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Duke's Seniors Make Themselves At Dome

Duke 89, UNC 79. February 14, 2004. Smith Center.

Sylvia Hatchell must lie awake at night cursing her bad luck. After
getting pounded on the boards by Duke earlier this year, she had her team
recommit to rebounding and physical play. The results against Duke were
spectacular: a +13 advantage on the boards overall and 20 offensive
rebounds. The Heels got 13 points from stickbacks alone. UNC also didn't
have any players in serious foul trouble, while they were able to get in
the bonus early in the second half. Meanwhile, Duke didn't get into the
bonus until less than two minutes remained and the Heels had to start
fouling. In past games, the Heels had been burned by Beard, Harding &
Currie ripping through their defense using dribble penetration, so the
coaching staff devised a plan that utilized a full-court press to slow
Duke down a bit, and then settled into a zone. With Duke struggling from
the three point line this year, it seemed like a sound plan. Until the
Devils absolutely lit the Heels up, that is.

Duke turned a weakness into a strength and absolutely buried the Heels
with it, tying a school record with 12 threes and shooting 52% from the
arc. Given Vicki Krapohl's recent scoring rampage against Georgia Tech,
it's perhaps not surprising that she tied her own career high of 6. It is
a bit more surprising that Alana Beard tied her own career high of 4,
especially considering that she took 5 shots. Or perhaps not, because
Beard is flat-out playing the best ball of her career and looks more and
more like the national player of the year. Duke did it in a big-time
building where most of the noise being made was by the Blue Devil faithful
who made the trek over to the Hill. Hatchell was quoted afterwards saying
that Duke was still beatable, that they might meet again, and that she'll
get Duke and their little dog, too.

The players noted that experience was the key factor in this game. One
could see that when frosh Ivory Latta went over with senior center Candace
Sutton for a pre-game captain's meeting with the officials, that this team
had leadership problems at the top. While Latta is undoubtedly an
exciting player who will likely one day be one of UNC's best players ever,
she has a wild streak that makes her susceptible to bad decisions. In
other words, she's a lot more like Nikki Teasley than Marion Jones. Jones
took a team that had a lot of scoring options and made sure that she took
care of the ball, passed it to the scorers, and shut down the other team's
perimeter game. Latta has scored many points this year, but one will
notice that the productivity of UNC's veterans has decreased as she
dominates the ball for so much of the game.

Duke's early concern was UNC getting off to a hot start and getting the
crowd in the game early on. Duke was aware of this and took an early
lead, holding it for the first seven minutes of the half. Mistie Bass
scored first with an offensive rebound and Beard struck next with a
driving bank shot, but the Heels were able to do some early damage inside
with Sutton, who was getting great position. Harding dished to Tillis for
Duke's first three of the game...but it certainly wouldn't be their last.
A Monique Currie drive resulted in a foul, and she hit both freebies to
give Duke a 9-4 lead with about three and a half minutes gone by. Latta
came back with consecutive off-balance drives to draw the Heels within
one. This set a pattern in the game...Duke would take a lead, the Heels
would draw near, and Duke would respond with a big-time basket.

That first big-time shot was a three from Alana Beard. Ever since the
Clemson game, her shooting form has noticeably improved and as such, her
confidence in using that shot as a primary weapon has skyrocketed. The
two teams traded baskets over the next few minutes, with Latta & Sutton
doing the bulk of the damage for the Heels (though Nikki Bell did hit one
awkward jumper...after which she blew on her fingers so as to cool off her
"hot" shooting. She must have been reviewing the Juana Brown files).
Tillis took Camille Little off the dribble on a drive and Currie had a
stickback as Duke took a 17-13 lead. UNC went on a 5-0 run capped by a
pull-up three from Latta. That gave the Heels their first lead of the
game and stirred the masses a bit.

And once again, Beard quieted them down with a three of her own on a
pass from Vicki Krapohl. The Heels struck back with a 6-0 run, mostly
gained in transition. With 11 minutes left in the half, they had a 24-20
lead. After one score came one of the plays of the year. Krapohl saw
that Tillis had leaked out and was running for the basket after a UNC
score. She threw an incredible full-court bomb to Tillis that was somehow
threaded between two UNC players. A couple of folks around were murmuring
"What is she doing?" but I could see that all Tillis had to do was catch
it, and she did. As an aside, I think we can put talk of Iciss' slump
firmly in the past tense. Her recent play has ranged from solid at all
times to sensational.

