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Duke Smokes NC State

Duke 90, NC State 57. March 1, 2004. Reynolds Coliseum.

Duke finished off an impressive weekend with a dominating win over a hot
NC State squad that finished third in the league. This wasn't a doormat
that the Devils crushed on their home floor; it was an NCAA-tourney bound
club that was tough to beat at home celebrating Senior Day. One of those
seniors is Kaayla Chones, a future WNBA player and likely first-team
all-ACC star. Duke's posts attacked her all day, limiting her offensively
in the first half and ringing up score after score. That makes the
four-year mark for this class in regular season ACC games a stellar
60-4--an unmatched run in league history.

NC State still probably needs to win 1 more game to ensure an NCAA bid,
though their 8-3 finish after starting 0-5 is one of the more impressive
feats of the year. Beating Duke would have meant clinching the bid, but
the Devils weren't interested in helping them out. Duke approached this
game very methodically. They used the first five minutes to feel out
State's defensive approach and make adjustments at the defensive end.
Once they did that, they got an arm's-length lead to force State to take
some risks and quick shots. When they didn't fall, Duke took advantage
with a big run to take a double-digit lead. State staged a comeback to
pull within single digits again, but Duke unleashed a haymaker of a run to
take command at the half. The Devils kept up the pressure and slowly
pushed their lead beyond 20 points. After a lengthy delay due to a shot
clock misfunction (the shot clock literally started smoking!), Duke
casually went in and ripped off 10 straight points to put the game
completely out of reach. This meant that 8 players got double figure
minutes and 2 others played seven apiece.

The big stories from the game were the play of its frontcourt and even
more jaw-dropping work from Alana Beard. State sent quick and muscular
defender Alvine Mendeng after Tillis and managed to keep her relatively
quiet (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks). But the Devils hammered away at
Chones with the duo of Brittany Hunter and Mistie Bass, who combined for
33 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks. Hunter in particular was
a human wrecking ball, abusing Chones for 20 points on 10-14 shooting.
Brit had struggled a bit during the year because of her knee problems and
being behind the others in practice, but her recent hard work and flashes
of brilliance have started to pay off. Looking both quick and strong for
the first time in months, she showed off a dazzling array of moves and her
overwhelming power in the post. Beard alone dished off to her 6 different
times and she proved ready to finish. Speaking of Alana, she showed off a
deft touch from everywhere on the court, had an amazing left-handed finish
coming in from the right, and broke off another absurd behind-the-back
pass on the break.

State's plan was to run whenever possible, attack Duke off the dribble
and pound it inside otherwise. Early on, it worked: the Pack's Terah
James (a senior) split the defense for a layup, while Chones & Mendeng
combined for 7 early points. Meanwhile, Beard started off hot, hitting
3 jumpers from about 17' away (2 assisted by Currie & Bass). Alana also
found Bass inside for a basket. While Beard was hitting shot open shots
as State played in a sagging man, Duke's goal was to attack the Pack
inside. To that end, Duke tried to find the best passing angles possible.
Earlier in the year, you could see Duke try to force too many passes
inside, resulting in turnovers. In this game, Duke patiently worked the
ball around, trying to get enough wing penetration to create the perfect
entry angle. Once they were able to do this against State, the game
proved to be no contest.

It helps having a target who can catch the ball and then immediately
turn and score, and that's what Brittany Hunter did when she entered the
game. She posted up Chones, Beard got her the ball and Hunter scored.
That made the game 10-7 in favor fof Duke with about six minutes gone by.
Tillis was fouled going up and hit 2, and then she found Vicki Krapohl for
a three. Iciss then blocked Mendeng, and then Beard hit her with a
perfect lob over Mendeng to score. Chones hit 2 free throws, but Beard
went to Hunter once again and Brit dropstopped past her. Chones passed to
Kendra Bell out of a double-team, but Beard found Hunter once again.
State simply couldn't stop that play. Hunter defended Chones well and
forced a miss, grabbing a board. Tillis then unleashed one of her sick
spin moves to give Duke a 23-13 lead and momentum. Chones missed again
and Lindsey Harding drove in with a banked layup. Duke's next possession
featured 2 offensive rebounds finished off by a Bass stickback. With six
minutes to go in the half, Duke led 27-13.

