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Duke Wallops The Wahoos

Duke 87, Virginia 54. February 19, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke clinched a first place tie and the top seed in the ACC Tournament
by turning a tight game into a laugher. The key was simply execution;
Duke turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and squandered
numerous scoring opportunities. In the second half, Duke shot 56% and
turned it over just 3 times. Throughout the game, Duke's defensive
pressure was consistent and the Devils had a number of players step up on
the boards. It's a good thing they did--the Hoos scored 11 points on
second chances, and that was with just 8 offensive rebounds overall.
Meanwhile, they made Duke pay for their 18 turnovers with 14 points,
though only 2 of them came in the second half. When forced to work for
their points, Duke's suffocating halfcourt defense prevented the Hoos from
getting penetration, from getting open looks on the perimeter, or from
lobbing it inside. If it wasn't for their 19 free throw attempts, the
score could have been much uglier for Virginia.

Early on, it looked like Duke was going to control the action. Beard
drove right for a score, Harding went up the middle for a three point
play, and then Lindsey found Alana for a three to make it 10-5 with three
minutes gone by. During that period, Duke managed to turn the ball over 4
times and Virginia 3. The Hoos got some timely threes in the early going
to pull within 12-10, and then took advantage of 2 consecutive stickbacks
to take a 14-12 lead. Duke was looking a bit shaky, but Beard helped
smooth things over with a pass to Brittany Hunter inside and a couple of
free throws. The Devils went scoreless for the next three minutes but
the Hoos could only muster 4 points. Virginia has a good bit of talent on
their roster, but uncertainty at point guard has often led to long dry
spells for their offense.

Beard was fouled and hit both to tie the game at 18 with about ten
minutes to go in the half. Iciss Tillis woke the crowd up with a steal
and a coast-to-coast layup, a vintage Tillis play. The Devils then had a
chance to take the lead but Beard missed a jumper and LaTonya Blue was
fouled going to the hoop, making both. Monique Currie stepped up after
Mistie Bass missed a shot, getting a key stickback. Duke hadn't had a ton
of offensive rebounds up to that point and No had been struggling, so that
was a big play. On Duke's next possession, the ball kept getting tipped
around and the Devils were on the verge of turning it over. Mistie Bass
was surrounded and close to travelling as the shot clock was winding down,
but she got it to Lindsey Hunter, who drained a rare three. That momentum
sustained Duke over the next three very ugly minutes. The Devils had 4
misses and 2 turnovers while the Hoos missed twice and turned the ball
over 3 times. With the Devils getting a 5 point lead, but teams sensed
that the next score could be a crucial one. The Hoos could either get
back in the game or Duke could start to take control.

As one might expect, Alana Beard was intent on having a say on what
happened next. After Hunter missed a tough shot, Virginia star Brandi
Teamer got the board. Beard then went low, slapped the ball out of her
hands for the steal, and then slipped between two Hoos for the score.
Virginia coach Debbie Ryan went absolutely berserk after she took a
timeout, and earned a technical foul. That was done to fire up her team
as much as it was to get in the officials' ears, but the move wound up
backfiring. Beard coolly went to the line and drained both shots to put
the Devils up 29-20. Blue committed an offensive foul as Harding took a
charge from her, but Hunter was called for a moving pick on the other end.
Duke continued to play tough defense, forcing a difficult attempt from
Anna Prillaman, and Beard got the rebound.

Looking for a knockout punch, Jess Foley found Vicki Krapohl spotting up
for a three, and Vicki nailed it to put Duke up 32-20 with about three
minutes to go in the half. After a Teamer free throw, Harding found
Hunter inside for a score after Brit got great position inside. The
Devils had a chance to blow the game wide open, but 3 misses and 4
turnovers in the final three minutes spoiled that. Thankfully, the
defense held Virginia to just 3 points during that time span, as they had
multiple turnovers on their end. Duke's problem was less turning the ball
over and more committing offensive fouls; a Foley charge with 7 seconds to
go gave Virginia a chance to score, but the defense held. Beard wound up
scoring nearly half of Duke's 34 points with 15. Both teams turned the
ball over 15 times and committed the same number of fouls. Late fouls by
Foley of the over-the-back variety actually gave the Cavs some easy
chances at the foul line. Duke did own a 19-11 edge on the boards and
shot 42% from the floor to UVa's 33%.

Both teams obviously wanted to come out strong in the second half, but
Duke made some interesting adjustments. Its edge in the paint in the
first half made it a no-brainer to attack the Hoos inside as much as
possible. With Virginia avoiding zones for much of the game, this became
Duke's bread-and-butter as its post players combined for 25 points in the
second half alone. Harding drove and dished to Tillis, who hit a 10'
jumper. Iciss did not have a great first half but she proved she was
ready to play very quickly in the second half. She stole the ball and was
fouled, hitting 1. Duke pressed and Virginia broke it, getting a layup to
cut the score to 37-26. The Devils stuck with their game plan as Harding
found Bass inside for a three point play. On Duke's next possession,
Harding forced a steal and passed to Tillis, who wove through three
players to score on a spectacular spin move. Duke was now up 41-26 and
Beard hadn't done a thing in the second half.

