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Duke 110 Fairfield 44

Duke 110, Fairfield 44. November 22, 2005. Cameron Indoor Stadium

In my preview for this game, I noted that Faifield wasn't likely to give Duke
much of a fight, given that they weren't very good last year and they lost
their top 3 socrers. For about the first five minutes of the game, I couldn't
have been more wrong. Setting up in a 2-3 zone, Fairfield turned Duke into a
jump-shooting team. Even when the Devils got the ball inside, no one could
quite finish. Meanwhile, Fairfield hit two long jumpers to start the game with
a 5-0 lead. Monique Currie muscled in for a stickback and Bales hit 2 free
throws to make it 5-4, and then Mo stole the ball to put Duke up 6-5.
Fairfield countered with 3 offensive rebounds on one possession and went ahead
7-6. A free throw after a Wanisha Smith turnover made it 8-6 with less than
five minutes gone by.

Coach G has stated that the luxury of this year's lineup is that everyone
knows they're responsible for bad plays. A careless turnover (in this case, a
bad entry pass by Smith) will mean that someone else will come in for you,
eager to contribute. The starting lineup in this game was the usual trio of Mo
Currie, Lindsey Harding & Mistie Williams, along with Alison Bales (in place
Chante Black) and Wanisha Smith (in place of Abby Waner). This was roughly
last year's starting lineup (with Harding back, of course), but for some
reason, this grouping didn't click. When Black and Waner came into the game,
they instantly made a huge difference.

The ever aggressive Black hit a free throw, then stole the ball and his a
short jumper. As Duke started to press and trap, Fairfield started to panic.
Harding stole the ball and got an easy layup. Black blocked a shot and Waner
got the rebound. Laura Kurz missed a three, but Waner got a layup after Currie
boarded the miss. Another Stag turnover led to Waner hitting a three. Duke
continued to run, as Harding found Jess Foley on a fast break, and Waner was in
the right place for a stickback. Waner and Smith then hit Alison Bales inside
twice for baskets. Duke was now up 26-8, but they weren't done.

A Carrem Gay block led to another fast break, as Smith hit Waner on the run.
Waner then rewarded her post player by getting a steal and finding her in
transition. Brittany Mitch got in on the act by passing to Smith for a short
jumper, then getting a steal and runout. Mistie Williams re-entered the game
and had a stickback and a dropstep in for a hoop. When the smoke cleared, Duke
had finished a 32-0 run with eight minutes to go in the half--a technical
knockout, to be sure.

The Stags made the rest of the half a little more competitve, but they were
still outscored 27-15. Highlights include Currie hitting 2 threes, a
Mitch-Currie-Williams fast break andd Waner sinking 2 jumpers. For the half,
Waner was a perfect 7-7 for 16 points, with 4 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal.
Currie scored 8 points in the last five minutes of the half, more-or-less to
remind everyone that she could take over the game whenever she felt like it.
Duke led 65-23 at the half and dominated every stat category, including a 38-2
margin for points in the paint, 26-1 in points off turnovers, 18-2 in fast
break points and 13-3 in second chance points. Duke forced 19 first half
turnovers and committed just 4 of their own. Fairfield was in a zone for much
of the game, but Duke had been committing plenty of turnovers against teams
that weren't pressuring them much prior to this. About the only negative was
the fact that Duke was just +6 in rebounding in the first half.

In the second half, Fairfield was able to keep the margin at around 40 for the
first seven minutes of the half. Duke was actually looking a bit bored, and
the Stags outscored Duke 16-13. Again, that starting lineup wasn't clicking.
Harding was playing well and sensed that this lineup needed a boost, and nailed
a 3 and then drove all the way in for a layup after a rebound. Duke's deep
reserves entered the game and simply wore Fairfield down. Gay rebounded a miss
for a three point play, and Mitch nailed a three. This was part of a 14-2 run
that saw Gay score 7 points and Mitch pick up a couple of assists. Duke
finished out the game on a 17-0 run where the team was in a 2-3 zone and still
getting steals.

Bales, Williams, Currie, Waner, Gay and Black all finished in double figures.
Smith, Harding, Waner and Mitch combined for 25 assists. Duke had 11 second
half turnovers but wound up +17 in rebounds. The Stags shot 27% and had 33
turnovers, though they did make some tough shots--41% from three. Coach G said
afterwards that the different starting lineup wasn't any kind of punishment,
but rather that she intends to look at a lot of different lineups to see who
works well together. With an emphasis on Duke's post game, it was good to see
them go 19-26 from the field and 15-21 from the foul line against a defense
geared to stop them. While Fairfield wasn't much of a challenge, it was good
to continue to develop team chemistry during a very intense period, with 5
games in 10 days. The Duke Classic should be much more of a challenge for the
Devils. Happily, the team will certainly be well-rested: no one played less
than 14 or more than 22 minutes against Fairfield.


** Bales: Alison was effective and efficient in this game. After missing her
first shot because she was too far away from the basket, she powered up on her
other 3 attempts in the first half, including a three point play. Defensively,
she intimidated the Stags, especially ripping one ball out of a Fairfield
player's hands as she was going up. She showed off a nice dropstep in the
second half but mostly concentrated on rebounding and defense. A strong game
overall, aided by the fact that her perimeter teammates were looking to feed
her inside.

** Williams: Mistie scored her 10 first half points in a four minute period,
getting a stickback, finishing in transition, going to the foul line and simply
powering up. "Explosive" isn't a word I would ordinarily use to describe
Mistie, but this was a clear case of Duke's depth encouraging a player to go
all out and not hold back any energy. She was a bit quieter in the second
half, allowing Carrem Gay to shine a bit.

