Duke 80, Wake Forest 55. February 12, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Wake Forest came into this game as an 8th place team in the league, but
one of their two conference wins came against UNC. Furthermore, their
unorthodox attack had impressed several ACC coaches even as they lost.
The Deacs have almost no post presence whatsoever, and what they do have
was comically mismatched against Duke. Their three bigs finished 1-5 from
the field for 2 points, with 7 rebounds, 1 turnover and 9 fouls in 27
minutes of play. Wake coach Charlene Curtis was forced to play zone for
most of the game, because while she features a 4-guard lineup (and
sometimes 5), few of them have the kind of quickness necessary for a
run-and-trap type game. All of that said, they are a scrappy bunch that's
fun to watch, have a few players who can score, and had nothing to lose.
Deep into the first half, they were within just 4 points of Duke and had a
lot of momentum. At that point, one could sense that what would happen
next had less to do with the Deacs and more to do with how focused Duke
could become. Duke recovered its killer instinct and turned up its
defensive pressure as they started to smarter on the boards. The Devils
turned that narrow lead into a 14-point halftime bulge, and came out with
fire in their eyes in the second half, quickly turning that advantage into
a rout. Still, one can see that there's still a lot to work on for this
team, and as the showdown with UNC approaches this weekend, there are a
number of concerns.
There's no question that the team's biggest problem this year has been
injuries. It's not just that some players are not 100% in a given game,
it's also that these players are often held out of practice. While a
player like Alana Beard can overcome a lack of practice, many of her
younger teammates can't and it shows on the court. Some players are out
of synch at both ends, while others struggle with conditioning. All of
this means that a team that should now be gelling on the court instead
often shows a lack of continuity and intensity. A good team worries less
about building a lead and more about playing hard and intelligently on
every possession. In many recent games, some new problem would spring up
in the first half that would get solved (usually) in the second half.
Against Clemson, it was fouling. Against Florida State, it was post
defense and valuing the ball (and neither got solved in that game).
Against Wake, it was rebounding. Despite Wake's lack of size, they
outrebounded Duke 21-18 in the first half and had 16 offensive rebounds
for the game. They did it purely thanks to hustle and positioning,
because they didn't have size or strength in their favor. Duke is one of
the best rebounding teams in the entire country, but there were simply
outworked in the first half.
Fortunately, Wake creeping within 4 points woke this team up and
energized them on all fronts. They got stops, blocked out for boards, ran
as much as they could, and made smart passes. The other problem in this
game is that not every bench player did as well as she could; in fact, the
play of a couple hurt the team on a number of possessions. The starting
five was pretty consistently intense for most of the game, but Duke will
not be able to get where it wants to go unless the entire rotation is
ready to contribute. Without significant help from the bench this
Saturday, for example, I'm not sure Duke can beat UNC.
The happiest news from this game was the triumphant return of Iciss
Tillis. Iciss had remained remarkably healthy throughout her career
before missing a couple of games with a concussion. The only game she had
ever missed was due to a one-game suspension. Her mini-vacation from the
game hurt the team but did have a fortunate side-effect: it made her
realize how badly she wanted to play and gave her a chance to closely
study the games of her teammates and learn from them. While she was up
against a team that doesn't exactly intimidate in the post, Iciss still
made the most of her every opportunity, playing with grace, panache and
power at both ends of the floor. Dig this statline: 22 points on 6-12
shooting and 9-9 from the foul line (it's amazing how much better she's
accepting contact this year); 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals
and just 1 turnover. Wake had absolutely no answer for her. Alana Beard
also came out firing, looking to dominate the Deacs right away. I'm
sensing that in this stretch run, Alana is going to go all-out at both
ends of the floor.
That twosome scored Duke's first 8 points of the game as they got off to
a solid 8-4 start. Wake used 11 different players in the first half alone
in order to keep Duke off-balance and create matchup problems.
