concerned.

At the half, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt made a few key moves, the
biggest of which was going much more extensively to a zone defense. At
the same time, she made stopping Duke's transition game a top priority.
Duke had 3 steals in the first three minutes of the second half that it
couldn't convert into points. Meanwhile, Tennessee used a variety of
approaches on offense to keep Duke off-balance. Shyra Ely pulled up for a
foul line jumper, while Ashley Robinson and Shanna Zolman worked a
two-woman game, with each assisting the other on back-to-back possessions.
Tennessee took the lead back at 29-28, but Currie immediately countered
with a floater.

Beard missed a jumper and Bass missed a shot right after getting a
steal; either basket would have given Duke back the lead. Instead,
Brittany Jackson used a screen and sank a three, giving UT their biggest
lead of the game at 34-30. Tillis once again got fouled and sank both
shots. That gave Duke a chance to briefly seize control once again,
thanks to a Tillis steal that led to a Currie three point play, but
back-to-back fast break baskets by Loree Moore gave UT a 42-37 lead with
twelve minutes left. (In a statistical oddity, frosh Sidney Spencer was
credited for a three despite the referee signalling a two. Neither coach
noticed.) Duke continued to pound it inside, with Beard hitting Hunter on
a post-up and Tillis again using her quickness to get fouled inside. 4
Tillis free throws and a Hunter drive gave Duke back the lead at 45-44
with nine minutes left.

Then came a pivotal play for both teams. Moore, playing outstanding
defense throughout the second half, picked Lindsey Harding and was off to
the races. Beard caught up with her and yanked on her arm as she was
trying to go to the basket. Moore landed awkwardly and couldn't get up on
her own. Her injury sparked the team to a 16-6 run that proved to be just
enough to hold off Duke. Tennessee was simply brilliant during this
stretch as they flawlessly executed their offense for the next several
minutes. They started with baskets inside to Robinson and Ely. Both
Currie and Tillis had picked up their third fouls early in the half, and
the result was some half-hearted defense that Tennessee readily exploited.
Only a Tillis 17' jumper broke up the bulk of the run.

Still, Duke was down just 51-47 when Tillis stole the ball and looked
to have clear sailing to the basket. She missed a contested layup and
Tye'Sha Fluker scored right away to put Tennessee up 6. Jackson and Ely
kept Duke at bay by hitting jumpers off the dribble, but another key
sequence came with 4:44 left. Currie turned the ball over and Tennessee
had 3 cracks at the basket. The third shot was from Moore, who limped off
the bench ala Willis Reed and nailed a wide-open three for that 60-51

Beard had not scored in over 15 minutes and in fact barely even touched
the ball. Duke rectified that by having her bring the ball up in an
effort to create something, anything. Beard first found Tillis inside,
but Robinson got a tip-in to keep the lead at 9. After that, Beard pretty
much decided to try to take over and hit a three to cut it to 6. Harding
stole the ball, but Tillis was blocked by Robionson. Three straight
points from Currie made it 63-59. Currie fouled Zolman, who was zen-like
in her free throw form despite battling against one of the louder crowds
I've heard in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

With under a minute left, Tennessee had a comfy 66-59 lead after an
offensive foul from Beard. In the back of their minds, the Lady Vols knew
that Duke would keep coming. Images of the UConn game danced in
everyone's heads. Beard popped another three, Zolman hit 2 more free
throws, Currie drove in quickly for a layup, and then Zolman dribbled the
ball off her foot. Beard used a spectacular spin move to cut the lead to
68-66 with just 24 seconds left. Cameron sounded like the Indy 500. Duke
then forced the ball loose, but after a tie-up, the ball went Tennessee's
way. Zolman and Brittany Jackson finished off Duke with 4 free throws
down the stretch, and Lindsey Harding hit a half-court three that made the
score a little closer.

