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Duke Passes Test Against Clemson

Duke 78, Clemson 60. February 2, 2004. Littlejohn Colliseum.

After a lackluster first half against NC State, Duke faced a tough test
against a surging Clemson club that was looking for a big win. In
addition to having to outfox Jim Davis, Duke had some internal goals to
wrestle with. The Devils were looking to find ways to impose their will
on their opponents right away, and as such, the main focus was pressure
defense and rebounding, especially on the offensive end. Another concern
was the bench; after not helping much against State, it was hoped that
they would be able to make an impact against a deep Tiger squad. Of
course, another concern was playing 2 road games in 48 hours against
opponents that went 8-10 deep. That problem was brought into much sharper
focus when Iciss Tillis went out of the game with a mild concussion.
Happily, Duke took control of the game right away, had a couple of brief
lapses, and then put it out of reach with one of their best stretches of
basketball of the year.

At the head of the class was Alana Beard. Hampered by injuries of late
and an occasional victim of being frozen out by the other team's defense,
Beard stepped up and tore the Tigers to shreds. I've seen Alana play over
100 times, either live or on TV. This has to rank as one of the ten
greatest performances of her career, when one considers her consistency,
her work at both ends of the court, and the quality of opponent. Consider
that the Tigers were 5-3 in the ACC and are heading for an NCAA tournament
berth, and have the league's second leading scorer in Lakeia "Chicken
Bone" Stokes. In the first half, Beard used screens and positioning on
the floor to perfection and softly nailed shot after shot. She was
guarding Stokes and held her to 6 points and got her in foul trouble. AB
then went after her in the second half, forcing her 3rd and 4th fouls with
fourteen minutes to go in the game. Having gotten rid of "Bone", she
turned her attention to the player who had given Duke the most trouble,
Khaili Sanders. The talented young post had abused Duke for 13 points and
4 rebounds in the first half, 3 of them offensive. With Tillis out of the
game, Alana guarded her and held her to 2 points in the second half. With
with rest of the team containing the other Tiger players, Alana snuffed
out Clemson's biggest threats. That is a recipe for an 18 point road win.

Duke broke out to an early 9-2 lead thanks to 3 early Clemson turnovers.
Lindsey Harding and Beard both lobbed over the Clemson zone to Mistie Bass
for post scores, while Iciss Tillis hit a jumper and dished to Monique
Currie for a short jumper. Clemson came back with a basket from Stokes
and a three point play from Sanders to pull within 9-7. Beard hit a three
from the wing and then Brittany Hunter was fouled going up. With under
fourteen minutes to go, Duke led 14-7. Some early injuries to Clemson's
point guards certainly didn't help their cause; Julie Talley went out
after rolling her ankle and backup Kanetra Queen got bopped in the eye.
Stokes had to take over ballhandling duties for awhile, but both players
did eventually return.

Coach G put Alison Bales into the game early, and after having her first
shot blocked, she went harder the second time on a Tillis feed, getting
the basket and the foul. She missed the freebie, but Harding got the
board and Tillis fed Beard for a 10' jumper. Clemson countered with a
Talley three, but Beard sank a beautiful 15' shot. The Tigers pulled
within 20-14, but the Devils ran off 7 straight points. The turn was
triggered by Lindsey "The Blur" Harding, who outran the defense for a
one-woman fast break and the foul, hit Beard for a 10' jumper as she
waited behind a screen, and then finished off a break after a Tillis
screen. With just six minutes to go in the half, Duke seemed to take
control with a 27-14 lead.

Jess Foley then missed 2 straight shots (the last one a simple 17'
jumper that didn't come near the rim) and Brittany Hunter committed an
offensive foul, as Clemson ran off 6 straight points. They pounded Duke
inside for each score, with Sanders getting 2 stickbacks and White getting
good position in the post. Duke got the ball back to Beard, who nailed a
turnaround jumper to squash the run. Hunter stole the ball and passed it
to Harding, who rocketed down the court for another three point play.
Krapohl stole the inbounds pass and Beard hit Hunter for a post-up. Vicki
picked off Talley, leading to 2 Beard free throws. The Devils were in
command once again, 36-20.

