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Duke Awakens Against NC State

Duke 75, NC State 56. January 30, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

For the first fifteen minutes of the game, Duke looked like a team whose
members had first met five minutes before game time. That was especially
true on the defensive end, where a State team that normally struggles to
score was looking like the '86 Celtics. Offensively, Duke took a lot of
quick long-range shots and was getting absolutely nothing on the boards.
Alana Beard, who did wind up playing after dealing with a couple of
injuries this week, did wind up sparking her team a bit, but it was really
a group effort that led to the Devils waking up and eventually taking over
the game. NC State had won their prior two ACC contests (including one
against a good Maryland) team and their early success boosted their
confidence. Meanwhile, Duke was not only coming off a long layoff, they
were also perhaps suffering a bit of "Tennessee hangover", wherein they
recreated their non-Oscar winning defensive performance from the second
half of that game. It didn't take a Coach G lecture to get the point
across: State was outhustling the Devils, pure and simple.

Fortunately, this is a group with a lot of pride, and no one with more
than Alana. Despite State seemingly going for her legs every time she
went near the basket, Alana kept absorbing more and more punishment.
Beard was also dishing out punishment in the form of great play after
great play. Meanwhile, Iciss Tills wound up having a fine game and very
nearly had her first career dunk (she missed the dunk but the ball went in
anyway). Mistie Bass, a no-show against Tennessee, was a much bigger
factor here and helped balance Duke's offense. Duke won the game for a
very simple reason; defensive pressure. When they were down, they let
State have way too much room to operate in their normal halfcourt
defensive sets. When Coach G started trapping the wings out of the zone
(especially short Kendra Bell or slow Rachel Stockdale), the Devils
started turning the Pack over. A 30-4 advantage in points off turnovers
really does says it all, and explains how Duke was able to overcome a
42-31 rebounding deficit.

Chones and Bass were battling down low in the game's early minutes.
Beard stuck back a Bass miss to tie the score at 2, but Chones scored on
Bass. Mistie came back with a 3-point play after Chones fouled her to
give Duke its first lead at 5-4. Chones posted her up again for an easy
score to give the lead back to State. Beard got her pocket picked by
Nanna Rivers for an easy layup, but Mo Currie struck back with a three.
Duke's defense was in disarray, as they allowed slow-footed Rachel
Stockdale to drive to the basket for a 5-footer. Bass tied it up on a
nice pass from Currie, along with some nice footwork. Hunter blocked a
shot from Bell and the ball went flying towards the backcourt. With time
running down on the shot clock, Rivers raced to the three point line and
threw one up as the clock was close to expiring--swish. No one bothered
to try to defend her, and that play seemed to give State some momentum.

Hunter did find Tillis in the post to cut the lead to 15-12, but the
Wolfpack Women embarked on an 8-2 run over the next three minutes. The
Pack hit 3 jumpers and had a post-up by Chones as Duke missed 4 shots.
Only a Bass 15-footer broke up the run, but the Devils were missing a lot
of jumpers. Even Jess Foley missed a 5' jumper. Duke fought back with a
Hunter post-up and 2 Foley free throws to cut it to 23-18, but the Pack
came back with a 6-1 run. Back-to-back missed threes and a couple of fast
breaks by the Pack boosted their lead to 29-19 with about five minutes to
go in the half.

This is when Beard really stepped up her level of play. Curiously
uninvolved in much of the game's action up to that point, she started
handling the ball a lot more and good things happened as a result. First
she hit Tillis down low for a score. Duke got a stop, Beard got the board
and fed Harding. State's Marquetta Dickens got a stickback to blunt
Duke's momentum a bit and bring their lead back up to 31-23. Beard struck
back with a 15' baseline jumper to keep things close. Stockdale pulled up
from 18' in reply. Tillis got into the low post and Harding fed her for a
fluid turnaround jumper. Beard was playing a lot more in the post, with
Tillis moving to the 5 spot as Duke brought in Krapohl to play next to

Bass missed a post-up, but Beard got the board and passed it out to
Harding. She then hit Tillis for a three that cut it to 33-30. Kendra
Bell hit one of NC State's only 2 threes in the game (they were 2-2 at
that point but would miss 7 in the second half). By this point, Duke was
playing much better defense and executing well on the offensive end.
Tillis was now confident and Beard threw a lob to Iciss that she
converted. Tillis had switched over to guard Chones, a move that wound up
being a good one. While Tillis gives up a lot of weight to the
powerfully-built Chones, she's about the same height and a lot quicker.
By bodying her up, Tillis forced Chones to take awkward shots. Against
Bass, Chones could take her time because she had a height advantage.
Tillis rebounded a Chones miss, fed Mistie Bass for a score, and then
blocked Marquetta Dickens' shot with 1 second to go in the half. Iciss
finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal.
Bass had 9 points, while Beard only took 4 shots. Duke was outrebounded
21-11 in the half, with just those 4 offensive rebounds. State shot a
ridiculous 53% in the half, which was shades of Tennessee in the second
half. There's no question that those were Duke's two worst consecutive
halves of the year, but the flurry at the end, cutting State's lead to
36-34, had to give the team a lot of hope.

