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More Survive And Advance- Duke to the Sweet Sixteen

Duke 76, Marquette 67. March 23, 2004. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Marquette was the best defensive team Duke played all year. Without a lot
of size or quick athletes, they used withering pressure that caused Duke
to get frustrated and careless in a way I haven't seen them get all year.
The Golden Eagles used a well-executed and aggressive matchup zone defense
that would have made John Chaney proud. Far from the passive defense one
would normally attribute to a zone, their matchup aggressively shadowed
the ballhandler, cut off penetration and surrounded anyone who managed to
get the ball in the post. In the first ten minutes of the game, Duke
countered the matchup perfectly. The matchup will almost always leave the
corners open, so if you can swing the ball around to a player who flashes
over to either side, they will get an open shot if they shoot it right
away. This is exactly what Duke did, hitting five early jumpers either
right in the corner or just a bit over on the wing. Ten minutes into the
game, Duke had built a ten point lead thanks to their pin-point passing
and rebounding. To their enormous credit, Marquette never let the lead
get much beyond that. They didn't shoot very well against Duke's
aggressive defense and got very few second chance opportunities, but
managed to stay in the game by trapping out of their zone and forcing Duke
to make mistakes. The end result was one of the most intense basketball
games I've seen all year.

Alana Beard was brilliant, which was a shock to no one. After taking it
easy against Northwestern State, she turned her game way up here at both
ends. In the first half, Monique Currie ably supported her, despite
playing on a puffy ankle. In the second half, Brittany Hunter came off
the bench to provide an enormous lift, despite not practicing for about
two weeks. All along, Lindsey Harding provided steady leadership, defense
and clutch foul shooting at the end. Still, Duke had many opportunities
to really put Marquette away late in the game and instead went through
possession after possession where they literally threw the ball away under
no pressure. The team had a season-high 26 turnovers. They were able to
survive it here because Marquettte was not a big transition threat, but
the Devils will have to tighten up their ship if they wish to progress
further in the tournament.

The action in the first four minutes was fast and furious. Beard
started the party with a driving three point play, but Marquette countered
with 5 straight points. Duke hit 5 of their first 7 shots, while the
Eagles canned 4 of their first 5. Harding found Monique Currie on the
baseline for a 15' jumper, and then Beard kept attacking Marquette's zone
by finding Harding in the same spot for another long jumper. Marquette
hit another three to take an 8-7 lead, but Harding passed to Currie on the
wing, and she buried a three. The scouting report on Currie probably told
Marquette to let her shoot, but Mo stuck to the game plan and fired away
when open. When Marquette tied the game at 10, Mo hit another 3. One
sensed that the hot shooting was going to slow down eventually for both

Duke moved an extra player out to the perimeter to make sure Marquette's
guards didn't get any good looks and to occasionally trap. The Devils
started to force turnovers and got a few good looks at the basket; Beard
scored in transition off a Harding rebound and then a steal & runout.
Duke started to find some cracks in that zone as Beard drove and dished to
Currie for a three point play, while Harding blew by the defense before it
could set up, drew her defenders in and then kicked it in to Beard for an
easy score. At that point, Duke was up 24-14 with over ten minutes to go
in the half.

Marquette immediately came back with a three, and the score hovered
between 6-9 points for the next few minutes. Beard scored after a rebound
and Harding hit her third jumper of the game to make it 29-23 with about
six minutes to go in the half. Duke then jumped on the Eagles, going on
an 8-1 run to really give themselves a bit of wriggle room. It started
with Tillis' first points of the game on a stickback. Beard then got
behind the zone and drove baseline for a score. Currie did the same, and
then scored in transition after Beard blocked a shot and grabbed the
rebound. Duke had a chance to really extend their lead down the stretch,
but Currie & Beard both misfired on threes. Tillis did manage to hit a
short jumper to offset 4 late Marquette points. The Devils led 39-28 at
the half. They had turned the ball over a distressing 12 times (a couple
came on travels after rebounds where Duke got bumped). Duke did have a
22-14 edge on the boards and looked to extend it even further. Still,
Duke shot 53%, held Marquette to 34% and still only held an 11 point lead.
Marquette being an opportunistic squad, they managed to forge a 10-10 tie
in points off turnovers, a stat that Duke usually feasts upon.