Defensively, the game was a struggle for the Deacs. After starting in a
1-3-1, they tried a 1-2-2 and would then switch to man. For Duke, Beard
was guarding three point specialist Cotelia Bond-Young and pretty much
stayed on her most of the game. (Result: CBY had 0 points on 0-7 shooting
and 2 turnovers. Taking away one of their bigger weapons was a key
development in this game.) Lindsey Harding was on diminutive point guard
Porsche' Jones (as quick as Ivory Latta but with no offense), Tillis was
guarding forward Erin Ferrell and Monique Currie drew standout guard Liz
Strunk who is probably the league's most improved player. Strunk kept
Wake in the game early on by bodying up and often blowing past Currie, who
seemed a step slow out there for much of the game.
Currie faked a three and then pulled up from 17' away to swish a jumper,
and then Harding drove hard to the hoop to put Duke up 12-6. Strunk
scored her 6th point of the game to bring Wake closer, but Beard & Tillis
once again combined for some great plays. Tillis first blew by Wake's
defense for a layup in the halfcourt, and then delivered a perfect pass to
Beard on a cut. After Wake blew a chance to pull closer when Melissa
Washington missed the front end of a one-and-one, Strunk took advantage
of a bad shot by Jess Foley to make the score 16-10. Beard then hit
Tillis for a three point play, and Currie grabbed a Beard miss and hit a
soft 7' jumper from the baseline. With eight minutes to go in the half,
Duke looked like they were about to take control of the game.
The Devils inserted Brittany Hunter into the game at that point, trying
to keep the rotation fresh. Brit was not expected to play in this game
due to her knee being drained on Monday; she hadn't practiced since.
Unfortunately, that rust showed as Brit made 2 defensive errors
back-to-back. First, she gave Ferrell way too much room on the perimeter
paying for it when Ferrell popped a three in front of her. Then she got
hooked in by a head fake that allowed Ferrell to go right by her for an
easy basket. Brit then put up an awkward shot that gave Wake a chance to
cut further into the lead, but Tracy Alston missed and Harding rebounded.
Lindsey took off running when she got the board, generating an easy fast
break basket for Beard. After Strunk hit a jumper, Beard stuck back a
Tillis miss to keep the lead at 10, 25-15.
Strunk blew past Duke's transition Duke and got an easy score. Tillis
blocked a shot but didn't get the board, and Wake scored again. Alison
Bales got a crucial stickback to break up Wake's run, but a Duke turnover
led to another Ferrell three, closing the gap to 27-23 with under four
minutes left in the half. Interestingly, it was Harding who attacked the
defense, drawing a foul. She hit both to give her team a lift, though the
Devils made a couple of changes that helped shut Wake down. Duke moved
Currie over to defend Ferrell. Knowing her tendencies and bodying her up
proved to be significant advantages for Currie, especially since Ferrell
doesn't have enough of a handle to dribble around her. Meanwhile, Tillis
moved over to Strunk, who wasn't quick enough to get by her or big enough
to shoot over her. Wake missed 7 of their last 8 shots, with the only
make a stickback. It didn't help that they also missed the front end of a
one-and-one and B.Brown missed the back end of another.
Currie found Harding on a cut and Tillis was fouled, hitting both. Duke
got back their 10 point cushion at 33-23, and then really bore down on the
Deacs, holding them scoreless for the last minute and a half of the
period. Beard and Tillis ended the half as they started it: scoring 8
points. Alana was in the forward spot down the stretch and used a
dropstep and a leaner in the post to get scores, whereas Tillis relied on
a turnaround jumper. Tillis was effective in the half because she would
simply spot up in open sections of the zone and take good shots. She had
13, Beard had 14 (on 6-9 shooting) and the pair combined for 11 rebounds
as well. Despite the 14 point lead, Coach G knew that Duke wasn't going
after boards hard enough, and made sure that her team was going to hustle
til the last buzzer.
After Beard missed the first shot of the second half, Wake had a chance
to score. Currie was bumped and reacted by fouling Strunk hard. That
unnecessary foul was her third in a game where she had just 4 points and 1
rebound. However, that play seemed to finally get her going, as she
blocked Strunk's next shot. Tillis immdiately found her on the other end
as Mo cut to the basket. Beard missed again but Tillis was fouled going
up after she grabbed the board, hitting both shots. Duke forced a
turnover and Beard hit Currie for a three point play. That gave Duke a
46-25 lead and control of the game. Ferrell scored only after Beard went
for the steal and missed, but she made up for it by scoring on a leaner
and finishing a break. Tillis stole the ball and fed Bass for an easy
basket, and then finished a fast break that Beard started after a long
rebound. Duke had gone on a 15-2 run in the half and a 21-2 run overall.