That didn't last long, however. With the Hoos having to pay more
attention to Tillis and Bass inside, Alana struck with a three on a pass
from Harding and hit 2 free throws after an inbounds play. Duke replaced
Bass with Alison Bales, getting her first minutes of the game. Ali had
her first shot blocked but got a rebound on Duke's next play as she forced
a bad shot. Tillis sank a 19' jumper to swell Duke's lead to 48-26.
Bales then blocked a shot, got the rebound, and then scored on a three
point play on Duke's next possession. A Tillis steal and bomb to Beard
made it 53-29 and officially pushed the game into blowout territory.
All-in-all, it was a 12-1 run where a lot of different players
contributed, but it was all keyed by the intense defense and good
decision-making of Lindsey Harding, who is becoming more and more of a
leader with each passing game.

The next two minutes were intense ones as the Hoos frantically tried to
catch up, but instead wound up trading baskets with Duke. They could only
outscore Duke 9-7 as Krapohl hit a three, Tillis scored on a turnaround
jumper and Vicki found Alana inside. After that came a sequence that
defined Duke's effort for the game. Tillis missed a shot and Currie
rebounded, but had her shot blocked. Harding rebounded and missed, but
the ball went off a Virginia player. Krapohl then missed a three and
Harding again went inside to grab the rebound. Completely surrounded, she
dished to Bales, who simply squared up and hit a short baseline jumper.
Alison's shooting touch is perhaps the most underrated thing about her
game, but I was also impressed by how ready she was to shoot. This is a
player that simply needed time and reps with her teammates in order to
become an effective player.

After that, Virginia completely went into the tank. It triggered an
11-2 run that featured Foley hitting a three, Hunter passing to Beard for
a runner off the window, Beard finding Currie in transition and assorted
free throws. Beard left the proceedings with about five minutes left to
play and Duke up 73-40. The reserves did quite well, outscoring Virginia
15-14 down the stretch. Foley came alive, finding Bales on a post-up and
scoring on a cut. Hunter had a spectacular drive for a three point play.
Krapohl hit her third trey of the game. Duke had just 3 turnovers in the
second half while Virginia had 10 and could have had more if Duke hadn't
eased up on its defensive pressure. Tillis, Beard and Bales all scored in
double figures, but eight Duke players scored at least 6 points.

The win clinched at least a tie for first place and the top seed in the
ACC Tournament, but the team obviously has other goals on its mind right
now. Impressively, they once again used the three as a weapon, hitting 7
of 12, and also got to the foul line, nailing 20 of 26. Virginia now has
a 12-13 record but this is still a dangerous and talented team that has
had trouble getting a consistent lineup together. The best thing about
this game for Duke is that they got great contributions from their bench,
whom they will need for any kind of a deep run in the NCAA's.

** Negatives:

1. Fouls. Weirdly, three different Duke players picked up three fouls in
the first half (Currie Hunter and Foley). The 6 points off free throws
that Virginia got as a result represented a fourth of their total scoring
output in the first half. For the the game, their 14 free throws were
also a fourth of their total points. Duke played great defense but at
times wasn't always in the right position.

2. Turnovers. This was the big negative in the first half. Tillis turned
the ball over 3 times in the early going, prompting a quick hook until she
settled down. Hunter turned the ball over 4 times as she committed 2
offensive fouls and was in general a bit anxious with the ball. There
were also plays where Duke was trying to score in transition and threw the
ball long, or got a steal and immediately threw it away. It was all a
matter of execution, and once Duke got their heads together, they
eliminated the mistakes.

** Positives:

1. Rebounding. Duke dominated this category without a strong showing from
their post players, who combined for just 9 caroms. Meanwhile, Currie had
12 boards and Harding had 7, including 4 offensive. Mo really stepped up
here after some poor recent showings on the boards.

2. Defensive pressure. Tillis and Harding deserve special mention here.
Whenever a Virginia player had the ball at the top of the key, be it a
post or a perimeter player, Tillis and Harding would attack them. Iciss
would force them to pass and then tip the ball (Coach G noted that she had
16 deflections alone, with a team goal of 30). Harding would go after
anyone who picked up their dribble and spent much of the game on the
floor, going after loose change.

3. Post play. Tillis took her foes outside, while both Bass and Bales
were strong in posting up. Hunter did a little of everything: turnaround
jumper, post-up, dribble-drive. The group had a strong defensive showing,
with a combined 6 steals and 3 blocks and also had 6 assists.


** Bass: Mistie had a quiet game, missing some shots and getting beaten a
couple of times. She did have a big basket early in the second half and
an important dish to Harding.