The second half featured a dramatic scoring flurry to start things off,
another to end it, and a whole lot of defense in-between. This was
Alana's half, as she scored 17 of her 21 here. Like the old Super
Globetrotters' animated TV show, she's a second half player
(unfortunately, she can't pull a radio from her hair, but then she
doesn't have to play against monsters or super-villains--at least, not
most of the time). The half began with Currie putting down a tough
one-handed turnaround hook in the lane. Duke went to a trap and forced
Bell into a turnover, and Beard drive in to give Duke a 38-36 lead.

State went to Chones, who had a shot blocked by Currie and another
well-defended by Tillis, who got the rebound. Currie drove and was fouled
by Chones. Another State turnover led to a Beard 3 point play, as
Stockdale picked up her 4th foul of the game and 3rd in just a couple of
minutes. Currie stole the ball from Bell and Tillis found Harding on a
cut. After a stop, Beard missed a layup but Harding got an offensive
board. Tillis then lobbed it to Bass to give Duke an improbable 48-36
lead. Chones broke up what had become a 16-0 Duke run with a couple of
free throws, but Tillis got her hands on a ball meant for Currie that was
deflected. She then twisted her body around to make a very difficult
layup. With about fifteen minutes to go in the half, Duke was up 50-38.

It was inevitable for there to be a little letdown, and State tried to
pound the ball inside, getting 3 straight points out of it. After forcing
a Duke miss, Beard stripped Chones and got an easy layup out of it. State
caught Duke out of position on an offensive rebound and got an easy score
out of it to cut the lead to 52-43. Tillis missed an easy layup and then
Beard turned the ball over, giving State a golden opportunity to turn the
game around, but they instead missed a shot and turned the ball over.
Duke made them pay when Foley hit Vicki Krapohl for a three. The two
teams traded shots over the next couple of minutes, with a Bass jumper and
Beard drive being matched by two baskets from frosh center Reaves.

With about nine minutes to go, State started to make its move. Tillis
and Beard both missed threes and Reaves scored again to cut it to 59-50.
Krapohl drove and passed it to Harding, who pulled up from about 10' to
hit a huge shot. That shot gave Duke the breathing room it needed to
weather the next couple of minutes. State again scored 3 straight points
(and it could have been more, but they had trouble cashing in at the foul
line) to make it 61-53 with under seven minutes to go. Duke was
struggling to make shots now and State was continuing to play hard.

The Pack made a huge mistake when Terah James fouled Krapohl as she was
taking a three. Vicki hit 2 of 3 to put Duke at that magic 10 point mark.
Tillis then stole a ball as she flashed into the passing lane and had a
wide-open court in front of her. After missing 4 shots in a row
(including 3 easy layups), she was instructed to dunk the ball if she had
the opportunity. She went up and just barely short-armed it, though she
did grab the rim. The ball bounced up and into the basket and the
stadium erupted over her gutsy move. Her teammates were fired up and
State's players looked a bit down--one could feel a palpable difference
in the two squads' energy levels after the play. Harding stole the ball
away from Reaves after an offensive rebound, and then Krapohl hit Beard
going to the basket for a three point play. Cameron was once again in
bedlam and State fell apart for the next few minutes.

Bell fouled Tillis after a miss, and Iciss hit both freebies. Beard
stripped Reaves and then posted her up for a turnaround jumper. Duke had
turned a 61-53 game into a 73-53 rout in the span of about three minutes.
Beard and Tillis both left the game to ovations as there was little
scoring in the last two minutes of play. Incredibly, this was Duke's 50th
straight ACC win, though what's more important is that the team's 7-0
in conference play right now. The Pack shot just 24% in the second half
and made only 6 field goals; they also turned it over 13 times in the
half. The only thing that kept them in the game was their rebounding;
Duke was only outrebounded by 1 in the second half but could never quite
keep State off the boards. Chones was held to just 2 field goal attempts
in the second half and made neither of them. State showed a lot of heart
but Duke just knows how to weather storms and will their way to victory.

** Negatives:

1. Rebounding. Usually a team strength, the Wolfpack did a great job of
blocking out until the second half. Duke had just 4 offensive boards in
the first half. Brittany Hunter's lack of mobility is really hurting her
ability to grab boards right now. The thing that hurt Duke most were long
rebounds that were converted into fast break points.

2. Transition defense. NC State is not the quickest team in the world,
but they were trying to run when it was there for them, and it worked.
They also were able to beat Duke's pressure a few times for easy scores.

3. Opening up room for shooters. Jess Foley and Vicki Krapohl are great
shooters, but they don't have quick releases on their shots. The problem
is that they often don't get the kind of screens they need to get their
shot off.

** Positives:

1. Ball pressure. This was what turned the game around. First of all,
ordering the team to aggressively trap on the sidelines seemed to wake
everyone up. The sluggish defensive team of the first fifteen minutes or
so suddenly became active and involved. Secondly, by trapping Kendra Bell
(who is listed at 5-5 but that's probably generous), Duke forced her into
8 turnovers, mostly because she couldn't see over the tops of her
defenders (Currie was usually one of them).