The long rebounds, the efficiency in transition, the pressure
defense...these were all quintessential Duke moments.
Beard left the game after popping a three with thirteen minutes to go.
Unfortunately, the bench once again had some problems with intensity and
focus. Duke missed 5 shots and committed 3 turnovers as Wake scored 11
points in about four minutes. Duke's only field goal during this period
was a lob from Foley to Bass. Angry, Coach G called time-out, chewed out
the team and reinserted Tillis, Beard & Harding. Lindsey drove and
immediately scored to snap the team back into focus. Currie stole the
ball and Harding fed Bales inside, who posted up well. When Harding hit
Tillis for a three with seven minutes left, that restored the lead to
67-40 and ended any remaining suspense.
The last six minutes of the game weren't pretty. Wake actually went on
a 13-6 run, hitting a couple of awkward threes. Duke turned up their
energy level in the last minute or so, as players like Mistie Bass were
diving to the floor for loose balls. The turnaround in this game was
remarkable, as Duke wound up +8 on the boards after being down 3 at the
half. The Devils held Wake to just 31% from the floor and forced 18
turnovers. Most remarkably, the Devils set a new team record with 14
blocked shots. Duke's superior size and the presence of Beard & Tillis
turned this game into a laugher, but the fact that there were so many
lulls has to concern Coach G. Other than injuries, the main concern I
have with this team is that it doesn't quite have an identity. Is it a
high-flying fast breaking machine? A bruising halfcourt powerhouse built
on rebounding? A hard-nosed defensive squad? It's a little of all of
those things...just not on a consistent basis. That lack of continuity
due to injury has been haunting the team all year, and just when it seems
like everything is clicking properly, someone else gets hurt. Hopefully
the team will be healthy enough in March to make a real push.
1. Blocking out. Wake getting 16 offensive rebounds was the biggest
letdown of the night, especially considering that five players had at
least 2 o-boards and they were all either guards or wings. It's no
coincidence that when Duke started to clamp down on the boards, they were
able to put the Deacs away.
2. Transition defense. Wake had 8 fast break points and had 12 points off
turnovers. Duke was just asleep at the switch a couple of times and did
not stop the ball. The team's transition defense has been spotty at times
this year as they continue to experiment with the press.
3. Out of focus. Players through the ball away with no pressure on them.
Players did not look to see if their teammates would be in a spot before
passing the ball. Players put up awful, off-balance shots instead of
working for a better one. Some players seemed to be in an awful hurry at
1. Defensive pressure. Duke's sideline trap, one where the wing & guard
trap a player and another player swings around in order to intercept any
passes thrown out of it, worked rather well. Duke forced five held balls
and a 5-second call from out of bounds.
2. Offensive precision. Duke had 19 assists for 28 field goals and did a
nice job generating fast break points. Tillis, Beard and Harding all did
well in finding people in the halfcourt.
3. Post defense. 14 blocks says it all, as the only thing Wake could get
going in the post was the occasional stickback.
** Bass: Mistie is nursing a hip injury and got into early foul trouble,
so she wound up only playing 4 minutes in the first half. She made up for
that in the second half, scoring over a fifth of Duke's points, grabbing 6
rebounds, forcing a jump ball and taking a charge. Foul trouble continues
to be a problem for her at times, and it will be important for her to play
intelligently against UNC. Mistie has really improved both as a sound
decision-maker and rebounder.