** Currie: Mo looked kind of bored in the early going, and then something
happened to really annoy her, because she started playing Faifield as though it
was for a national title. In addition to her passing and three point shooting,
she broke one move where she drove the right side of the lane, hovered in
mid-air, and then glided in for a banked-in jumper. She was sloppy at times in
the second half with some careless turnovers, but again bounced back with 8
points in about a three minute span. In a game where she wasn't completely
focused the whole time, she still had 21 points and 12 rebounds, in just 22

** Smith: Nish continues to struggle from the field, going just 2-6 from the
floor and 0-2 from three. It's puzzling, because she was a fine three point
shooter last year. It almost seems like she's rushing her shots. To her
credit, she did sink a nice 15' jumper. I'd like to see her use more of a
mid-range game to build up her confidence and form. Of course, Nish is doing
just fine defensively and as a playmaker. She's been racking up assists this
year as a secondary ballhandler and has already moved into Duke's top-30
all-time. Relieving the burden of handling the ball full time has made her a
lot more comfortable on the court, allowing her the freedom to create for
others. She still makes a couple of puzzling mistakes a galme, but has learned
to internalize the "next play" mantra. Smith wil continue to get big
regardless of whether or not she starts.

** Harding: Lindsey quietly continues to play the best basketball of her
career. The best way to describe the difference between her play now and in
her first couple of years is that she used to think she could make plays then;
now she knows she can make plays. A lot of this is a function of her
incredible turnaround in her shooting form. She's now more than comfortable
taking that shot; she's actually deadly from three. Harding did mistime the
approach she took on a couple of her drives and missed some layups, but she was
smooth on the three that she made. And of course, 7 assists vs 0 turnovers
with 3 steals is all you can ask for from a point guard. Harding can pressure
the ball but prefers a less aggressive style than her mentor, Alana Beard.
Instead, she uses her incredible speed to cover a lot of ground. Simply by
herself, she's not only a one-woman fast break (as Coach G calls her), but also
a one-woman help-and-recover defense. That helps cover for a lot of mistakes,
and makes her a crucial player for Duke.

** Black: Chante continues to play as aggressively as ever at both ends of the
floor, but still needs to develop more touch. She's such a bundle of energy
that she rushes shots, including free throws. Her footwork is as exquisite as
ever, and combining that with her speed means that she can get in good position
to score whenever she wants. The problem is that the form on her jumper is not
always consistent, nor does she possess a go-to shot when she's posting up.
The free throws are a bigger concern, because opponents will simply foul her if
she gets by them. Defensively, Black is better than ever. The timing on her
shot-blocks has improved, and she doesn't mind going after opponents. I like
her as a starter even if she's not a good a scorer as Bales, simply because
Black helps create defensive chaos when she's on the floor and has the speed to
act as a safety when Duke is pressing. With her lurking around the basket, no
shot is safe.

** Waner: Best way to describe her output in this game is "spectacularly
efficient". No wasted motion at either end, and she eschewed the use of
no-look passes that went to no one. The beauty of what she does on a court is
that she knows the game. This allows her to be in the right place at the right
time, despite the fact that her lateral quickness is good but not exceptional.
Beyond her individual skills, one notices that the offense simply flows better
when she's in the game. This is a testament to the fact that she's always
looking to pass and is always in motion. Things don't stagnate offensively
when she's around, and this makes everyone better. Abby has embraced her role
as a playmaker and support player as a frosh, knowing that Currie is the star
of the team and that her first goal should always be to get the ball inside.
Within that role, she's taken advantage of every opportunity given to her, by
finishing breaks, getting stickbacks and hitting open shots. Waner has a quick
release and sets up a pretty good base, though her motion is a bit unorthodox.
She plays with an energy and joy that's infectious. The one concern I have is
free throw shooting. She was 0-2 in this game and has looked bad from the foul
line all season. There's no question that she's a fine shooter, but for some
reason she's rushing her free throws. Waner needs to bend her knees and take a
deep breath instead of just firing them up quickly.

** Kurz: Laura had been playing well recently, but never put it together
offensively in this game. Kurz was the only Duke player who didn't score,
though she did have an assist to Waner and a few rebounds when she was playing
power forward.

** Foley: Jess, like Wanisha, is having problems getting her threeball to drop.
Despite that, she's doing some other good things, including playmaking,
defense and leadership. Foley did finish a couple of fast breaks, got a rare
block, and found Waner, Williams & Mitch for baskets. Honestly, this wasn't
the kind of game Duke needed Jess for. When Duke is playing ranked opponents
and things get tight, the Devils will want Foley on the floor for her calm

** Gay: After limited minutes in Duke's first two games, Carrem had a chance to
really go to work here. The results were impressive, as she had a couple
periods in both halves where she dominated. In the first, she scored 4 points
and had a block during Duke's game-breaking run. In the second half, she
scored 7 points in just a few minutes by posting up and getting stickbacks.
There was even a period late in the game when G experimented by putting Gay at
center and Kurz at power forward. While this wasn't the toughest competition,
Gay was efficient and aggressive without making many errors. Her understanding
of the game (and post play in particular) makes her especially valuable as a
frosh. Once she fully understands how to rotate on defense for
help-and-recover, she'll be able to play against any opponent.

** Mitch: Brittany continues to play quite well. She showed off her form with
a beautiful three, though she rushed a couple of other shots as well as a free
throw. Her maturity is the best part of her game, along with her icy cool on
the court. Mitch had assists to 4 different players, using her size to look
over defenders and create some mismatches. She blocked the shot of a guard
attempting to post her up and hustled to generate a steal. I don't think she's
ready to be a star as a frosh, but she's certainly earned the right to be a
utlity player who will be able to get minutes during big games.