clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Duke Derails Louisiana Tech

Duke 63, Louisiana Tech 49. March 28, 2004. Constant Convocation Center.

Duke and Louisiana Tech bear a number of similarities. Both teams are
built around strong and quick athletes, leading to high-powered transition
attacks and smothering defenses that generate offense. Both squads score
over 80 points per game and have strong post play, dominant rebounding,
and a quick point guard who rarely turns the ball over. One might have
thought given this combination that it would have been a showdown between
the Irresistable Force vs. the Irresistable Force, a game that featured
lots of scoring and running. Instead, what we got was a game between the
Immoveable Object and the Immoveable Object where defense ruled the day.
The nice thing about this game for Duke is that they proved they can win
when Alana Beard is not dominant at the offensive end, and can win against
a lot of different styles. From the disciplined matchup zone of a
Marquette to the full court man to man pressure of La Tech, Duke made
adjustments and found ways to exploit both teams. Defensively, the Devils
are playing better than ever, and this is what has pulled them through the
last couple of rounds. Offensively, the team has sputtered a bit. It's
not the missed shots that are troubling them (though it would be nice to
see Alana knock down a few more jumpers), it's the fact that they've been
so careless with the ball. Granted, both Marquette and La Tech are great
defensive teams, and both did force some turnovers. But some Duke players
were throwing it to no one in particular or forcing the ball in inside
instead of patiently trying to find the right angle. The Devils
eventually were able to break off a couple of runs to pull ahead and used
their defense to stay there, but they can't afford to do this forever,
because a hot team could open up a big lead, forcing Duke to play from
behind. Hopefully, the right players will get hot at the right time, but
I'll leave talk of future games til later.

Duke has played a lot of teams with one good post player, but La Tech
had two dominant bigs who could score and rebound in Trina Frierson and
Amisha Carter. The Lady Techsters were also on a roll, winning 21 games
in a row. Granted, that was mostly against greatly inferior competition
(and included an upset overtime loss to Rice on the road), but they did
crush Mississippi State, edged Penn State on the road (their only home
loss of the year) and also took care of Illinois in an away game. After a
scare against home-standing Montana in the NCAA opener, La Tech
obliterated a solid Texas Tech club behind the hot shooting of guard Erica
Smith-Taylor. She averaged 30 ppg coming into the tussle with Duke. Add
to that slasher and defensive specialist Amber Obaze and steady point
guard Tasha Crain (with a 3:1 assist/turnover ratio) and you had a
formidable group.

Formidable, but not impenetrable. Coach G's strategy was to stop Amisha
Carter from scoring near the basket and force Frierson to take contested
jumpers. To that end, Gail made an interesting move in that she did not
have Alana Beard guard Smith-Taylor, Tech's most explosive guard.
Instead, Alana guarded the all-pass/no-shoot Crain and cheated towards the
post whenever the ball even went near the posts. Lindsey Harding was
given the assignment of guarding Smith-Taylor, and the strategy worked
like a charm. Duke did get burned a couple of times when Harding was on
the bench and Vicki Krapohl was assigned to her, because simply wasn't
quick or strong enough to deal with her. Beard eventually got switched
over to her in the game's waning moments and forced Smith-Taylor to take
some wild shots (possessed by the spirit of Betty Lennox and Tamicha
Jackson, no doubt), but her tremendous post defense was one of the biggest
keys of the game for Duke.

Duke didn't score until more than four minutes went by, but the defense
was such that La Tech had only tallied 4 points themselves. Duke missed 4
shots and turned the ball over twice in this period, while La Tech
committed 3 turnovers. Finally, Currie drove and got a nice passing angle
to Mistie Bass, who posted up for a score. Lindsey Harding forced
Smith-Taylor into a couple of tough shots and Iciss managed to tie things
up. The game stayed tight and low scoring in the first nine minutes as
Duke only managed a single Alana Beard turnaround jumper during 1 five
minute stretch. Still, La Tech couldn't take advantage as they missed 4
cracks at the basket in one possession and only led 10-6 with under eleven
minutes to go in the half.

The Devils needed a spark and Iciss Tillis provided it. First she
scored on a post-up to bring Duke to within 2. After Vicki Krapohl hit a
three that seemed to pump up everyone's spirits, Iciss blocked
Smith-Taylor, got the rebound and scored on a spectacular play. She drove
the length of the floor and went to her left, finishing with a reverse
right handed layup in traffic. It was the sort of move that only Iciss
could do and served to give Duke a 13-10 lead. The team found its rhythm
after that play, with Currie driving in for a floater, Beard nailed a 15'
jumper and Iciss continued her strong play by sinking a three that gave
Duke a 20-14 lead.