Duke made one critical mistake in the last ten minutes: they didn't
press Tennessee when Moore went out. Duke had tried a half-hearted press
earlier in the game that Tennessee easily shredded, and this may have
scared Coach G away from using it. However, Tennessee does not
have a true back-up point guard, and going to an all-out blitz not only
might have forced a few earlier turnovers, it may have taken away from
the team's rallying around a fallen player. The Lady Vols only had 4
turnovers in the last ten minutes of the game, and 2 of those came when
Duke started to press.

The final stats were remarkably even, as both teams had 43 rebounds,
hit 24 field goals and 18 free throws. Tennessee had 18 turnovers to
Duke's 14. What stands out is that the Lady Vols hit 3 more threes and
shot an astounding 58% in the second half. Duke is a team whose identity
revolves around its defense, but Tennessee found the chinks in Duke's
armor. A big part of this was their balance. Yes, Ely took 13 shots and
Moore 10, but six other players took at least 3 shots. Tennessee got 55
minutes from its bench as opposed to 34 for Duke, and outscored it 22-6.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, Moore's injury turned out to be a torn ACL,
putting her out for the rest of the year. Duke fans can certainly relate
to that injury, since it knocked out both Monique Currie and Caitlin
Howe. Some Tennessee fans are blaming Beard, but the truth of the matter
is that first of all, the play was a hard foul but a clean one. She
grabbed her arm on the way up to prevent a layup, but didn't shove her in
the back or undercut her. Second, some who have watched the tape have
concluded that Moore may have torn the ACL when she planted to take the
layup, even before Beard grabbed her. Beard has been in touch with Moore
and feels terrible about it.

Coach G could barely hide how furious she was after the game. She was
especially angry about the team's defense and all of the missed layups.
The fact that Duke didn't match Tennessee's level of intensity on a
consistent basis, and that they got away from what the program is based on
had to be totally perplexing. The team has a week to think about it
before playing NC State.

** Negatives:

1. Defense. The team had breakdowns on the perimeter (too many open
threes), inside (too many easy layups) and in transition. They didn't
stop the ball on too many occasions and wound up fouling on too many
others. Of these, the greatest sin was transition defense, usually
something Duke does well. There were times when Duke players' body
language and positioning seemed to indicate a hope that Tennessee would
miss, instead of making them miss.

2. Shot selection. UT went zone and forced Duke into a lot of bad, quick
shots. Duke simply didn't show the patience they needed to in finding
ways to crack the zone, or if they did, they waited too long to
aggressively go after them.

3. Blocking out. Tennessee not only got 14 offensive boards, but they
made sure to convert when they did get them. With Duke's size and
quickness, this really shouldn't have happened.

** Positives:

1. Getting to the foul line. Tillis and Currie were continually able to
find ways to manufacture points by going hard to the basket. This kept
Duke in the game, because most of their other short shots weren't falling.

2. Offensive rebounding. This was another big factor for Duke. The
Devils had only 13 second-chance points with 16 offensive rebounds, but
that was because they had trouble converting even the shortest of shots.
Still, Duke did get some critical hoops because of second efforts.

3. Never quitting. Beard and Currie scored 15 of Duke's last 20 points,
making tougher and tougher shots as the stakes got higher. The
disappointing thing for Duke was that the toughness they displayed in the
game's last three minutes was rarely on display during the rest of the


** Bass: This was a hugely disappointing game for Mistie at both ends.
She got outworked for boards, was beaten for baskets and took a couple of
weak shots. Her main positive was taking a charge. Duke really needed
someone to get some easy baskets inside and block out, and she just didn't
get it done in this game. Luckily, she will have an immediate chance to
redeem herself against NC State's Kaayla Chones, the best center in the

** Tillis: This was truly a rollercoaster of a game for Iciss. Shooting
3-16 is something that one wishes to quickly forget, but the fact of the
matter is that Iciss kept Duke in the game in a number of other ways.
When Beard & Currie went through long scoring droughts, it was her ability
to get to the foul line that prevented Tennessee from running away with
the game. And this is an area where she went far out of her comfort zone
in order to help the team. With a career-high 11 free throw attempts
against a tough frontline, she proved that she can go toe-to-toe with
anyone, that she's not just a guard in a center's body. Her 14 rebounds
also attest to this, along with 2 blocks and 4 steals. Iciss may have
struggled, but her head was always in the game, and she should be proud of
her effort. Her missed layups were disappointing and hurt the team's
chances, but she put them aside and kept on coming. If she continues to
play with this much passion the rest of the year (like she did on Thursday
night as well), doesn't worry about missed shots and just plays, Duke will
be in very good shape.

