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Duke Says "Game Over" To EA Sports

Duke 118, EA Sports 73. November 2, 2005. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This exhibition game represented a chance to both give the younger
players an extended chance for minutes and an opportunity to put Duke's
offensive & defensive goals to the test. Most of the positive results
were encouraging, and the negatives weren't surprising at this stage of
the season. The team's first goal was to get the ball inside, early and
often. The result was the frontcourt foursome combining for 64 points on
23-38 shooting from the floor and 18-23 from the foul line. Virtually
every one of these baskets was assisted, with the exception of some
tip-ins and an open floor steal. The team's second goal was to play
pressure defense. Duke used a lot of different looks, with full-court
presses, half-court traps, and zone traps. The results were once again
quite positive, as the team earned 25 steals and forced 34 turnovers
overall. Even better, Duke gave up very few easy baskets as a result of

In terms of negatives, Duke had trouble at times rotating over to stop
open shots. EAS would have been beaten even worse if they hadn't had a
number of open threes. The other negative was fouling. Some of this was
a result of the game being called closely, but a lot of it was young
players being beaten defensively and fouling to stop their opponent. The
team did at least cut down on fouls for most of the second half. While
Duke did not shoot well from three, they were wise enough to not force up
a lot of jumpers.

Monique Currie, Jess Foley and Keturah Jackson did not play in this
game. All are nursing minor injuries. That gave Duke a chance to go with a lot
of different looks. The starters were Alison Bales, Mistie Williams, Wanisha
Smith, Abby Waner and Lindsey Harding. When the regular season starts up,
expect to see Currie in for Waner, but don't expect it to change much otherwise
at this point. Early in the game, EA actually held a slim lead. Bales and
Harding stepped up to combine for 6 points to give Duke back a lead it would
never relinquish. That was part of a 10-0 early run fueled by pressure defense
and strong post play. The Devils went inside for scores on four consecutive
possessions before Brittany Mitch and Laura Kurz came off the bench for

About six minutes into the game, Coach G brought in Emily Waner, Chante Black,
Carrem Gay, Kurz and Mitch as a unit. That group went on a 10-1 run, pushing
Duke's lead up to 27-13. EAS cut the lead to 11 with eleven minutes left in
the half, but 4 points inside by Bales and fast break baskets by A.Waner and
Smith gave Duke a 35-16 lead. Duke slowly pushed the lead up past 20 points,
with one memorable sequence during a 10-0 run. Bales blocked a shot that
Harding bobbled as she lost her balance. Lindsey pushed it ahead to Williams,
who was running after it but couldn't quite grab it. She tapped it ahead to
Wanisha Smith, who drove to the basket and dished to A.Waner. Abby scored and
was fouled, and a celebration erupted. That put Duke up 47-20 with about six
minutes left in the half.

Duke broke down a bit in the last part of the half, as EAS actually outscored
them 18-15. They cut the lead to 17 with 4:11 left in the half, but Duke hit
7-8 free throws to boost the lead over 20 again. Late fast break baskets by a
very active Williams helped give Duke a 24 point edge. That edge was generated
by 15 first-half steals, a +11 edge on the boards, and assists on 18 of 22

EAS stayed even in the opening minutes of the second half, hitting a three and
getting fouled enough to bring the margin down to 22 with fourteen minutes left.
Duke then embarked on a 22-2 run that removed all doubt from the contest. The
run featured 6 points from Black, and 4 points apiece fro Williams and Harding.
Eight points came in transition as Duke ran EAS ragged. EA responded with a
little run of their own, outscoring Duke 13-7 as the Devils missed some easy
shots. Duke finished the game strong on a 16-5 run as the threes finally
started to drop. The Devils wound up with 20 offensive rebounds and still shot
55%. The 21 turnovers were a concern, but many of them came on hustle-generated
"steal and turn it over out of bounds" plays that didn't lead directly to

Duke's opponent had very good guards. Tamia Williams, Jess Strom and Terah
James are all quality players. Brittany Jackson of Tennessee nailed 3 threes
and couldn't be left alone. What the team lacked was quality size. With most
of their bigs running around 6-2, the Devils had a clear advantage and used it
early and often. The good news is that Duke was able to exploit their height
advantage, and didn't let the other team dictate tempo or style of play. This
will be important throughout the season, because most of Duke's foes won't have
their size. Right now, it's simply important to get all of the players
comfortable with each other in game situations. The good news is that almost
everyone on this team loves to pass and knows how to do it effectively.


