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Duke Slams Colorado State

Duke 99, Colorado State 52. December 22, 2005. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Colorado State was a slight upgrade in opponents over a hapless Ball State
squad, but a lack of size and depth made them no match for Duke. Still, their
game plan made things competitive for nearly six minutes, before Duke's defense
took over. The Rams' strength was in its frontcourt, though at 6-2 and 6-3 they
had trouble getting the shots they wanted. Forward Melissa Dennett and center
Lindsay Thomas tried to attack inside as much as they could. While they got
stuffed early and often by Alison Bales, they were able to get Duke's bigs in
some foul trouble. Bales and Mistie Williams both wound up with 4 fouls and
Chante Black 3. Dennett's mobility made her somewhat effective inside, and she
wound up with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Duke's tall trees. The more
conventional Thomas was just 1-4 from the field. Both shuffled their feet a
total of 9 times trying to get position inside.

CSU has a very small backcourt (5-6 and 5-4); as I noted in my schedule
analysis, this made them vulnerable to traps. Duke forced an astounding 33
turnovers, 20 of them off steals. Many of those turnovers that weren't steals
were passes thrown out of bounds under pressure. In the second half, Duke
switched exclusively to zone, and the difference in intensity was remarkable.
While the Devils were able to get some turnovers out of the zone, they did a
poor job of rebounding out of it and preventing open looks. The Rams shot
nearly 50% in the second half. Coach G knows that Duke will need to play zone
against teams that use a lot of dribble-drives or that have dominant post
players, and it will have to be a lot more active than what the Devils showed
in this game. Still, it was pretty clear that the players had the holidays on
their mind once they went up by 50 points, and it's difficult to blame them.

Defensively, CSU played a very sticky 2-3 matchup zone, easily the best I've
personally seen from an opponent to date this season. What made this game such
a pleasure and so different from past Duke teams is the patience with which they
attacked the zone. To be sure, this team loves to run and attack the basket.
But unlike the ultra-uptempo Alana Beard teams, this particular team seems just
as comfortable in a halfcourt setting, especially since so many players love to
pass. Against a matchup zone, the corners are almost always available for
wide-open threes, if you're patient enough to swing the ball around. It also
helps if you have guards willing to penetrate just enough to draw defenders
over. An active matchup zone can be exploited if there are any breakdowns in
it and you have guards alert enough to call their own numbers and penetrate.
The matchup does tend to take away your post players, especially since it
shifts quickly enough to bat away entry passes.

One can often tell how well a defense is playing but when Lindsey Harding
chooses to shoot. It was clear right away that things weren't going to be
immediately easy, so Lindsey pulled the trigger on her first touch for a three.
After CSU scored inside, Monique Currie drove and kicked it to Abby Waner in
the corner for a three. Harding then drove quickly past an out-of-position
defender and dished to Williams inside for an 8-3 Duke lead. Waner hit another
three and slithered inside for a score to make it 13-7, the Rams scored 5 in a
row to come within a single point with about six minutes gone by.

Currie then zoomed down the court before CSU could set up its defense and blew
through for a three point play. Duke brought in its bench and they immediately
started paying dividends, as Laura Kurz hit a three and then scored in
transition off a Wanisha Smith pass. Chante Black then got the ball and
aggressively scored on a turnaround jumper. After a CSU three point play made
it 23-15, Smith drove into the teeth of the defense and scored on a driving
three point play of her own. The Rams scored with eight minutes to go in the
half, but would score just 1 more point after that as Duke finished the half on
a 26-1 run, winding up with a 54-18 halftime edge.

Duke's defensive pressure was really heating up now, with Kurz and Smith
getting fast breaks. The threes continued to drop, as Smith, Harding, Emily
Waner and Abby Waner all nailed treys. Emily sank two, both on Jessica Foley
feeds. What was great about the half was the quality of shots Duke was
getting. Not everything was dropping; Currie missed a number of open jumpers,
while Black had trouble finishing inside. Still, the unselfishness exhibited
by Duke's guards resulted in almost no bad shots taken. Everyone was willing
to make the extra pass to get the best possible shot for the team. Most zones
try to lure players into shooting over them on pull-ups off the dribble, which
is almost always a low-percentage shot. The best way to attack them is to
penetrate and find the open player who can simply spot up for a jumper after
they get the ball. This is exactly what Duke did when they weren't getting
fast break points (12-4 advantage in the first half).

In the second half, Duke kept up the pressure early and did much of its damage
from the foul line. CSU abandoned the zone, and this allowed Duke's bigs some
looks at the basket. Bales was getting pounded but just kept going to the
line. Currie and Smith both scored on three point plays, with Nish's a tough
transition basket in traffic. Duke went up 80-28 with about ten minutes left,
but got outscored 12-2 over the next couple of minutes. After scoring 6
straight points, Duke went into another lull and CSU had a 10-2 run. The
Devils clamped down later in the half, allowing just 2 points in the last three
or so minutes.