** Currie: A solid overall game for Monique, who scored on drives,
stickbacks, free throws, and jumpers. She was aggressive on offense,
especially when Duke really needed scores. What she didn't do is have a
great rebounding game. Duke's leader at nearly 8 rpg only had 4 in this
game. Mo was also too careless with the ball, turning it over 4 times.
Overall, she played her best in crunch time (with 7 points in the last
five minutes) but seemed a bit lackadaisical at other times.

** Beard: Beard was less than 100% both because of her groin injury and
the fact that she strained some ligaments in her foot during the game. As
a result, she's been held out of practice and may miss Friday's game.
Duke will have to win without her. Despite all that, she still nearly
pulled off an upset by herself. Tennessee denied her the ball throughout
the second half, and Alana simply wasn't quick enough to get to the ball
or use screens to her advantage. When Duke had her bring the ball up in
the last couple of minutes of the game, Alana made the most of it, scoring
8 late points. Beard also had a couple of steals, took 2 charges, and
managed 4 boards. Her late-game spin move to bring Duke within 2 points
goes on her all-time highlight reel, which is already pretty crowded.
Right now, she just has to think about getting better.

** Harding: Lindsey played very well; most of Moore's scores weren't her
fault. Her penetration was a big reason why Tennessee had to go zone, as
she tore through them several times for easy scores. She did take a three
early in the game that didn't fall, but in general eschewed long-range
shots. It's a shame that her buzzer-beater didn't amount to much, because
it was a great shot. Her big problem in this game was that her 3
turnovers proved to be crucial ones, and they came about because she got
careless. Still, she had 6 assists and an astonishing 9 rebounds, 5

** Krapohl: Vicki only had a brief appearance in the game, as Hunter was
playing exceptionally well at both ends. Duke could have used her
shooting, but the defensive tradeoff was probably a bit too much.

** Foley: Jess had a very tough game, missing a couple of open threes,
coughing the ball up a couple of times in important situations and picking
up a bunch of fouls. She was a split-second away from a huge steal down
the stretch, but couldn't quite tuck the ball away. Duke really needed
someone to knock down some threes in this game, and Jess looked a bit slow
all night. Again, this is a player crucial to Duke's success, so
hopefully she can pick it up on Friday.

** Hunter: Brit's game was a mixed bag. I loved her fearlessness in
attacking Tennessee, her willingness to bang inside and trade elbows, and
some tough defense. She also hit a couple of rare post-ups for Duke and
had a big stickback towards the end of the first half. The problems came
with her limited mobility thanks to her knee. Brit tried to go one-on-one
with Robinson twice in the first half and wound up taking bad shots.
Also, her foul on Moore in transition was a case of a young player
compounding a mistake (a team being beaten on defense) with another
mistake (getting a touch foul instead of either letting the play go or
delivering a harder foul). Hunter's knee is a definite concern and she'll
have to learn to depend on good decision-making and reading plays rather
than on her own quickness.

** Cameron Craziness: I touched on the retirement ceremony in another
post, but this was probably the best crowd I've seen all year, for men
or women. (The Wake game was up there, though.) Nothing too witty, other
than the occasional "Sit down, Pat!", just lots of noise. When Duke was
down, they got even louder. Best of all, when the team lost, there was a
long and pronounced "Let's go Duke" that drowned out the celebrations of
the Tennessee fans, of whom there were quite a few. The team clearly fed
off of the energy of the Colonial Animal in the last few minutes of the