The Pack hit a three, but Hunter found Bass from the high post for an
easy score. State finally went on a run, getting 6 in a row to cut the
lead to 29-22. That was fueled by a steal leading to 2 free throws and a
fast break basket after a long missed three. Krapohl tried to answer but
missed; however, Hunter was there for the rebound. She went up and
missed, went up again, scored and got fouled. While she had been steady
up to that point, that played really energized her and the team as they
appreciated her effort paying off at last. That would be the first of 8
straight points for the big frosh, with each increasing in difficulty.
Tillis fed her on the next possession and she smoothly hit a turnaround
jumper. Beard rebounded a miss and cranked up Duke's transition game,
outletting to Currie, who dished to Brit for the finish. Currie then
rebounded another State miss and passed to Alana, who nonchalantly flipped
a behind-the-back pass to Hunter for a spectacular finish. Beard finished
off the run with 2 free throws and the half with a 17' jumper, and the
Devils led 41-24. State went for broke towards the end of the half,
taking long threes instead of sticking with their gameplan, and it really
cost them. Beard had 10 points and 6 assists in the half, while Hunter
had 14 points and 7 rebounds. Despite just shooting 1-9 from three, Duke
shot over 50% from the field, committed just 5 turnovers and dominated the

Against Maryland a few games ago, Duke got out to a similar lead but got
sloppy and had it trimmed to single digits several times. The Devils made
sure to start out strong in the second half here to avoid such a scenario.
Beard put the lead at 20 with a three and Tillis posted up and scored on
an up-and-under. That helped neutralize State going back to its
penetration and scoring 6 points in under a minute. When the Pack cut the
lead to 46-30, Harding passed to Beard for another three. After Chones
turned it over thanks to pressure from Hunter, Beard rewarded the frosh
with another pass for a score. Beard answered a State score with an
unbelieveable drive where she went right and banked in a reverse layup
with her left hand under duress. Currie stole the ball from Chones and
passed to Beard, who found Hunter on yet another transition basket.
Krapohl hit a three and State cut it to 58-36 when the shot clocks stopped

After a ten minutes delay where the teams started warming up again (and
enjoyed a few laughs), Duke came out all business and had a 10-0 run.
Beard and Hunter both hit jumpers and Currie had a steal & runout to
highlight the run, while State missed 4 shots and turned the ball over
twice. Duke built their lead as high as 36, as Beard was going pass-happy
to Bass, feeding her on 3 consecutive occasions before Alana exited with
about six minutes left. State actually outscored the reserves 16-13,
though Kay Yow had left the seniors in long after the game had been
decided and so Chones was able to get into double figures. Foley hit a
couple of threes and Alison Bales got in some nice work as well. The team
looks rested and ready for the rumble this weekend in Greensboro.

** Negatives:

1. Fouls. Duke always plays aggressively, but started to get a bit sloppy
at times with physical contact, especially in the second half.
Thankfully, Duke's enhanced depth helps them overcome this.

2. Transition defense. Early in the game, State was able to exploit
Duke's aggressiveness in going after offensive rebounds by getting several
leakout baskets. Duke was able to stop this without sacrificing their
tenacity on the boards.

** Positives:

1. Defensive pressure. Duke usually likes to trap guards but this time
went after the posts instead. Kaayla Chones is many things, but a great
passer and dribbler aren't two of them. Duke collapsed on her and forced
her into 6 turnovers. They also went after Mendeng and forced her into 3.
State's guard speed was a bit too quick to press, and so Duke wisely held
off, forcing them to take jumpers. Result: 8-29 shooting from State's
perimeter players.

2. Unselfishness. 26 of Duke's 35 field goals came on assists. The
Devils' assist/turnover ratio in this game was nearly 4:1 (26:7) and the
Devils also had more steals than turnovers. All of this shows a team that
scored from outside (21 points) inside (38 points) and from the foul line
(13 points). Everyone who played scored, and 6 players scored at least 6

3. Rebounding. While the final margin was just 37-29, that didn't tell
the whole story. Duke had a 23-11 edge at the half and seemed to get all
the rebounds that mattered. That included 2 crucial stickbacks from Bass
& Hunter, the latter of which sparked a big run.


** Bass: Another strong game for Mistie, who was an impressive 6-8 from
the field and worked hard to make herself an easy target. In the first
half, she was heads-up to score on an inbounds play, got a stickback and
scored on a high-low. She scored 6 in a row in the second half and did a
good job on Chones throughout the game, winding up with 2 steals and a
block. Just a strong, mistake-free game against a team that has pretty
good post players.