Duke opened the second half with Currie leading Bass beautifully for a
layup, but Mistie was just a bit too slow in going up and had the shot
block. Marquette immediately responded with a basket and the second half
battle was on. Tillis fired back with a three, but the Eagles scored 5 in
a row to cut the lead to 42-35 just three minutes into the second half.
Enter Brittany Hunter. Out for several days due to her perpetually-sore
knee (that won't really be fixed until the season ends and she can rest
it), Brit came in cold and grabbed a rebound right away. Beard drove and
dished to Hunter on the wing, and Brit fired away from 15' and sank the
shot. That was the first of 8 straight points for Hunter, who could not
be stopped. She muscled out Weaver twice for stickbacks and posted her up
for another score. Marquette was able to hang around thanks to their work
at the free throw line, but Hunter's dominance gave the rest of her
teammates renewed energy.

The biggest beneficiary was Beard, who had been held scoreless in the
half. She posted up and scored on a three point play, giving Duke a 53-40
lead with thirteen minutes to go. Marquette just wouldn't go away,
hitting a three to draw within 10. Duke started to grind it out a bit,
with Tillis and Beard hitting 4 free throws in a row. Hunter then grabbed
a long rebound, drove towards the basket and broke off a no-look pass to
Beard for a score. That gave Duke a 16 point lead, but Marquette quickly
made up some ground with 5 straight points. With the shot clock running
down and Harding surrounded inside, she threw it out to Beard, who nailed
a 23' three with one second left on the shot clock. Marquette kept
coming, but a Beard pass to Hunter and a Beard block, rebound and layup
gave the Devils a 66-53 lead with about five minutes to go.

At no point did I feel the game was over, however. Duke kept coughing
up the ball and gave Marquette many more chances. Duke restored their
lead to 11 with two minutes to go when Tillis found Hunter inside, but
Duke by this time couldn't hang on to the ball, allowing the Eagles to
creep within 68-61 with a minute to go. Duke was still in control, but
stranger things have happened (like in Hartford, for example). Adding to
Duke's problems was the fact that they weren't even in the bonus from the
foul line. So with a minute to go, Marquette fouled sub-70% free throw
shooter Lindsey Harding. The steady Harding swished both of her shots to
restore a 9 point lead. Marquette stopped the clock as Currie fouled out
and pulled to within 7 again, with precious little time having been run
off the clock. Again, they fouled Harding, and once more Lindsey sank
both attempts. Marquette used just 9 seconds to score again, and this
time it was Beard's turn. The best player in the country coolly made
both, and then followed that up by stealing the ball and taking it all the
way for a score with 30 seconds left. It's no surprise that Beard sealed
the game on the play that has long been her signature.

The refs let a lot of stuff go in the post for both teams. There was a
period in the second half where there was a ton of contact down low at
both ends and the refs just swallowed their whistles. With about ten
minutes left, they decided to tighten things up a bit and called a lot
more stuff...mostly on Duke. To Marquette's credit, they were able to
manufacture a lot of points by driving. Really, I can't say enough about
Marquette. That is as well-coached a team as I've ever seen. The game
reminded me of Duke playing TCU in Cameron a couple of years ago in the
NCAA's...another Conference USA team that plays great defense and had a
sensational young forward (Sandora Irvin). Duke kept them at arm's length
in that game but never blew them out, just like in this game.