** Bales: Phase I of More Aggressive Ali was a success. Duke made a point
of establishing her early on against a much smaller opponent, and the
result was Ali getting in on a lot of scoring plays. She passed out to
Harding for Duke's first points, then got the ball inside and scored on a
turnaround after driving under the basket. A Bales steal then led to a
Harding fast break that put Duke ahead. Before she went to the bench for
the first time, she scored on a feed from A.Waner and on a free throw for
5 of Duke's 15 points. When she returned, she boosted a 13 point lead to
19 with a post-up, 2 free throws, and an alert finish on a feed from Gay.
In the second half, Ali scored on a couple of passes into the post, but
was more impressive as a rebounder and defender. Whenever EAS tried to go
against her one-on-one, Bales would send back the shot. Bales also used
her greater mobility to jump into passing lanes and deflect balls. With 7
blocks and 4 steals, she was hustling all over the court. Best of all was
that slow, creeping smile that grows on her face after she has an
especially nasty block. Ali did miss a layup attempt and misfired on two
jumpers. On the first jumper, she was all alone for several seconds
before she reluctantly put up the shot. She didn't take the shot with any
confidence. She found herself in the same position a few moments later,
and this time, she didn't hesitate. The shot didn't fall, but it was the
right shot to take.

** Williams: Mistie was absolutely superb, looking the way a senior
co-captain should look. In addition to looking smoother and more polished
on the court, she's also clearly in the best shape of her life. All of
these factors crystalized in her open court steal and runout. Mistie just
zoomed down the court, confidently handling the ball all the while.
Williams also looked comfortable at the foul line, nailing 4 of 5 shots.
Interestingly, Williams scored 8 points on fast breaks; she had never been
considered to be a finisher before. In terms of new post moves, she did
sink a little hook shot and powered up a stickback. Williams used her
newfound quickness to disrupt passing lanes and occasionally get involved
in traps. The player who used to semi-jokingly complain that her own
teammates were ripping rebounds out of her hands was fierce and physical,
with nice two-handed form on grabbing boards. This was a quality
performance all-around, though I would like to see her go up against
better post players.

** Smith: Nish was very active but it's clear she's not yet 100%
physically. She wasn't taking anyone off the dribble or using her power
to get free. Her field goals were all fast break finishes, which was nice
in that she was running the floor and staying active, but she'll need to
diversify a bit more. While Smith was not actively running the team for
much of the time, she was still very much in a playmaking mode, especially
on the break. Nish was also active defensively, poking away passes. I think
she's going to have a lot more freedom at both ends this season, and she just
needs to figure out what she wants to do.

** A.Waner: Abby was very nervous in the early going, and it showed. She
overshot a three by a couple of feet on her first possession, then missed a
wide-open layup on a runout. Happily, she persevered and kept her motor
running. Waner's floor vision is exceptional, and her ability to snap off a
quick & accurate pass is something to watch. Early in the game, she had a
perfect pass to Williams, who got fouled. Abby kept running the floor and it
paid off, as she got another steal and runout and finished this time, then
scored on two fast break baskets. Conscious of the bigs, Abby got the ball
into Bales and Gay for scores. In the second half, she finally hit a long
jumper, and also dished off to Black inside and her sister for a three. Waner
also had a couple of no-look passes where she should have looked, because they
went flying out of bounds. It's interesting to watch her, because she has the
unmistakable but undefinable spark that makes for a great player. There's no
doubt that she will one day be a great leader, because she just exudes
charisma. At this point, patience is the order of the day as she learns from
her mistakes, but good things lie ahead.

** Harding: This was obviously quite a welcome return for a player who was
badly missed last year. As noted in practice reports, Harding hasn't skipped a
beat despite not playing in an organized game for nearly 18 months. Lindsey was
dominant at the defensive end, leading Duke's pressure on the ball and causing
havoc with her quickness. She made her presence known early with a 19' jumper
and a fast break basket, and then went to work pushing the ball up. She first
found Williams inside for a hook, and then later had fast break baskets to
Smith and Williams. In the second half, Lindsey attacked the basket, blowing
by everyone after grabbing a rebound on one break. Harding later finished
three more fast breaks as Duke relentlessly ran and ran. About the only
mistakes she made in the second half were a couple of careless moves where she
had the ball stripped. This was a good team for Lindsey to play, because they
had some very good point guards in Jess Strom and Terah James.