Duke clamped down on the defensive end and Krapohl then nailed
back-to-back three pointers, much to the astonishment of UNC's defense.
Here we can see one of Latta's major liabilities: her height. Vicki had
no problem in getting whatever shot she wanted, and the fact that she was
hunting her shot rather actively caught UNC off-guard. After being down
by 4, Duke suddenly was up 28-24 with seven minutes left. The Heels had
another run in them, striking for a 7-0 skein with Latta again popping
another three for UNC's lead. The crowd reached its crescendo at the end
of the run, but an experienced Duke team was unruffled. Tillis responded
to a more intense UNC defense by posting up and hitting a gorgeous
turnaround jumper. Beard gave Duke the lead with 2 free throws, but the
Heels tied it at 32 with under three minutes left.

What followed was perhaps the key sequence of the game. UNC's defense
broke down as Tillis found Bass on a perfect high-low play. After
missed shots by both teams, Harding found Krapohl in the corner for her
3rd three of the half. UNC could have run down most of the clock in
getting a last shot, but instead took a quicker shot. Krapohl found
Tillis in the corner and she launched a three with a second left in the
half and buried it. That gave Duke a 40-32 lead going into the half and a
ton of momentum. Tillis led Duke with 12 points (5-9 shooting), Beard 11
(shooting 3-7 from the floor) and Krapohl 9 (3-5 from three). The Heels
had a 21-16 lead on the boards, with 9 offensive. While that number would
get worse for Duke in the second half, the Devils would only turn the ball
over 3 more times and the Heels would be much worse off.

Little, who had only scored 2 points in the first half, scored 4 early
in the second half to keep the Heels within range. Duke was still very
efficient and was now trying to attack the basket a bit more. Currie
drove and was fouled, hitting both, while Lindsey Harding drove and broke
off a gorgeous pass to Bass, who finished. After Little's second basket,
Krapohl again struck for back to back threes, the assists being delivered
by Beard and Currie. On the first shot, the ball rolled around the rim
and looked like it might pop out, but then it rolled back in. On the
second, Krapohl had a hand in her face but popped the shot anyway, and
simply drained it. That began a six-minute stretch of back-and-forth
basketball, where Duke came close to blowing the game wide open but never
quite got there. By the same token, the Heels could never put together
more than 2 straight scores without a Duke player breaking up the run.

Beard hit a 10' baseline jumper that answered a UNC score, but would be
a bit quiet until about the ten minute mark. After the Heels scored
again, this time it was a hard-working Mo Currie who bumped her way
through 2 Heels to score on a drive. The officials weren't calling much
of anything that was further than 5' away from the basket, and sometimes
not even then, so Currie took advantage. This was her time of the game to
shine, as she countered 4 straight UNC points with a perfect dish to
Brittany Hunter inside and then hit Krapohl on a runout after she picked
up a steal. That pushed Duke's lead up to 58-44. One could sense that
Duke was in control, but the game was far from over. UNC was getting
plenty of second chances and had Duke in the bonus early in the second
half, so they were able to manufacture points that they otherwise couldn't
create in their sets. If Duke had been able to box out the Heels, the
game would have been over much sooner.

After a UNC three point play, Krapohl found Currie for a 15' jumper on
the baseline. Currie wouldn't score again and faced foul trouble through
much of the second half, but her work during this three minute span kept
Duke's lead at 13, 60-47. Beard then started a remarkable run, scoring 18
points in the game's last ten minutes--18 of 29, or nearly 2/3 of Duke's
points. When the game was on the line, she wanted the ball in her hands,
and she didn't disappoint. She pulled up at the top of the key and buried
a 17' jumper. UNC climbed back in the game with 5 straight points and but
Currie hit Krapohl for her 6th trey of the game and Beard pulled up for
another 17' jumper to make it 67-52 with under eleven minutes to go. Once
again, the Heels prevented Duke from running away with the game as Leah
Metcalf hit a three and her team went on a 6-2 run. Only 2 Hunter free
throws kept Duke's lead in double digits.