Duke was actually outrebounded by 1, yet had 23 more shots than CSU. It was
the fact that the team had just 11 turnovers that accounted for that particular
stat. That's all the more remarkable when one considers that the Devils
assisted on 28 of 35 field goals, or 80%. That's a lot of passing, and it
shows that the team is really starting to gel on offense. Some random
statistical notes:
++ Currie is at 1678 career points and should be the 6th player in Duke history
to crack 1700. Iciss Tillis is immediately ahead of her with 1712 points.
++ Williams has 112 points, good for 18th place. She'll be moving ahead of
Peppi Browne (1132) and Connie Goins (1140) soon.
++ Currie has 721 rebounds (8th place) and is closing in on 5th place.
Immediately ahead of her are Carey Kauffman (726), Barb Krause (732) and
Jennifer Chestnut (737). Mo also has 194 steals (7th place), 66 blocks (10th
place) and 54 threes (19th place) and 431 free throws made (4th place).
++ Williams has 626 boards, good for 13th place. Tye Hall's 632 rebounds are
right ahead of her.
++ Currie and Harding are waging an assists battle at the moment. Currie is 7th
all-time with 338 and Harding is 9th with 333. In 13th place is Foley, with
272. Right ahead of Currie is Leigh Morgan with 340 and ahead of Hardingis
Claire Rose with 335. Smith is rapidly rising with 200 dishes, already good
for 27th place.
++ Bales has 195 career blocks and is moving up both the Duke and ACC charts
rapidly. She needs 18 more to break Sarah Sullivan's long-held record of 212.
Meanwhile, Chante Black is already #9 all-time in Duke history with 68


** Bales: Ali wound up with pretty good numbers: 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4
blocks, 3 steals, 2 assists. The problem was that she was being pushed out of
the post by smaller players on a consistent basis, and wasn't finishing
strongly enough to generate some potentially easy three point plays. She
blocked a number of shots early, but later fell for some fakes and got in foul
trouble. It's to her credit that she kept battling and played much better in
the second half, but we've yet to see Ali put together a complete game at both

** Williams: A solid game for Mistie, who scored most of her points after CSU
stopped zoning Duke. She did score on a great feed from Foley in the first
half for a three point play, an emotional basket that helped the floodgates
open wide late in the first half. In the second half, she nailed a foul line
jumper, a shot she hasn't had to take much lately. I would have liked to have
seen better rebounding from Mistie, and this seemed to be more a matter of
positioning than being overpowered.

** Currie: Mo had an off game, and I think the wrap she was wearing around her
knee might be causing it. She just didn't look 100% in terms of movement,
jumping or shooting. Two of her three scores came off drives, while a third
was a short jumper. Most surprising was the fact that she had 0 rebounds, a
sure sign that she wasn't as active as usual. Hopefully a few days rest will
help her recover.

** A.Waner: Abby was just in the flow in this game and did a nice job of
shaking off a subpar performance against Ball State. She certainly showed a
home state team of hers what she could do, nailing 5-8 treys, attacking the
basket, creating for others and playing excellent defense. While she still
makes mistakes, her hustle and determination help make up for it. There was a
sequence late in the first half where she was involved in nearly every scoring
play: she passed to Harding for a three, then hit a three, then passed to Kurz
to finish off a break, then stole the ball and dished to Smith for a runout,
and then nailed a three. That is efficiency, and it's remarkable for a young

** Harding: Another superb showing from Lindsey, who nailed a couple of threes
(9-10 on the year!), played great defense and dished expertly. In particular,
she was adept at finding ways to get the ball inside against the zone, and also
did a nice job working with Abby. Lindsey works well with both Waners, because
both can really shoot and pass back when necessary. This works especially well
with Abby, because she's so active without the ball and is always hustling;
Lindsey always knows that Abby is working to get open at all times. I'm still
waiting for Lindsey to face down one of the nation's elite point guards, with
the meetings against Ivory Latta looming as big tests.

** Black: While it wasn't always pretty, Chante brought a lot of intensity to
the table in this game. She missed some easy shots (and a couple of fadeaways
that didn't have much of a chance of going in), but kept attacking the basket.
She was one of the few Duke players aggressively going after rebounds and
opponents' shots. Black didn't mind diving to the floor either, getting a held
ball and generating a couple of steals. The aggression is definitely there, and
that's more important than the finesse at this point.

** Kurz: Laura finished a couple of fast breaks and nailed a three, but
struggled a bit more in the post in this game. She was posted up and
overpowered for a three point play and only managed to grab 2 rebounds. Kurz
moved well without the ball as always and certainly proved that she could
score, but needed to bring a little more intensity on defense.

** Smith: For the first time, both Nish and Abby had strong performances in the
same game. Nish looked sharp as a playmaker and scorer, finishing several fast
breaks and hitting a couple of threes while passing inside and out. The
dimension she brought to the game that Duke's other guards lack is power.
She's big enough and strong enough to overpower defenders inside, and she may
be the best finisher on the team outside of Currie. It's interesting that Nish
doesn't stand in the line with the other reserves when the starters are
introduced, but rather stands where the starters gather after their names are
called. It's a subtle way of letting her know that she is, in effect, a sixth
starter and a team leader, even as a young player.

** Foley: Jess is rounding into health after looking more than a step slow prior
to this week. Her statline doesn't necessarily jump out at you, but there was
a crispness to her game that was pleasing to watch. She moved well without the
ball, made just the right moves against the zone, and played excellent defense.
Foley's defensive anticipation has really sharpened in the past couple of
years, and this helps make up for a lack of speed. I especially liked the way
she was driving and kicking out to Smith or E.Waner for threes.

** E.Waner: For the first time, Emily is starting to look healthy again. She's
still not all the way there in terms of her quickness and cutting ability due
to her foot, but she looked a lot livelier out there. Of course, nailing a
couple of treys didn't hurt her confidence. Like her sister, she loves hitting
threes from the corner. Emily was much more active on defense in this game,
forcing a couple of held balls. I know that Coach G loved her game all along,
and was letting her play through her struggles because she knew that they were
injury-related. When she's 100% physically, her experience with her teammates
could pay off.