Bottom line, Alana was absolutely brilliant and Marquette lacked a go-to
player who could get a score when absolutely needed. Louisiana Tech will
be a huge challenge for Duke, because they're every bit as quick and have
2 great posts, as well as a guard who is absolutely on fire right now in
Erica Smith-Taylor. That will be Alana's assignment, I'm guessing. A
healthy Brit would go a long way in helping out there, as well as a Mistie
Bass on a mission to succeed. Ali Bales will also need to contribute a few
minutes and block some shots.

** Negatives:

1. Valuing the ball. Some of Duke's turnovers could be attributed to
Marquette's trapping defense in the second half, and the general rigors of
playing against a team that is disciplined and physical. Many of the
turnovers came about because of laziness with the ball (Harding just let
it slip out of her hands on one play), bad decision-making (Tillis
dribbling into the middle of a zone), tough drives (Beard was called for
travelling in a situation where she should have held up the ball), and the
inexplicable (Beard throwing it to where she thought Tillis might go, but
Iciss didn't move). Marquette couldn't really stop Duke otherwise, so
losing these possessions really hurt.

2. Fouling. Down the stretch, Duke did not do a good job of cutting off
penetration and getting into the lane to take charges, and this allowed
Marquette to make a late comeback.

3. Adjusting to officiating. Tillis and Bass in particular didn't
adjust well to how the game was being called. Currie compounded some
questionable calls with cheap fouls, and that wound up fouling her out of
the game in short order.

** Positives:

1. Perimeter defense. Marquette was able to get some good looks inside
because Duke absolutely suffocated their guards with in-your-face
pressure. Marquette starters Carolyn Kieger and Kelly Schwerman combined
to go 9-25 from the floor and only got a tiny handful of good looks at the
basket. Special kudos to Lindsey Harding for her constant pressure.

2. Rebounding. Marquette is actually a very solid rebounding club that
just got out-sized and out-worked by Duke. Five players had at least 5
rebounds as Duke dominated the Eagles 41-24 on the boards. Tillis and
Beard in particular were incredible on the boards (Alana always seems to
know when and how to contribute) and Hunter gave the team a big boost on
the boards.

3. Free throw shooting. Duke looked a bit careless from the line
against Northwestern State on Sunday. With the stakes much higher here,
the players' concentration level seemed to get much sharper. Extra kudos
to Lindsey Harding, who hit 4 straight free throws in 2 one-and-one
situations. The first came after an 8-2 Marquette run that cut Duke's
lead to 7, and the second came just ten seconds later when Marquette cut
it to 7 again. Beard then stepped up and hit 2 more in a one-and-one.


** Bass: Mistie had her first shot blocked on a play where it looked like
she was expecting a foul to be called, and it clearly threw her off her
game the rest of the way. She simply didn't go up strongly enough against
a crafty player like Crystal Weaver; it didn't help that many of the
players knew her tendencies pretty well from playing against her in AAU
ball in Wisconsin. Happily, this didn't cause her to back down at the
defensive end. She had 5 rebounds (4 offensive), a block and a couple of
steals as she was part of Duke's overall tough halfcourt presence. That
is an encouraging sign, because in the past when Mistie had problems at
the offensive end, she would also disappear on defense and the boards.
Hopefully she'll bounce back in Duke's next game, because she
will be dearly needed against a physical La Tech club.

** Tillis: The zone clearly bothered Iciss, who started to put up some
bad shots because she had trouble getting the ball at all. That included
a rushed three and a 17' jumper with rather awkward form. She did bounce
back late in the first half with 4 points, hit a three to start the second
half, and nailed a couple of cricial free throws. Iciss also had a
perfect pass to Hunter for a score. Most importantly, she was great on
the boards, leading the team with 8. She'll get more one-on-one matchups
against Louisiana Tech, and will have the opportunity to make a big
contribution in that game.

** Currie: Mo was on fire in the early going, hitting her first 6 shots.
Four of them were jumpers and 2 of them were drives, one for a three point
play. Currie was also extremely active on the defensive end, forcing
steals, going into traps, and blocking a shot. Marquette did a much
better job on her in the second half, and her foul trouble seemed to
rattle her a bit. Still, there's no question that her hot early shooting
allowed Duke to get a working margin that they never relinquished.