Beard broke up that run by driving and dishing back to Tillis, who sank
a clutch 17' jumper of her own. The Heels were conceding that shot to
Duke, more fearful of their ability to drive than shoot. UNC kept coming
on the offensive boards and forced some bad shots from Duke, finally
getting the lead under double digits at 71-62 with under eight minutes to
go. In a play that showed how much Duke was hustling in an effort to win,
Harding went to the floor for a missed shot and flipped it to Bass, who
was immediately fouled near the basket. The ball flew out of her hands as
she was fouled, and the ball somehow went through the hoop for an "and
one". Bass missed the free throw and UNC hit another three to cut the
lead to 73-65 with seven minutes left. It was still anybody's game, but
the Heels would have to sustain a run and get some quick scores.

UNC had one of their best defensive possessions of the game, with a hand
in every shooter's face, every passing lane cut off and the shot clock
running down. Beard had the ball and drove, flipping the ball up in
traffic as the clock was expiring. That gave Duke a 10 point lead again.
The Heels scored again, but it took awhile as they got a couple of cracks
at the basket. Metcalf came back and hit a three, but Duke worked the
shot clock down again, missed, and got the rebound. Tillis then found
Beard for another three late in the shot clock. Duke had managed to run
off nearly a minute, taking an eleven point lead with five minutes to go.
Suddenly, the Heels were starting to run out of time.

The Heels scored 4 straight points, with Metcalf hitting another three,
to make it 78-71 with over four minutes left. Beard responded with her
4th three of the game on a pass from Harding, never hesitating for a
second. The Heels got a stickback to cut the lead to 8, but Harding hit a
baseline jumper from about 10' to make it 83-73 with about three minutes
to go. UNC made one last push, making it a two-possession game at 83-77
with 1:37 left. Hatchell then decided to start fouling, and Beard made
her pay by hitting her first pair. She missed the front end of her next
attempt, but the Heels were unable to capitalize. The next time she went
to the line, she didn't miss. UNC started throwing up desperation threes
and Latta tried taking on the entire Duke defense 1-on-5, and that simply
didn't cut it as Duke wound up with a 10 point win.

The biggest positive from this game for Duke was that they were playing
an extremely physical team that was bumping them off their cuts, was very
quick and had decent size. In such situations, Duke's motion game in the
past has often broke down, forcing Duke to freelance and try to get to the
foul line or score off the dribble. In this game, Duke stayed with their
game plan and had the confidence to trust in its shooters. And while
Latta dropped 25 on Duke and the Heels had too many second chances, Duke
did one very important thing on defense: they stopped UNC's post scoring
in halfcourt sets. After Sutton killed them early on (scoring 8 early
points), Duke started double-teaming the posts, forcing them to make
decisions they weren't capable of making. It was obvious that UNC watched
the FSU game tape, wherein Duke was never able to stop FSU's bigs.
Furthermore, it was obvious that this was going to be an uptempo game with
a lot of scoring. As such, Duke did the single most important thing they
had to do to play well within such a scenario: they took care of the ball.
The Devils had only 10 turnovers, and a good thing too, because the Heels
managed to score 15 points off of them. Meanwhile, Duke forced 17
turnovers and forced a lot of freelancing by the Heels. The Devils scored
22 points off of UNC's miscues and dug a hole for the Heels with a few key

I wrote the other day that this Duke team doesn't quite have an identity
yet, and I think that the team is still evolving, even this late in the
year. This edition of the Blue Devils may not be a run-and-gun squad
(but will certainly still run when they can), but may eventually be known
for their halfcourt efficiency. Health is obviously still an issue, but I
think a healthy Hunter will go a long way towards shoring up Duke's
rebounding and defensive issues. I'd like to see Jess Foley fight her way
back into the rotation and Bales continue to challenge for playing time,
but Coach G has to be happy with the way her seniors are taking over.
That aside, I wouldn't mind seeing the seniors continue to step up the
rest of the year; it's amazing to think that they scored 65 of Duke's 89
points. This win puts Duke in the ACC regular season driver's seat,
though all four of their remaining regular season games will be significant
challenges. Oh, and this was Duke's 20th win of the year, making it 7
straight seasons of 20 wins or more for the Devils. Hopefully this year
will also produce another 30 win season...

** Negatives:

1. Blocking out. Duke will be working on this in practice, I'm sure.
After getting outhustled by Wake Forest on the boards, UNC dominated the
Devils, 43-30, including a 20-13 edge on the offensive boards. UNC sent
all of their bigs to the boards after every miss, and it really worked for
them as their frontline totalled 29 rebounds compared to 15 for Duke.