La Tech fought back as Frierson nailed 2 long jumpers. Meanwhile,
Krapohl missed 2 consecutive threes and Tillis misfired with an outlet
pass after a Jess Foley steal. Duke had their chances to increased their
lead but blew them. Beard countered with a couple of free throws, but La
Tech scored 5 in a row to retake the lead at 23-22. Smith-Taylor used a
screen to shake off Harding and got a good look for a three. Hunter took
a bad shot and Tillis wound up fouling Carter, but Duke caught a break
when she missed both free throws. When teams don't cash in on scoring
opportunities, Duke usually makes them pay. This time, Currie hit a
clutch 15' jumper to give Duke back the lead. It was an especially good
play because with 44 seconds left, it gave Duke a chance at a 2-for-1.
Sure enough, La Tech committed a huge turnover with 13 seconds left, and
Harding ran the floor and found Beard for a 15' baseline jumper with 6
seconds left. That gave Duke a 26-23 halftime lead and some momentum.

Prior to Currie's shot towards the end of the half, Mo had been
unusually passive at both ends of the floor. When Mo gets zero rebounds
in a half, you know something's wrong. Showing her maturity, she spoke up
and said that she was going to take responsibility out there. All she did
was utterly dominate at both ends, carrying her team to the win. Mo
started the half by driving in, missing, and then sticking back her own
miss. After a Frierson stickback, Mo drove again and missed, but grabbed
her own board and was fouled, making both. It was her ability to
manufacture tough points that inspired the team.

La Tech hung tough, going on a 7-2 run interrupted only by an inbounds
play from Beard to Hunter. It included Crain pulling up for a three--that
fell into the realm of "acceptable risk", because she simply wasn't going
to hit a lot of those shots. Still, with under sixteen minutes left, the
score was tied at 32-32. Once again, Mo Currie stepped up, attacking the
basket for a layup in traffic. Crain tried another three and missed
everything. Duke went on the offensive, with Beard finding Bass inside
for a post-up. Mistie then blocked a shot by Smith-Taylor and grabbed the
rebound. Alana was fouled and hit 1 to give Duke a 37-32 lead in what was
still a very tense game.

La Tech kept it close as Frierson would not be denied, scoring after
Tillis flicked off a beautiful pass to Harding on a cut. Bass went
inside-out to Krapohl for a much-needed three that gave Duke a 6 point
lead. In a game where scoring was at a premium, a 6 point lead felt like
a huge cushion. Hunter fouled Carter going for a block, and this time she
hit both of them. Iciss then scored her only basket of the second half,
but it was a doozy. She went baseline and shook off her defender with a
fake, and then nailed a 15' jumper. This was very much a "that's just
Iciss" moment, in the best sense of the phrase because no one else on the
team could have made that move.

With ten minutes to go in the game, Beard suddenly became a lot more
aggressive at the offensive end. She rebounded her own miss and fouled
out Obaze in the process. Obaze's quickness and strength had given Beard
fits the entire game, forcing her to take contested perimeter shots. With
Obaze gone, Tech didn't have anyone who could contain the Beard/Currie
combo, so they went to work. After Beard forced Smith-Taylor into a miss,
Currie stuck back a Tillis miss to give Duke a 48-38 lead. Two straight
Duke turnovers allowed Tech to cut it to 48-42, and what followed was a
whole lot of futility for both squads. What followed was 4 misses from
Duke and a turnover and 2 misses & 2 turnovers for Tech. Beard picked up
her 400th career steal and finished 2-on-1 with Currie to make it 50-42
with six minutes to go. Time was starting to become a factor.

Beard had just picked up her 4th foul and Tillis also had 4. After Bass
picked up her 3rd (and soonthereafter her 4th), Duke switched to zone and
utterly baffled the Lady Techsters. Currie drove to the basket to make
the score 52-44 with five minutes to go, and Beard then got a long rebound
and passed ahead to Krapohl. Seeing Currie and Tillis under the basket,
Vicki fired one up from long range on the bounce and nailed it. That
momentum basket gave Duke a 55-44 lead and sealed the game. Tech would
only score 3 points in the last four minutes of the game as Beard set up
shot down low, hitting 2 freebies and scoring inside. When she dished to
Currie for a 61-47 lead with a minute or so left, that was the icing on
the cake.