** Tillis: Iciss had a good first half with 6 points and 4 rebounds,
along with assists to Krapohl & Hunter and keeping Mendeng off the
boards. She scored early in the second half and then wasn't really needed
much after that, giving way to Duke's younger post players. As per usual,
she filled up the stat sheet, getting multiple rebounds, assists and

** Currie: Mo's statline doesn't look impressive on the face of it, but
she once again did whatever her team needed, when they needed it. 4
points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals translated into her playing
physical defense, scrapping after loose balls, getting a held ball, and
generally bodying up anyone who came near her. Monique has progressed
from being a tough-minded player who could rebound into an all-around
excellent defender who can take on guards or posts. More than any other
player, she has the luxury to observe how the game's going and determine
what she should do next. When things get tight, she's more than willing
to step up and take the jumper or attack the basket. If given a little
room, she will happily set up her teammates, finding Beard for a couple of
jumpers, Krapohl for a three and Hunter in transition. Mo's only field
goal was generated by her defense, getting a steal and layup. She's been
waiting all year for the postseason, so don't be surprised to see her
shine in the biggest games and when the team needs her the most.

** Beard: The best player in the country made it look easy, feeding
Hunter 6 times and Bass 4 times. Her jumper was on throughout the game,
she made no errors with the ball (0 turnovers) and looks like she's been
living in "the zone" for the past couple of weeks. Ever since the FSU
loss, she has rededicated herself even more to the team and the results
are paying off. Her jumper looks smooth, to the point where it's become
her primary weapon. Alana only breaks out her dribble-drive when she
really needs it now, saving wear and tear on her body. Of course, this
game was significant because she moved ahead of Johnny Dawkins for #1 on
the all-gender Duke scoring list. She also moved into the top ten on
Duke's all-time three point shooting list with 91.

** Harding: This was one of Lindsey's quieter games. Her defense was
quite solid and she forced a couple of held balls, but she played a
reduced playmaking role with Beard killing the Pack inside. I did like
her taking a three that didn't quite fall but was still quite a good shot.

** Krapohl: A nice, steady game for Vicki, whose first three really poked
a big hole in State's zone. She also hit threes to counter State scores
in the second half. Her only mistake was throwing an interception after a
Duke steal. Vicki hit her 160th career three, which moves her past Jen
Scanlon into second place all-time at Duke. This is quite an impressive
achievement for a player who didn't even play that much as a frosh.

** Hunter: This is what we like to call a breakout game. Hunter
dominated a great player in Chones, using her size, power and footwork to
get great position and then finish. One could see her confidence growing
from play to play, to the point where that ridiculous transition finish
looked easy and the jump shot looked easier. Brit talked about wanting to
concentrate on rebounding after several lackluster games, and she
responded with a double-double and 3 blocks. The potential that we saw at
the beginning of the year is now being realized after long weeks of
physical, mental and emotional struggle. And in most ways, she's a better
player now than then, because she's working within the offense instead of
doing her own thing with the ball. Brit needs to work on efficiency above
all else and to trust her teammates to get her the ball if she works into
the right position. She doesn't need to dribble the ball a lot and take
wild shots; instead, she needs to be patient and then use her post moves
to attack her foe. One-on-one, there are few players who have the
combination of size, strength and quickness to handle Brit when she gets
low enough. If she can do this consistently and also shut down her
opponent, Duke will have an unbelievable weapon coming off the bench in
NCAA play.

** Foley: Jess is trying to regain some of her offensive form, and hit
her last couple of shots after missing her first two. She's another
player who does best when she doesn't think. Though she's a confident
shooter, one can almost sense a bit of urgency when she takes her first
attempt. When she was more relaxed in the second half, the shots fell
easily for her.

** Bales: Ali was reasonably solid in limited minutes, showing off her
nice foul-shooting stroke, blocking a shot and staying out of foul
trouble. She still seems a bit confused out on the wings and high post at
times and doesn't play as instinctually as one would like. When she just
reacts and is aggressive, she's tough to stop, especially at the
offensive end. Foes can sense when she doesn't want to be aggressive and
so pressure her accordingly. If she can react a bit quicker and with more
authority in such situations, she'll be much more effective down low.

** Howe: Cait had a solid showing, hitting a 15' baseline jumper, finding
Foley for a three, and being in the right place for a steal. She simply
looked comfortable on the court.