2. Transition defense. This has been a problem of late, and UNC was able
to capitalize a couple of times, especially when Duke was sending several
players to their own offensive boards. When Duke was able to slow the
Heels down a bit in transition, they were able to shut the Heels down
because their halfcourt execution was awful.

3. Help-side defense. Duke did a bad job in the first half in doubling
down on open post players and preventing easy looks, though given Sutton's
struggles, I imagine the theory was that Duke could get away with
defending them one-on-one. As a result, Duke doubled down a bit more but
then had problems swinging someone around to stop penetration.
Eventually, that was corrected as well, and the wildness of Latta helped
play into Duke's hands.

** Positives:

1. Ball pressure. With a rookie point guard and several bigs with
questionable handles, Duke attacked the ball on defense and made UNC pay.
The Devils did a great job of defending in-bounds plays in particular,
with Harding making an impressive interception on one sequence.

2. Halfcourt execution. This has been a problem all year long, but Duke
won today because they were able to get great shots all game. Part of
this was having players confidently take jump shots from different
locations, but another reason why was that the team was setting great
screens and moving the ball extremely well in order to get it to open
shooters. Duke decided that they need to make shooting a strength, and so
Coach G reconfigured the offense to make it happen.

3. Intensity. The three seniors have been in this situation many times
and it showed, because their overall intensity rubbed off on their
teammates. Duke was not afraid to mix it up with the Heels, dealt with
their runs with maturity, and stayed strong down the stretch when the
Heels wilted.


** Bass: Mistie is still nursing an injury that limits her movement a
little, but she wound up having a decent game. After whipping Sutton's
butt in their first meeting, Sutton more than held her own against Mistie
here. Mistie had 8 points (4-5 shooting), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1
turnover and 1 block to Sutton's 10 points (4-8 shooting), 10 rebounds, 3
turnovers and 1 steal. Most of Sutton's points came early in the game;
Mistie did a much better job defending her after that. And of course,
Mistie hit that wacky shot that broke up a Heels run. Very quietly,
Bass has put together a series of solid performances. She hasn't had a
huge breakout game other than the FSU contest, but she's chipping in with
8-10 points and 5 or 6 rebounds in every game now. Since getting whipped
by Tennessee, she's refocused and has learned to become a more consistent

** Tillis: Iciss had a really strong first half and then played excellent
defense in the second half. Her hot offensive start kept Duke's offense
nicely balanced and made the Devils tough to guard. Hitting threes,
driving to the basket, sinking turnaround jumpers and pulling up from 17'
reestablished her cred as the Walking Matchup Problem. Tillis was also a
big reason why Camille Little wasn't a factor in this game, especially
in the first half. While Iciss missed some good looks in the second half,
her 17' jumper was crucial for the team. Iciss also blocked a couple of
late shots by UNC. Of course, her three at the end of the first half was
absolutely clutch and swung the momentum way into Duke's corner. A quick
note on her career stats: Iciss is 47 points away from becoming the fifth
leading scorer in program history, surpassing Georgia Schweitzer. She's
25 rebounds away from taking over 2nd place in rebounding, moving ahead of
Sue Harnett. Iciss just moved ahead of Sheana Mosch for #9 on the
all-time assist list, but will need 27 to surpass Connie Goins. She and
Alana are tied for third on the blocks list with 132, rapidly coming up on
Harnett's 149. Iciss will remain at #2 on the steals list, with 257 and
counting. With just 4 more treys, she'll surpass Krista Ginrich & Nicole
Erickson on the threes list and take over 6th place. All of this speaks
to her remarkable versatility; I don't think there will ever be another
player at Duke who ranks so highly in so many different categories.

** Currie: Mo was Duke's unsung hero in this game. While her stats were
solid but unspectacular (10 points, 4 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1
block), it was her all-out hustle in the second half that kept Duke ahead
after their initial push. Her best play of the game was not a score or
rebound, but rather diving to the floor for a key loose ball and calling a
timeout. That got Duke another crack at the basket and a score. After
seeming somewhat passive in recent games, she played with fire in the
second half. Of note in this game were Mo's 5 assists, most of them
coming in the second half. This speaks to her unselfishness and
understanding of matchups; interestingly, most of her assists were to

** Beard: Alana is playing the best ball in her career right now. I've
never seen her more focused or intense than right now; she has a "no
excuses" attitude that starts with her and extends to the rest of the
team. Her shooting has really picked up in the last few games; as she
becomes more confident in her shot, she's taking more and more jumpers.
Beard's defense continues to be off the charts, as she completely shut
down UNC star Atkinson yet again. One very interesting development in her
game is her increasing physicality. In years past, Alana was used to
being knocked down constantly and getting up again (her classic, "I'm a
warrior, not a princess" line certainly applied to her tilts with UNC).