Coach G noted that the game was far from pretty, but it was interesting
to watch two evenly matched teams. In the end, Duke simply took greater
advantage of their opportunities; Tech was just 7-12 from the foul line
while Duke went 15-16. Tech was bound and determined to score inside no
matter what, and that worked out to Duke sending 11 of their shots back.
Wisely, Coach G avoiding full court presses and traps with one exception,
where Duke got burned. She felt that Duke's more disciplined halfcourt
attack would wear down La Tech, but pressing them would only have made
things easier for them. The Techsters simply hadn't been in a lot of
close games this year, and without the experience of learning how to play
from behind against top-notch teams, Duke had an advantage over them.
Smith-Taylor started jacking up bad shots without anyone in rebounding
position, and Duke kept getting the ball back. Duke could have done a
better job extending its lead a bit further (they turned it over twice in
the last minute or so), but they were quite firmly in control. Their zone
in the last few minutes protected Beard & Tillis while taking Carter &
Frierson out of the equation. Duke hasn't been firing on all cylinders
yet in this tournament, but the defense has got the job done. Hopefully
it can carry them through another game on Tuesday night.

** Negatives:

1. Blocking out. 14 of La Tech's 36 total rebounds came at the offensive
end, with Carter & Frierson accounting for 10. Duke was fortunate that
Frierson missed a couple of chippie stickbacks. The good news for Duke is
that they won't encounter another team that has a pair of posts this
powerful the rest of the way.

2. Valuing the ball. Duke just threw away the ball a bit too often. It
was one thing when Iciss simply overthrew someone on the break--that was a
high-risk, high-reward play that La Tech couldn't simply retrieve. But
it's quite another when Currie and Beard have a miscoummunication and
Currie throws it away, or when Harding is unusually sloppy with the ball.

3. Offensive flow. There were many possessions, especially early on,
where Duke did not adjust well to La Tech bumping the cutters. They took
Duke out of their rhythm and forced a lot of awkward-looking jumpers with
the shot clock running down. Once Duke relaxed and found ways to exploit
the defense (especially by drawing fouls), things flowed a bit better.

** Positives:

1. Post defense. Coach G said that Duke would have to play their best
post defense of the year in order to win, and that's exactly what Duke
did. Bass and Tillis played out of their minds on the defensive end,
Alana was Alana and Monique was an absolute rock when she rotated over
inside. Duke had 11 blocked shots and clearly rattled the slightly
shorter Techsters, who weren't used to being shut down so thoroughly

2. Getting to the foul line. This was an enormous key. After taking just
4 foul shots in the first half, Duke went 11-12 in the second half. IN a
game where points came at a premium, the opportunity to get some freebies
was crucial. All due credit to Beard & Currie, who attacked the basket.

3. Playing smart with foul trouble. Tillis, Bass and Beard all had 4
fouls, but managed to play through it while still being aggressive. Iciss
flirted with disaster a couple of times by nearly going over the back, but
did keep up an aggressive mindset. She had a thunderous block on a player
who was driving that announced she wasn't going anywhere.

Player by Player:

** Bass: After a disappointing showing against Marquette where she played
too soft, Mistie worked her butt off inside and played fantastic, physical
post defense. She had a good first half and a great second half, scoring
a basket in each. Her 5 second-half rebounds, a steal and a couple of
blocks made it very difficult for La Tech to score inside; her rebounds
kept Tech off the boards. While not a flashy scoring night or a
double-double, Mistie came to fill a role and did it well against big-time

** Tillis: An extremely strong showing for Iciss. I noted before the game
that Iciss didn't necessarily have to put up a lot of points, but she did
need to play great defense and rebound. She did both, and did some
amazing things while laboring with four fouls. While she didn't get a ton
of rebounds for fear of going over someone's back, she played aggressive
defense and hit that beautiful baseline jumper. Iciss kept Duke in the
game in the early going with her early offense (leading Duke with 9) but
also 5 rebounds. After taking some questionable shots against Marquette,
she bounced back with excellent shot selection overall. I know that Iciss
was down after missing a few shots and getting into foul trouble, but she
did pretty much everything she needed to in this game.

** Currie: Monique was the difference in this game. After a lackadaisical
first half where she drifted a bit too much, she repeatedly and fiercely
attacked the basket in the second half, fouling out La Tech's best
defender in the process. Mo is at her best when she's going hard to the
boards and getting fouled. While she needs to use her jumper in order to
set up her drive, it shouldn't be to the exclusion of her aggressiveness.
She came out on a mission to start the second half, scoring 6 of Duke's
first 8 points. After scoring on a couple of jumpers in the early going,
she switched her emphasis to the hoop in the second half, scoring on 2
stickbacks, 6 free throws, a cut and a drive. Without Obaze in there, La
Tech was helpless against Currie.

