Duke 72, Miami 63. February 3, 2005. Convocation Center.
Apologies on the lateness of this report, but I was in my hometown to
witness Duke play the thin-but-dangerous Hurricanes of Miami. The 'canes
were a major force in the Big East last year, but they lost their top two
post players to graduation and had a third significant player go down with
an injury in the preseason. That still left them with top-notch point guard
Yalonda McCormick and all-everything forward Tamara James, the ACC's top
scorer. However, their supporting cast has been less than stellar
this season. Even in this game, James & McCormick scored 33 of the team's
63 points...and this was a good night for UM's reserves.
For their part, Duke was still atop the league's standings, but wasn't
exactly playing like a top-5 team. After the disheartening loss to UNC,
Duke managed to ride Monique Currie's back to two ugly wins. The 'canes
have one of the worst records in the ACC, but recently knocked off Florida
State and Virginia Tech in Coral Gables. Both of those squads are likely
NCAA invitees, so it was a testament to what the 'canes can do at home.
This game had two notable storylines: Duke's turnovers keeping Miami alive
and Duke's shooting winning the game for them. In the halfcourt, Miami
struggled to score against Duke's frontline and certainly had trouble
getting open looks from the perimeter. Duke dominated the boards, going +16
for the contest. Miami shot just 39% from the field while Duke
hit 48%. However, Duke's 21 turnovers led to an eye-popping 25 points for
the 'canes, who scored most of their 10 fast break points in this fashion.
It didn't help that Duke was just 13-26 from the foul line, which certainly
helped neutralize Duke's 15 offensive rebounds. The Devils got
it done because Miami was giving them open looks from three, and Duke
responded with 5 second-half threes, including 2 huge shots that blunted a
big Miami run.
Duke led in the early going as Alison Bales hit her first career three and
Mistie Williams got a stickback. Mo Currie had an early basket on a
give-and-go from Williams. Miamis dynamic duo of James & McCormick then
erupted for 12 quick points as Miami took a 16-10 lead. James got free for
some wide-open three point attempts, which had to drive Coach G crazy. Duke
was defending her down low with Williams, and did a poor job of picking her
up when she started drifting along the perimeter. To Dukes credit, those
shots later disappeared. The Miami run was fueled in part by 7 Duke
turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game.
The Devils then turned up their own pressure as Wanisha Smith stole the
ball and wound up with a three point play. Duke stiffened defensively and
got to within 16-15, gave up a basket to McCormick on a busted play, and
then scored 4 in a row to take back the lead. Duke used its size to good
effect as Currie passed to Bales inside for a high-low score and then nailed
a jumper on an inbounds pass from Smith. Sometime after that, Mo developed
a stress fracture in her foot, and it really hindered her shooting.
The two teams traded scores as McCormick sank another three but Duke
countered with a Laura Kurz basket on a Bales pass. Duke would not score
again for three minutes but managed to hold UM to just 2 points during that
stretch. The Devils then flipped their "on" switch as they reeled off 10
straight points to end the half. Wynter Whitley and Wanisha Smith were the
keys to the run as Wynter scored in transition and dished to Chante Black
inside for a post-up. Nish scored on a cut from a Bales pass, nailed a 15
jumper, and broke off a nice behind-the-back pass in transition to Foley.
Black also surprised everyone by putting the ball on the deck and driving
straight to the hoop for another score. Duke had a chance to extend the
lead even more, but turned the ball over twice in the last minute of the
half. Still, they went from being down 6 to leading 33-23.
McCormick opened the second half with a three, but Currie countered with a
banking leaner. After Miami scored to cut the lead to 8, Bales dished to
Williams for a high-low score. Bales harassed Imani Dhahabu into a miss and
Duke made Miami pay with a three from Foley. Duke continued to vary its
offense but focused on pounding the ball inside as Black hit Whitley on a
high-low and then Smith found Black on a quick-hitter inbounds play. The
'canes were hanging around with a 10-point deficit, but that last basket
started a 5-0 Duke run that gave them a 48-32 lead. That lead could have
been bigger, but Duke only hit 3-6 free throws. Duke was on the verge of a
blowout, but left the door open just wide enough for Miami to sneak back in.
Sure enogh, the 'canes got a three point play on a defensive breakdown
to sneak back in. Still, Duke kept them at arm's length thanks to threes
from Foley and Kurz. Laura hit a trey with eleven minutes left that made it
54-39. Duke then missed 5 shots and turned the ball over 3 times in the
next four minutes, with only a Foley bank shot keeping Duke afloat.
Meanwhile, Miami was turning Duke's mistakes into points, coming within
56-50 with seven minutes to go.
The mentally tough Devils responded as Foley and Currie hit back-to-back
threes, triggering a 9-0 run. Black had one basket that came after 2
offensive rebounds for her as she really went after the ball. With five
minutes left, it looked like Duke was in complete control. Think
againMiami scored 9 straight points, and 2 missed free throws by Kurz
really put Duke in a bind. Black got a critical rebound after McCormick
missed a three and then hit 2 big foul shots with two minutes left that made
the score 68-59. When Currie stuck back a Foley miss with under a minute
left, that was pretty much the ball game. The rest was free throws, though
Duke only went 2-6 down the stretch. The defense was strong enough to
endure Miamis last ditch effort.
