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Duke Sleepwalks Past Rhode Island

Duke beat Rhode Island in the first round of the Auburn Holiday
Classic 89-63, but no one was particularly happy about it. While Duke
shot an impressive 57% against a foe that had matchup problems, visions of
sugarplums were clearly impairing Duke's defensive intensity. The Devils
allowed URI to shoot a season-best 44% against them as the second half was
basically even. There were all sorts of small breakdowns: players missing
layups, players missing free throws (58% for the game and 50% in the
second half), 22 turnovers and poor transition defense. Duke simply
didn't take advantage of opportunities that were there; for example, 15
offensive rebounds yielded only 14 second-chance points. Part of the
problem is that Duke pretty much wanted URI to give up when they got a 20
point+ lead, and the Rams simply didn't. Coach Tom Garrick kept his
regulars in the entire game and they wound up hanging tough with Duke in
the second half, even cutting the lead to under 20 a few times. Mo Currie
wound up fouling out with seven minutes remaining, but it didn't matter
that much since Duke had such a big lead.

There were a few positives in this game. Duke shot very well, with Jess
Foley in particular netting some much-needed threes. The Devils shot an
impressive 47% from three as four different players hit at least one.
Duke rebounded well against a smaller opponent, going +18 on the boards.
Alison Bales came off the bench because of a problem with her knee brace,
but she chipped in 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks.

In this weird three-team tournament, Auburn played Rhode Island today
and crushed them, 80-41. Duke will have to play a whole lot better
tomorrow against Auburn if they want to win, especially since the Tigers
rarely lose at home. They gave the Beard-led Duke team a hard time last
year, and with their athleticism should give Duke quite a game tomorrow.
The Devils will really need to clamp down on star wing Natasha Brackett
and shut down shot-blocking center Marita Payne to win.