** Tillis: After a mediocre first half (solid defensively, awful
offensively), Iciss quickly woke up with 7 points in the first six minutes
of the second half. She was more active in general on offense, hitting
Krapohl for 2 threes (love that inside-outside attack) and finding Bales
on a high-low. Iciss' confidence in her shot as well as her ability to
handle the ball made her a difficult matchup for the Hoos, none of whom
could match her quickness. The next step for Tillis will be to put
together 2 good offensive halves.

** Currie: Mo continues to struggle a bit at the offensive end and had a
few calls go against her, but she also found other ways to help. She went
out of the game with 3 fouls after already having picked up 5 rebounds,
and then really went to work in the second half. Her rebounding was the
x-factor in Duke going on their big run.

** Beard: The best player in the country had her usual stellar game.
Let's start at the defensive end. Blue is the Virginia player that I fear
the most, because of her quickness, ability to get to the foul line,
passing ability and defense. At times, she can also really fill it up.
Beard simply erased her in this game, forcing her to go 1-8 from the floor
and forcing 3 turnovers. Alana seemed to know exactly what to do at all
times, giving Blue a little room but keeping her hands up to prevent her
from shooting short jumpers. Blue did have 7 assists but scored just 6 in
the game, taking away one of Virginia's primary options. Offensively,
Beard did everything. Her first two scoring drives came from the right
side, she was 2-3 from three (and her shooting percentage continues to
rise in that department, now up to 36%), she got to the foul line at will
(9-10) and came up with big-time steals. In the second half, she was
happy to just pass the ball and create for others, finding Foley for a
three and Currie in transition. Alana is clearly on a mission right now
and is making sure to start every game aggressively.

** Harding: Lindsey is logging solid game after solid game. Her
offensive numbers are not overwhelming, but then that isn't her role.
Defense, ballhandling, and creating for others are her goals and she's
fulfilling them admirably. Against Virginia, she had a fine 9:2
assist/turnover ratio and 7 rebounds, generating several more possessions
with her toughness inside. She's not afraid to get physical and her
quickness can make her an effective rebounder. Harding is not afraid to
shoot, nailing that three and driving in for a conventional three point
play earlier in the game. She is happy to take what the defense gives

** Hunter: One can see Brit slowly getting healthier and healthier and
thus getting more comfortable on the floor. Her shot selection is still a
bit questionable at times, often shooting off the wrong foot or taking
wild drives, but when she gets into a bit more of a rhythm with more
playing time, she relaxes a lot more. When she doesn't get as many
minutes, she tends to force things in an effort to make things happen
instead of letting the game come to her and allowing her teammates to set
her up. Her defense continues to improve as she plays the passing lanes
better and she's still very difficult to move out of the block at either
end. Her drive to the basket was something: she stood at the top of the
key, took one big step and then just exploded to the basket for the basket
and the foul. Hopefully she'll take good care of her body down the
stretch, because the team needs her to be healthy and in practice.

** Krapohl: Despite a couple of mistakes with the ball, Vicki had a good
overall game. Her three in the first half gave Duke a double-digit lead
and a big psychological edge. Vicki's first second-half three deflated a
Virginia run and removed any doubt from the outcome. Importantly, Vicki
once again hunted after her shot rather than just wait to take wide-open
attempts. She needs to keep slinging the ball, because she's way over 50%
in recent games from beyond the arc.

** Foley: After some rough recent showings, Jess seemed to snap back into
early-season form with a good rebounding effort, solid shooting and ball
movement. It was her pass to Krapohl that resulted in the big first half
three, while a three in the second half was the start of a run that
triggered a late run. At her best, Jess can shoot, pass, defend and
rebound; if she's now a bit healthier and is out of a slump, she will help
the team down the stretch.

** Bales: A superb effort for Ali, who is thinking less and simply
playing now. That's a result of practice, continuity and familiarity with
her teammates. Before, she might have brought the ball down or hesitated
when she had the ball in the post. Now, she's posting up and moving to
the hoop in one motion. Her showing was all the more impressive because
she had her first shot blocked. Instead of getting down about it, she
simply got better positioning the next time, and with her height was not
going to get it blocked when she held the ball high. Her shot is a bit
odd-looking because of how high it arcs, but it is quite accurate. Ali is
a player who needs confidence, and it seems as though she's starting to
build some up. I would keep playing her as much as possible down the
stretch because I think she's ready to take advantage of it, even against
the best teams in the country.

** Howe: Caitlin passed up an open shot and then wound up turning the
ball over, leading to a Virginia score. She simply has to take that shot
when open.

** Cameron Craziness: A decent crowd was on hand, and they really went
crazy after Debbie Ryan picked up her technical. Ryan was still pretty
angry after the game, noting that some players get special treatment (ie,
Beard) from the officials in the league. Of course, I don't remember her
complaining when Dawn Staley and Wendy Palmer were getting those calls.
She's obviously feeling a lot of pressure right now because of the team's
losing record and the very real possibility that the NCAA's might not be
in their future. There were no hard feeling with Coach G, however; the
two hugged after the game.