** Beard: Alana scored 30 points, mostly just by grinding it out. She
scored 6 points off either steals or blocked shots, 4 more in transition,
7 points from the foul line, hit that long three and scored the rest
either off the dribble or posting up. She was everywhere and Marquette
couldn't seem to find a way to stop her. Though only credited with 2
steals (leaving her 1 short of 400), she forced many more turnovers,
including taking a charge, getting a couple of held balls, and forcing bad
passes with ball pressure. The only thing she did wrong in this game was
get a bit too cute with the ball at times, either throwing it away,
travelling or committing a charge. The best player in America stepped up
when she needed to, and led her team into the next round.

** Harding: Duke's blue collar star did all the little things in this
game, hitting open jumpers, getting tough rebounds and finding the open
shooter. She also set Duke up in transition several times and played her
usual hard-nosed defense. But she'll always be remembered for hitting
those 4 clutch free throws when Marquette was so very ready to make a late
charge. Those freebies shut the door on their comeback attempt.

** Krapohl: Marquette scouted Duke extremely well, never letting Vicki
get a good look at the basket. Her one attempt was swatted out of bounds,
and she passed over a few others later. Passing up one shot actually led
to a turnover in one instance. Her only assist was to Lindsey Harding in
what was otherwise a tough game. Vicki will need to be more of a presence
on offense against Louisiana Tech.

** Foley: Jess missed an open three in the corner and another jumper, and
also overthrew the ball a couple of times. I thought she might come in
handy against the zone, but it was so aggressive that she had trouble
handling it.

** Bales: Ali got some spot minutes in the first half. She got a rebound
and passed to Harding for a score, but also picked up a cheap foul, and
another on a block attempt. Marquette made sure to surround her as much
as possible with their zone, and their packing it in made it hard to get
her the ball. Ali tends to play a bit better once she sees the ball go
down. Defensively, she made Marquette adjust their shots on a
near-constant basis. They made a few over her, but it was a struggle.
Ali could help out quite a bit against a Louisiana Tech squad that has two
big, powerful players.

** Hunter: The Big Hurt came off the bench to bring some pain
Marquette's way. Yes, Brittany Hunter stepped onto the court and
controlled the boards and used her size & power to dominate inside. It
started with her nailing a short jumper. Her knee was clearly still
pretty balky, so she was limited to short stints just in case. As always,
Brit played with a fearlessness and sense of joy that is a pleasure to
watch. She really took advantage of her size and strength advantage, and
combining that with her agility made her a matchup nightmare for
Marquette. Really, Beard and Hunter were the only 2 players that they
couldn't at least slow down. Brit only made 2 significant mistakes:
forcing up an awkward push shot just a little bit too far away from the
basket, and getting out of defensive position and in fact accidentally
screening off Beard who was trying to help on the baseline, leading to a
three point play for Marquette. Still, considering that she hadn't played
in a while, those are minor complaints. She came in and dominated, the
way she should.

** Cameron Craziness: The crowd was a bit late-arriving but enthusiastic
nonetheless. In attendance were former Duke players Windsor Coggeshall,
Sheana Mosch (who got her own cheer), regular attendee Sue Harnett and her
former teammate (and current coach of Charlotte) Katie Meier. Meier
coached against Marquette and knew them well. A funny moment before the
game: each Duke player chest bumps Vicki Krapohl as they are introduced,
and then heads over to shake hands with the opposing coach. When Gail
Goestenkors came out to shake Marquette coach Terri Mitchell's hand,
Mitchell reared back as if to give her a chest bump! At halftime, the PA
announcer sarcastically noted that the Naismith committee "in their
infinite wisdom" had given Diana Taurasi their player of the year award,
which drew a lot of boos. The decision to announce this was not received
warmly by the crowd; I understood that the announcement was sarcastic in
nature, but it just wasn't an appropriate for the situation.