With Tillis out, Duke went small and moved Beard to forward. Clemson
came within 39-33 with only a Beard fast break basket in the first couple
of minutes in the half, but then ran off 15 straight points. Clemson
missed 6 shots and turned the ball over 3 times as Duke was ruthlessly
efficient. It started with Currie hitting a 15' jumper after Bass
corralled her own miss. Currie then pulled down a miss and Beard scored
on an up-and-under. Beard drew a couple of fouls and then hit 2 free
throws after the second one. Krapohl grabbed her 4th rebound of the game
and fed Currie on a cut as Clemson was really starting to crumble. After
a Currie rebound, Vicki hit Brittany inside for a tough three point play.
Brit missed the foul shot, but Bales grabbed the miss and Currie attacked
the basket on a drive. Currie picked off Queen and Bales got the ball
deep in the post. She spotted Krapohl spotting up at the top of the key,
and Vicki nailed the three to give Duke a 54-33 lead with about eleven
minutes left.

At that point, it was all over but the shouting. The teams exchanged
baskets the rest of the game, with Foley hitting Bass inside, Beard
answering 2 Clemson baskets with long jumpers, and Currie attacking the
basket. Beard sat down with about five minutes to go as Bales and Hunter
remained productive. A Clemson run of 7-0 that cut the lead from 71-48 to
71-55 was met by a Hunter stickback and a Caitlin Howe three. Duke
outrebounded Clemson 20-12 in the half, forced 8 turnovers and shot 54%.
For a good defensive club like the Tigers, this was a significant
achievement. Beard noted that the club is trying to piece together two
good halves, and that this was a good start. Certainly, she bounced back
from some quiet recent first halves to dominate.

** Negatives:

1. Fouling. Duke had 4 fouls in the last minute, allowing Clemson to trim
a 36-20 deficit down to a more manageable 37-28 at the half. The fouls
were simply a matter of players being in the wrong place at the wrong
time. The Devils had an ugly 13 first half team fouls as Hunter & Foley
both picked up 3 fouls. Once Duke stopped their sloppy play, the rout was
on, because the Tigers had trouble scoring otherwise.

2. Valuing the ball. The Devils were often sloppy with the ball; even
Beard coughed it up a few times early in the game. Late in the first
half, Vicki Krapohl tried an impossible outlet pass to Beard that got
picked off. Once Duke simply did a better job of taking care of the ball,
they were able to score at will.

** Positives:

1. Ball movement. With Harding playing at a very high level, that only
makes everyone else better. Beard, Tillis & Krapohl are all excellent at
hitting cutters and open shooters as well, the resulting 22 assists on 30
field goals was simply amazing.

2. Pressure. Duke attacked Stokes when she was handling the ball and
trapped short point guard Queen and slow point guard Talley, and forced
them into multiple turnovers. By bodying up post Maggie Slosser, they
forded her to travel several times. Some turnovers that weren't steals
were still contested passes. Duke forced Clemson out of their comfort
zone, putting even more presure on them to get ideal shots.

3. Bench play. The bench was a huge lift in this game, especially when
Tillis went down. Krapohl noticeably improved her level of play in the
second half when she started in Tillis' stead, while both Bales and Hunter
were able to score and rebound, wearing down the Tigers.


** Bass: A hard-working game for Mistie, who did a great job on the
boards, cashed in her scoring opportunities when she had them, and
completely shut down Maggie Slosser, one of Clemson's more productive post
players. Bass worked hard on the offensive boards early on, allowing Duke
some extra cracks at the basket and slowing down the Tigers. She was
whistled for a couple of offensive fouls in the second half, which limited
her playing time somewhat, but her strong first-half play set a tone for
the whole game.

** Tillis: Iciss was actually on her way to a great game before getting
whacked in the head. While she was only 1-4 from the floor when she left
(after hitting a 15' jumper), she was moving the ball around extremely
well, with dishes to Currie, Beard and Harding. Defensively, she had
already picked up 3 steals and was shutting down talented Amanda White.
It's to Duke's credit that they picked up their play when Iciss went out,
but that's not to say that they didn't miss her.