The best thing about this game was that Duke was able to keep its mental
balance after surrendering a big lead. They never let the canes get over
the hump, and concentrated on minimizing errors down the stretch.
Essentially, when Duke didn't turn the ball over, they not only scored on
nearly every possession, they prevented Miami from going into transition.
Duke forced James to work hard for her points; only 2 free throws and 19
attempts to get 18 points. McCormick was 6-16 and was forced into 5
turnovers. Most importantly, Duke secured another road win.
1. Turnovers. Every player but Kurz had at least 2 turnovers, while the
three primary ballhandlers (Smith, Foley & Currie) combined for 13
miscues. The Hurricanes were not playing an aggressive, full-court
press--they had steals on only 11 of Duke's 21 turnovers. Many of those
steals came on the simplest forms of defensive pressure.
2. Foul shooting. Chante Black's 4-6 mark from the foul line was one of
the better showings from the team, and that's from a player who isn't a
great foul shooter. Bafflingly, Foley, Kurz and Smith combined for a 4-11
showing from the foul line--about the same as their showing from three
(5-13). The team looked very tired and sluggish at times, and it really
showed at the foul line.
3. Transition defense. I think Duke underestimated Miami's
quickness--James, McCormick and Albrey Grimsley can really get up and down
the court. They're also pretty good finishers, and when Duke gave them a
chance, they took advantage.
1. Halfcourt defense. Miami was badly outmatched in the halfcourt.
Dhahabu, their primary post presence, was intimidated by Bales and
out-quicked by Black. James never did get comfortable against Williams
inside and turned the 'canes into a 4-or-5 guard team. Smith did an
excellent job at preventing McCormick from penetrating.
2. Offensive balance. In addition to having Black & Foley come up big to
help out Currie, Duke used a strong perimeter attack to balance Currie's
penetration and the frontline's pounding away inside. This was the Duke
offense at its best, when the team wasn't turning the ball over.
3. Getting to the foul line. Even when Duke missed, the Devils got plenty
of second chances at the charity stripe. The Devils really could have
ended the game much earlier if they had converted at a better rate. Duke
also did an admirable job of keeping Miami off the foul line, though that
isn't really the Hurricane's strength to begin with.
** Bales: A solidly quiet game from Ali, who passed well and played
excellent defense. She's approaching 100 blocked shots on the season,
which is truly remarkable. Several ACC records are also within her grasp.
Ali blocked shots and altered others while keeping her feet and refraining
from fouling. At the same time, she used excellent positioning to
dominate the boards. Whatever was affecting her concentration against
Maryland, she's moved on and refocused.
** Williams: The 'canes were staying home on Williams, and so she had
limited looks at the basket. Still, she shut down James in the post, passed
the ball well, and rebounded strongly. Mistie also intimidated in the
post, blocking a couple of shots and turning Miami into a jump-shooting
** Currie: One could sense that something was just wrong with Mo in this
game. The player who had tortured NC State and Maryland just wasn't quite
there. Despite that, she still came up with a number of big plays down the
stretch. Her three with six minutes to go was a big part of the final run
that gave Duke a reasonably comfortable lead. When the 'canes rallied
with three minutes left, it was her stickback and free throws that ended
the game. Still, it was great to see her teammates back her up on a night
when she wasn't her best. Mo carried them last week, so it was good to
see her teammates carry her for a bit.
** Foley: Jess was nothing short of excellent, save her turnovers. She
played spectacular defense, forced steals, chased after long rebounds, and
nailed several crucial threes. She passed to Currie for her big three,
hit a three beforehand that broke up an 11-2 run--and that "2" was on a
shot by her. Her three early in the second half put Duke up by 13 and
really established some separation. Jess was constantly poking at the
ball, forcing a held ball. The biggest surprise for her in this game was
that she was 4-8 from three and 1-4 from the line!
** Smith: Nish turned the ball over a bunch, but worked very hard to make up
for her mistakes with timely scores and great passes inside. It was her
three point play that woke Duke out of its doldrums in the early going,
and her play late in the half enabled Duke to get a double digit-lead.
For hit Whitley on a fast break, Black inside and Foley on a gorgeous
break. She also scored on a cut and popped a short jumper to turn a 2
point deficit into a 10 point lead. Nish was a lot quieter in the second
half, but did have a couple of more assists. While McCormick had better
overall numbers, Nish held her own against a top veteran.
** Whitley: Wynter had a couple of big plays in the first half and then
wasn't heard from much again. Coach G wisely gives the most playing time
to the hot player, and this time it was Black. Still, she had a
significant hoop late in the first half that triggered a run.
** Black: This game was a revelation for young Chante, who finally had a
chance to cut loose against a team that didn't play physically. Black
attacked the 'canes rather aggressively in the first half, scoring a
traditional post-up and later a drive--an unusual move for a player who
handles the ball as little as she did. She was awesome on the boards down
the stretch, coming up with plenty of second chance opportunities. When
she came off the bench in the second half, she immediately helped Duke
extend the lead from 11 to 16, both with the pass and her own scoring.
Chante's energy was huge for a team that often looked listless.
** Kurz: Laura had two significant baskets: a cut to tie the score at 21,
and a big three that put Duke up by 15. She played a ton of minutes,
getting most of them at off guard and wing, though she also played in the
post a bit. Laura's passing was nice as well as she continues to become
more comfortable on the court.