** Mitch: This was a solid debut for Brittany, who methodically went about
finding open teammates for easy scores. She nailed a couple of 19' jumpers and
scored in transition, but she really made her mark passing and taking care of
the ball. In the first half, Mitch hit Kurz for a three, Black in transition
and Gay inside. There was a segment in the second half where she notched 3
straight assists, all to post players. She hit Kurz a couple of more times and
also nailed Smith in stride with a long pass for a transition basket.
Defensively, she had some trouble getting position on EA's guards, resulting in
her fouling out. To be fair, this game was called closely and many of her
handchecks were borderline calls. Still, Mitch was no slacker on the defensive
end, generating 3 steals. Some have compared Mitch to Georgia Schweitzer, and
while Brittany doesn't yet possess Georgia's insane toughness, the skill set
and court demeanor are quite similar.

** Kurz: Not a bad game for Laura, who is as scrappy as ever. There were
some mistakes made here and there, especially at the defensive end, but
she was able to make more of a difference on offense. What was
immediately evident is that Kurz is trying to use the mid-range jumper
more often. Also, she's finding screens and utilizing those to get open
much more effectively. In the first half, she nailed a 10' jumper on a
pass from Gay and sank a three. Laura was also surprisingly active on the
boards, clearing 4. In the second half, she set up behind a screen to
sink a 15' jumper, got fouled going inside for a hoop and then finished
two cuts. The Kurz Post Experiment had mixed results. On the one hand,
she was able to step outside and get some open shots. Also, she used her
length to block some shots when guards tried to penetrate. On the other
hand, Laura was abused down low when a player of comparable height posted
her up. It's obvious that Laura doesn't have the upper-body strength to
battle in the post, so she must learn to move her feet much more quickly
and anticipate where the defender will go. All in all, this was a
promising showing, especially because Kurz was active and moved the ball

** E.Waner: Emily looked shaky throughout the game. I think she got a
bit unnerved when her first shot didn't fall, because she just didn't look
comfortable after that. She was adequate on defense but wasn't exactly a
defensive stopper. Waner had some trouble feeding the post, with a couple
of weak entry passes that were picked off. There was more success finding
perimeter players, particularly Mitch. In the last couple of minutes, her
shot began to fall, much to her relief. There was more of a bounce to her
step when her first shot landed. She will be needed for some minutes this
year, so hopefully she can grow into that role.

** Black: Chante is still recovering from a knee injury, but she hardly looked
worse for the wear. She only played 7 minutes in the first half and seemed a
bit hurried in her approach. Still, she scored 5 first half points as she
attacked the basket. However, she was her truly aggressive self in the second
half, scoring 12 points in just ten minutes and grabbing 7 rebounds. A couple
of those scores were stickbacks, as she outworked EA on most every possession.
The only negative came in her passing. She was the only Duke player without an
assist, and she bobbled a few passes inside that led to 3 turnovers. Black
made an interesting tandem with Gay, a duo I had mentioned in a preseason
report. While not physically imposing, they form an incredibly quick, long
pair that will pile up rebounds, stickbacks and blocks, as well as finishing on
the break. Speaking of which, Chante did miss one transition layup; she's still
not entirely comfortable on the offensive end.

** Gay: Carrem had the strongest debut of the newcomers. Early in the game,
she was pretty much being ignored on offense. When she did get the ball, she
passed out to an open Kurz for a basket. On Duke's next possession, she
outworked EAS for a rebound and stickback. Two possessions later, Gay got
fouled and hit 2 freebies. Still in the first half, Carrem found Bales inside,
stroked a 15' jumper, drop-stepped in for a score on a Mitch feed, and swished 2
more free throws. Carrem wasn't quite as efficient in the second half as she
missed both shots she attempted but swished 3 free throws. Gay struggled at
times to make proper defensive rotations and was beaten to the basket, but her
quickness did allow her to pick up 4 steals. Her lack of power came into play
when she set up too far away from the basket on a hook attempt that drew air,
but she did a good job of adjusting in general. It would be nice to see her go
up against bigger, stronger and more skilled opponents, but her workmanlike
approach meshes perfectly with the team. Very little flash, but lots of