** Tillis: Just an incredibly impressive game from Iciss, who didn't miss
a beat. She was the key to beating Wake's initial defense, because she
was quick enough to get open from 10' all game long. She sank her first
shot and that seemed to boost her confidence. She scored with the short
jumper, a drive, a three, a driving three point play, a turnaround jumper
and in transition. She was a monster on defense, got a bunch of tough
rebounds, and basically was a walking matchup problem, as she always is at
her best. Wake not only couldn't guard her, they couldn't score on her,
** Currie: Monique has been curiously passive in recent games,
manifesting most noticeably in the dropoff of her rebounding. She's also
not drawing as many fouls as she was earlier in the year. While it's good
to see her rely on her jumper more often, I don't want her to abandon her
strong off-the-dribble game. It was good to see her wake up a bit in the
second half, getting a key steals, scoring 5 quick points and grabbing a
few rebounds. That third foul she picked up really seemed to get her
going, because she played with the sort of relentlessness I'm used to from
** Beard: Alana was intense in this game. She got in her teammates'
faces as much as Coach G did when they weren't playing as hard as they
should have. Interestingly, she got knocked down by Liz Strunk with no
call (it was pretty blatant, however). She spent a good while complaining
to the ref, went into Duke's possession, and then went back to the same
ref to complain some more. Then she fouled Strunk on Wake's next
possession to make a point. It's rare that Alana would complain so openly
but some of the calls in this game were less than consistent. Given that
Wake was playing so many guards, Alana wound up playing a lot of power
forward in this game. So she didn't take very many jumpers (though she
did hit that three) but instead posted up everyone on Wake's team. Her
long arms and step-through made her impossible for Wake to stop. Playing
at forward, she also had a big game rebounding and in blocking shots.
** Harding: Another solid game for Lieberman Point Guard Award Nominee
Lindsey. She blanketed the very quick Porsche' Jones, holding her to 0-3
shooting and forcing 3 turnovers, and also shut down Bianca Brown, who
shot 0-4 with 1 turnover. Her defense and rebounding (7) have always been
constants; what's new is her aggressiveness on offense. While she missed
her 2 jumpers, she knifed through Wake's defense twice on drives and
scored on a cut. Harding also was able to get to the free throw line with
regularity. Throw in an impressive 8 assists to 2 turnovers and you have
a great floor-leader type of game, one that enabled Beard to freelance
more on offense.
** Krapohl: Vicki didn't reprise her huge 18 point game from Saturday,
but she did a decent job running the team and always seemed to be near the
ball on defense. She was credited with 2 steals but also picked up a
couple of other loose balls that were floating around. Duke didn't seem
to be very intent on freeing her up for a good shot, trying to concentrate
on pounding it inside.
** Bales: An extremely efficient game for Ali. She looks more and more
comfortable on the court, and it had to help to play against a small team
with posts that aren't that quick. She had a crucial stickback in the
first half that was Duke's only score in a three minute period. She had
another big rebound during that stretch as well. Bales beautifully
finished a post-up in the second half and also scored on a high-low.
Defensively, she had a fine game, blocking 3 shots and altering a couple
of others. One of her blocks came from the weak side against a player who
was driving. As Ali plays more and her knee holds up, one can see her
improving rapidly. Hopefully she'll get a chance to play against UNC.
** Foley: After playing well against Georgia Tech, Jess snapped back into
her deep offensive funk. Of the five shots she attempted, three of them
were awful. She did have that one nice pass to Bass and played decent
defense, but she also turned the ball over twice. Right now, she's doing
everything too quickly; she needs to slow down and relax a bit.
** Hunter: Brit hadn't practiced all week and it really showed. She was
beaten twice by Ferrell early in the game, put up a wild shot that missed
badly, and then threw the ball away twice down the stretch when Wake was
pressing a bit. She did block a shot and stuck back a miss in the second
half, but she just didn't seem to be focused for much of the game.
Hopefully she'll be able to practice and concentrate on rebounding a bit.
** Howe: Cait missed her only shot, which she rushed a bit. She did grab
a couple of rebounds, however.
** Cameron Craziness: It's a sign of how far the program has come that a
crowd of over 4,000 can be considered disappointing. Still, when the game
got tighter, the crowd got a lot louder, and they went nuts when Duke went
on their late first half and early second half runs. Keila Evans fouling
out drew a "5 fouls, no points" jeer. Also, president-elect Richard
Brodhead was in attendance, sitting next to president Keohane. Good to
see him at a women's game, and I certainly hope this won't be his last.