In this game, as she was bringing the ball up late in the game, Latta was
trying to strip her of the ball and grabbed her arm, not letting go.
Beard responded by pushing her hard in the gut, knocking Latta to the
floor. Latta then tangled Beard's legs up as she was going by her and was
whistled for the foul. This was an instance where the refs were letting
players go at one another, and Alana wasn't about to back down to anyone.
As always, Alana saves a little extra pain for UNC, and her dominance down
the stretch was yet another example of this. She moved ahead of Christian
Laettner in the all-basketball scoring list, with Johnny Dawkins 80 points
away. Considering the many comparisons made between the two and her
admiration for the great Johnny D (she listed him as the one Duke athlete
she'd like to compete against one-on-one), it will be most fitting if she
can do this.

** Harding: Lindsey had her hands full dealing with Latta, but managed to
do a decent job after Latta started out with 11 quick points. Duke wanted
to turn Latta into a jump-shooter, and to her credit she made a lot of
crazy shots. Harding did a good job running the team, though she did have
more turnovers than usual. She also missed on a couple of drives where
there was considerable contact. That jumper she hit in the second half
maintained Duke's momentum and kept the pressure squarely on the Heels.
This was not a star turn for Lindsey, but rather another in a series of
good supporting performances, much like Mistie has had.

** Krapohl: Really just a jaw-dropping performance for Vicki, who ran the
team expertly, played solid defense and blazed away from beyond the arc.
The confidence she gained by hitting some open shots early on transferred
to the second half, when she hit a couple of treys that were heavily
contested. Vicki is starting to enter the "senior zone" that players like
Krista Gingrich & Sheana Mosch got in late in their careers, when they
realized that their careers were almost over and it was time to give it
everything they had. Getting the push from Coach G to start shooting more
was what Vicki needed to really help this team out, and it could prove to
be Gail's best move of the year. Krapohl also had 2 assists for threes in
the first half and that fantastic full court pass to Tillis. I almost
think that becoming more of a scoring threat has heightened other aspects
of her game, like passing, defense & rebounding. With an awareness that
she needs to step up, her game focus seems sharper. Vicki is 2 assists
away from joining Duke's top 10, having just moved past Krista Gingrich.
Like Gingrich, Vicki is coming off the bench as a senior after a long
stint as a starter. She's now learned to become a big-time threat off the
bench, not just a placeholder. If she can continue to make shots like she

has of late, that will add a new dimension to Duke's attack.

** Hunter: Brit had kind of a shaky start, taking a couple of very bad
shots and getting beaten for rebounds. She bounced back by deflecting a
couple of passes, scoring on a nice post-up and canning 2 important free
throws. It's clear that her movement is still somewhat limited, which
limited her ability to get to the right spot to rebound, but she played
some solid defensive minutes against Sutton. Brit wound up being the
player who was able to force her away from the basket, limiting her
effectiveness. That went a long way in making up for some earlier bad
decisions, and showed that she's developing a "next play" demeanor. The
best is still ahead for Brit, and I think she has some big games left in
her this year if she can get healthy.

** Foley: With Jess's balky knee and Krapohl's improved overall play,
Vicki is getting the bulk of the minutes off the bench in close games
right now. Jess only appeared towards the end of the first half, grabbing
a rebound.

** DeanDome Delirium: There were probably about a thousand Duke fans in
attendance, and they made a lot of noise throughout the game. A few
undergrads were taunting Candace Sutton and Tiffany Tucker before the
game, and the fans were engaging in all sorts of mockery during UNC's
warmups. The "Oh Vicki, you're so fine..." song was sung a couple of
times during her rampage. Krista Gingrich and Wynter Whitley both got
their own cheers and acknowledged the crowd. Despite the fact that there
were over 10,000 fans here, the place really wasn't that noisy. Most of
the lower level was full, but there were plenty of good seats still
available upstairs, and that seemed to dampen the volume levels. That,
and a lack of something to cheer for, of course.