** Currie: Mo bounced back after a mediocre offensive effort against NC
State, coming up big in the second half when she scored 10 points in the
first fifteen minutes. Whenever Clemson tried to pay more attention to
Beard, Mo would step in with a big shot or tough drive to the basket and
make them pay. After picking up 2 fouls in the first half, Monique raised
her overall level of play with 5 second half rebounds and a couple of
steals. As always, she seemed to come up with baskets when they were
really needed, scoring 6 points in Duke's big second half run and
countering 2 Clemson runs with baskets. Importantly, she stayed out of
foul trouble in the second half while still doing a good job on defense.

** Beard: Whenever someone wants to put together a video on how to play
basketball, you can simply show them Alana's performance in this game.
Everything she did was absolutely textbook--she killed Clemson not with
her strength or quickness, but her positioning. As a forward, her
shotblocking was absolutely outstanding, snuffing out several jumpers near
the basket and then grabbing the board. The hitch that seemed to afflict
the form of her jumper seems to have been corrected, as her shot looked
very smooth. It was clear that Alana was confident in taking it from the
beginning of the game, and a play that Clemson was perhaps conceding was
killing them. In the second half, Alana moved to the four and tortured
the Tigers inside with a stickback and 2 up-and-unders; the Tigers simply
had no solutions for her. If anything, I would have given the ball to
Alana more often, because she was in such a nice flow. Simply put, her
performance was the picture of efficiency, and it was nice to see her
dominate without killing herself by being knocked around going to the
hoop. Alana moved to #2 in all-time ACC scoring in this game, now at
2,385 points, and is closing in on the all-gender record at Duke, with
only Johnny Dawkins & Christian Laettner ahead of her. Alana is also
closing in on 700 rebounds, 500 assists, 150 blocks, 400 steals, 100
threes and is over 500 free throws for her career.

** Harding: Another quietly effective game for Lindsey, who has become a
reliable scoring threat, a tornado in transition, and nearly flawless in
handling the ball. In the past two games, she's had a 13-1
assist/turnover ratio, which points out that she's both taking care of the
ball and creating for others. She's finding others in transition, taking
care of her post players and most importantly knows where Beard is
(assisting her 4 times). Defensively, Clemson's players had trouble
creating against her (0 assists and 7 turnovers combined for Talley &
Queen) as well as shooting (3-12 from the field). About the only thing
she didn't do in this game was sink a jumper, though she did take her
obligatory three.

** Hunter: We were able to see a bit more of the real Brittany in this
game, as she overwhelmed Clemson with her unbelievable strength and power.
She continues to impress with her feet, making a great move to go to the
basket and get fouled. After struggling a bit from the line this year,
her form looks a lot better now and she sank 3-5. More than anything, I
love her attack mentality and relentless effort on the floor that is
reminiscient of Beard. All-in-all, a very nice effort with some crucial
scoring. If she can stay healthy, there are really no limits for her,
and she could be a big factor later in the year. She'll certainly be
needed against FSU.

** Foley: This was a really tough game for Jess, whose shot looks awful
right now. Despite that, and her foul problems in the first half, she
still managed to contribute a bit on the floor and on the defensive end.
She had an impressive block and rebound and a sensational pass to Bass
inside. Duke really needs her to be a three point threat, and she simply
needs to keep firing away. What needs to be corrected is her moving her
feet on defense and blocking out, because her three first half fouls were
bad ones.

** Krapohl: Vicki was pressed into extra minutes tonight because of Iciss'
absence, and the smaller lineup worked to Duke's advantage. Dealing with
good shooters who aren't fleet of foot like Julie Talley and Julie
Aderhold is an assignment that's right up Vicki's alley, and she did it
well. Vicki was going after rebounds, running the floor well and had 3
assists during Duke's big second half run (hitting Beard, Hunter and
Currie). Her three was the nail in the coffin for the Tigers.

** Bales: After some early shaky moments, Ali settled down and helped wear
down Clemson inside. The more she played, the better she got. As long as
she keeps the ball high and trusts in her footwork, she can't be stopped
by anyone, though she does need to get a little stronger in her upper
body. Still, it's not her size that impresses, it's her skill set and
smarts. She got her boards thanks to positioning, found Krapohl for that
three and was able to finish a couple of times. As Alison gets tougher, I
think she can gradually help the team more and more, especially if she's
rewarded for her efforts like in this game.

** Howe: Cait replaced Alana and nailed a three late in the game.