2. Offensive balance. On a night when Monique Currie didn't play her
best, Mistie Bass was able to help her team in the post and both Krapohl &
Foley added some crucial points as well. Lindsey Harding also hit one of
the more important shots of the game.

3. Getting to the foul line. Beard and Tillis (once again going hard to
the hoop) got 10 of the team's 19 attempts. When Duke was having some
trouble scoring otherwise, the free throws helped Duke first get back
into the game and then later take over.


** Bass: Mistie really bounced back from getting abused by Tennessee.
While Chones did score on her twice in the early going, Mistie kept
battling and was able to score some on her as well. Her first-half
scoring was one of the few things that kept Duke in the game. Her jumper
in the second half was an impressive one, because she actually got the
ball from about 19' away, took a dribble and then pulled up to take the
shot. Most of her other jumpers came from her spotting up and shooting,
but it's clear that she's been practicing her all-around skills. Mistie
was also fired-up the entire game and showed a lot of emotion, but kept
her mistakes to a minimum. Without a solid game from her, Duke does not
win this game.

** Tillis: Make that three fine games in a row for Iciss, and another
game where her shot started to fall. She missed a couple of threes and
blew 3 straight shots in the second half, but that dunk really picked up
her confidence level and had the crowd chanting her name. Iciss played
outstanding defense, rebounded reasonably well (though the team as a whole
struggled here), passed the ball well and got the line once again. No one
can stuff a stat sheet quite like Iciss, because no one can do all of the
things that she does when she's on. She hit several high-difficult shots,
kept her team in the game when they were in trouble, and spearheaded the
first half comeback with 10 points in the last seven minutes. In much the
same way that the coaching staff challenges Currie and Harding to attempt
at least one three point shot a game, I'd like to see Tillis attempt at
least one dunk a game.

** Currie: Mo was hampered by her foul trouble but took a number of
unnecessarily difficult shots. She did sink an early three that tied the
score at 8 and later hit a turnaround jumper in the post. Mo was oddly
inefficient at the foul line, going 1-3 and that included missing the
front end of a one-and-one. It was also odd to see Duke's rebounding
leader wind up with just 3 on the game. Putting her offensive troubles
aside, she actually had a fine defensive game in her role as a primary
trapper. She wound up with 3 steals (and a held ball) and 3 blocks as she
played in the frontcourt more than usual.

** Beard: Alana is hurting a bit, and it's limited her mobility. She
took several hard shots, one that left her writhing in pain for a few
moments and took her out of the game. The more shots she took, the harder
she played as she was setting people up in Duke's late first-half comeback
with 3 assists. She simply took over the game in the second half, posting
State up and attacking them off the dribble. Her 2 three point plays were
both devastating, and her late-game scoring binge turned the game into a
blowout. Throw in a team-high 6 rebounds, a charge taken, 2 steals and a
block, and you have a performance worthy of a national player of the year.
Hopefully she can get a little rest before the big throwdown in Littlejohn
on Monday night.

** Harding: Lindsey continues to string together solid performances. In
the first half, she was the consummate playmaker, making some tough passes
that resulted in scores. She twice lobbed over the zone to find Bass and
Hunter, hit Currie and Tillis for threes and drove & dished to Bass for a
jumper. Her defense was stifling with 3 steals and a held ball; she was
one of the main trappers in the game. Harding scored on a nice cut and
then later pulled up for a crucial 10' jumper. That was Duke's only score
in a 6-2 State run that cut the lead to 61-53.

** Hunter: Brit scored on a tough post-up after Harding lobbed the ball to
her, but was otherwise curiously passive. She was often in the game in
tandem with other bigs and was setting high-post screens. Her best play
was a nice pass to a cutting Tillis when she was out on the wing.

** Krapohl: A scrappy game for Vicki, who had a number of big passes.
She found Beard on the baseline for a late jumper in the first half, a
shot that really got Alana going. She drove and hit Bass for a second
half jumper, Harding for her crucial 10' shot, Beard on a three point play
that put the game away, and Foley on a cut. Vicki also hit a
momentum-sustaining three after State had blunted Duke's big second-half
run and then was fouled attempting a three, which sparked Duke's
game-ending run. Almost all of this came after an unremarkable first
half; she had 5 points and 5 assists in the second, and did well playing
alongside Harding.

** Foley: Jess is wearing a sleeve over her right knee, and it's clear
that her mobility is somewhat limited. This means that she's a bit slower
to get set up for good shots, and the result is that she's rushing them a
bit. Jess did hit a couple of important free throws and found Krapohl for
a three.

** Bales: Ali missed her only shot and couldn't quite handle a couple of
bad passes thrown in her general direction. She was also a second late in
trying to block a shot and got whistled for the foul.

** Howe: Cait just got a brief stint, and then sprinted to the gym after
the game for a real workout!

** Cameron Craziness: Another big crowd in Cameron, this one nearing
7,000. There was a fair student presence, though it was one of those
elementary school nights. State also had a decent number of fans in
attendance despite their record. The "Big....High....School...BIG HIGH
SCHOOL!" cheer was used early and often. I love Friday night games and
wish there were a lot more of them.