** Beard: Alana was at about Alana Level 5 or 6 in this game, though she
played at around level 9 in the last three minutes of the game. As
always, her numbers in an average showing are career games for most
mortals. In this game, she was just 5-15 from the floor but wound up with
17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal with just 1
turnover. It reminded me a bit of Shane Battier against UNC in 2001 when
asked what kind of defense Battier was playing in. He replied, "It's
called 'Shane, run around and make plays.'" Alana just ran around and
made play after play on the defensive end. She made up for missed shots
with her rebounding, and still hit a few important ones under duress.
That jumper late in the first half was a big boost for Duke. She got to
the foul line 6 times in the second half, but it was her transition basket
that seemed to wake her up. She then blocked a shot, got a rebound, went
to the line again and then found herself needing to score with about three
minutes left. In situations like that, Coach G likes for Alana to set up
in her "office"--the left low block along the baseline. Alana posted up,
got some space, and scored easily with that turnaround jumper of hers.
Following that with an assist to Currie, Alana simply picked up the relay
baton that Tillis started with, then handed off to Currie, who passed it
on to Alana the anchorwoman. If the low block is her "office" (because
that's where she goes to work), then the foul line is her home away from
home--she broke Chris Moreland's ACC record of 576 career free throws made
in this game and is now at 580. Alana also went over 2700 points and got
her 400th steal--simply amazing.

** Harding: Lindsey looked a bit gimpy at times and only played 22
minutes. She did fine job of guarding Smith-Taylor, staying in front of
her and cutting off both any chance of driving to the basket or pulling up
for uncontested threes. Smith-Taylor only got 2 open jump shots (one
where she shook Lindsey with a high pick and another in transition) and
sank both of them, pointing to just how important her job was. Hopefully
Lindsey will be ready to go for Minnesota, because she will need to guard
Lindsay Whalen much of the time. Lindsey missed some jumpers that she had
been making and her only score came on a cut. She simply didn't play as
well as she had in her most recent games, and I hope that any injury she
may have suffered won't be a serious one.

** Krapohl: After being shut down by Marquette, I noted that Vicki had
to find ways to get open in order to stretch opposing defenses. I also
guessed that she would find open shots against La Tech, given their
frenetic overplay. Vicki got lots of open looks and hit 3 crucial threes.
Her first gave Duke their first lead of the game after struggling at the
offensive end in the opening moments of the game, and the second gave Duke
their first double-digit lead and broke the Techsters' spirit. Vicki did
get beaten a couple of times by Smith-Taylor, but she took care of the
ball and made few mistakes. Though she missed 5 shots, those were all
shots that I wanted her to take, because they stretched the defense and
gave Duke a bit more room to operate off the dribble. It's great to see a
senior step up in such an important situation; in so many ways, Vicki has
taken on Krista Gingrich's role from the 2002 team. Krista didn't start
after being a regular in 2000, but instead of complaining about playing
time, she simply stepped up and made crucial shots at important times.
Vicki graciously moved aside for the up-and-coming Lindsey Harding after
being a two-year starter and has done nothing but help and counsel her.
(It's no surprise that Lindsey wanted Vicki to start on Senior Day, as a
tribute to her mentor.)

** Hunter: Brit came in and immediately started tossing people around.
She didn't dominate La Tech the way she did Marquette, and she did take
more than one questionable shot, but her 13 minutes were important in
wearing down the Techsters. Still, she played aggressively at the
defensive end, blocking a couple of shots and generally smothering La
Tech's posts whenever she could. She missed a couple of assignments here
and there, but this really was a tough matchup. Brit did score on a
quick-hitter inbounds play and had a nice pass inside to Tillis for a

** Foley: Jess had a solid but unspectacular first half stint designed to
get Beard and Currie a few minutes of rest. She missed a couple of open
shots, which I think affected her confidence a bit. But she worked hard
on defense, got a steal and a board. The team could really use her
offense; if she ever got hot from the field, that would be an enormous
boost. I suspect that she'll continue to get some spot minutes as long as
Duke continues to play.

** Constant Chaos: Old Dominion has a very nice arena that's about
Cameron-sized (9,000), with a small luxury box section at the top. One of
the team's unsung heroes is Shaeeta Brown, the administrative assistant
(and one of the team's all-time most beloved players) who has done a
fabulous job with community relations. She organized a couple of buses
up to Norfolk, complete with tickets. The ride up was a blast, as the
on-bus TVs were playing highlight tapes from past years. (Including Sha
from her freshman year singing "Respect"!) There was a strong Duke
presence at the first game as Nan & Bob Keohane made it there before
flying down to Atlanta for the men's game. Bob even did his Crazy Towel
Guy impersonation as he whipped up the fans' fervor! Faces in the crowd
included Sue Harnett, Kira Orr (and her mother, one of the most popular
parent/fans ever) and Rochelle Parent. I should also note that the public
address announcer was one of the best I've ever heard--a pleasant and
enthusiastic voice that was distinctive without being shrill.