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Promises, Promises--Duke Women Beat Maryland

Duke 60, Maryland 49. February 13, 2005. Comcast Center.

At Midnight Madness, Maryland coach Brenda Frese told the gathered throng
that come Valentine's Day weekend, "Duke was going down." Well, she was
half-right: while the Duke men lost, the Duke women won their 11th straight
against the up-and-coming Maryland program. This ended a brutal six-game
stretch where Duke had to face five ranked teams, one where the Devils went
5-1. With four games left in the regular season, Duke still holds a tenuous
1-game lead over UNC.

Part of Frese's boast (which she backtracked from at Media Day, but only
a little) was promotional in nature. In that sense, her grandstand play was a
huge success: this game was the biggest regular-season draw in ACC history
with over 17,000 fans (just a few short of a sell-out). Duke is used to big
crowds and certainly wasn't fazed by the mostly-quiet Comcast group. Of
course, it didn't help the crowd that this game had very little flow. Once
again, Monique Currie had trouble adjusting to the orthotic in her shoe.
Whenever she tried to go to the basket, her normally powerful first step
looked clumsy and off-balance. As a result, she missed on a number of layup
attempts that would have been money when she was healthy. The good news is
that the team's defense was stellar and that there were some surprising
contributors on offense. Wynter Whitley and Chante Black came off the bench
to combine for 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. Duke's post players
avenged a weak showing in their first game with Maryland and dominated the
Terps this time. The fact that so many different players have stepped up to
help Currie has been a huge positive for the team and their future this

Duke started out looking good on offense, as Jess Foley found Mistie
Williams on a high-low, and Mistie followed up by dishing to Wanisha Smith
for a three. That was a nice sign, because Nish tends to play with a lot of
confidence when she hits her first shot. The Devils then missed 5 shots and
turned the ball over 3 times during the next four minutes, but Maryland
could only score 4 points and tie the game at 6. Whitley was open and Foley
found her for 15' baseline jumper. Wynter has been erratic on offense
this year, and was often too hesitant to even take a shot. In this game, she
swished her first attempt and was quite confident the rest of the time.
Frese revealed that her game plan was to slough off Whitley and let her
shoot and play tight defense on everyone else. Wynter stepped up and hit
shots that were available to her, and many of them came at crucial

After Whitley hit that shot, Duke went another five minutes without
scoring, but Maryland could only score 6 points. Duke had fallen a bit too
much in love with the jumper and started attacking the basket again. Bales
posted up and used a nice up-and-under to score. Foley then drove and was
fouled, hitting both. Currie then turned a Terp miscue into a driving layup
to give Duke a 14-12 lead with under seven minutes to go in the half.
Chante Black gave Duke some quick scoring with a stickback and a decisive
post-up on a Smith feed, to make it 19-15. Black's entrance into the game
was explosive, immediately blocking a shot. This was important because in
recent games, it's taken Chante several minutes to get into the flow of
the game. Against the Terps, she was ready right out of the gate.

Kalika France hit a jumper to cut the lead to 2, but Black found Smith on
a relocation pass for another three. The Terps crept to within 1, but Foley
hit Whitley at the top of the key for a momentum-turning trey. Foley also
hit Smith on a cut with less than 30 seconds to go in the half to give Duke
is 27-23 lead. The Devils shot just 10-26 in the half, but Maryland was
only 11-34. Nine turnovers gave the Terps some extra opportunities, but
they were unable to solve Duke's zone. To the credit of the posts, Duke
was rebounding quite well out of it.

Duke missed their first 9 shots of the second half and didn't score for
the first five minutes of the period. Maryland did take advantage this time
with a 9-0 run out of the half, but the damage was still not as great as it
could have been, thanks to Duke's defense. Whitley and Black came in to
boost the team's spirits once again, as Wynter scored inside and then
Black hit a ridiculous reverse layup. Two Currie foul shots gave Duke back the
lead, while a Smith steal & runout made it 35-32. After a Black block and
rebound, Whitley hit Foley cutting to the basket for a score.

Duke spent the next few minutes blunting Terp comeback attempts.
Langhorne scored inside, but Whitley nailed a 15' jumper to restore a 5
point lead. Maryland scored 4 in a row, but Smith nailed a big-time three.
Black was instrumental in pushing Duke's lead further ahead. She snatched
a defensive rebound, then grabbed the board after Currie missed a three.
Chante then shot and missed, but let Smith come in for the rebound. Nish
dished to Whitley to make it 44-38. The Terps cut it to 4, but Foley nailed
her first and only three of the game after missing her first 6 attempts.

Maryland had numerous chances to cut into the lead because Duke went
scoreless over the next four minutes, but they got repeatedly stuffed by
Duke's interior defenders. Finally, Black put Duke up by 9 with 2
confident-looking free throws with under three minutes to go. By this time,
Duke went into a bit of a delay offense and ran clear-outs for Currie.
Despite having a horrible offensive game up to that point, Crunch-Time
Currie delivered, scoring 9 points in the last three minutes of the contest.

That included back-to-back isolation plays where she posted up her
defender and used a powerful drop step to score. Setting up on the right
side, it's a play that's a mirror image of what Alana Beard used to do in
the same situation last year. Alana would take the turn-around jumper on
the baseline, while Currie favors the drop-step to the hole. In both cases,
it's a fine go-to move when Duke is trying to slow the game down.

Maryland was starting to hit some shots, but it was far too late. After
closing within 53-47, Currie and Foley hit 4 straight foul shots to close
things out. Duke dominated the boards in the half, only turned the ball
over 6 times, and went to the foul line 12 times. The bottom line is that
Duke out-toughed the Terps this time as a group. With posts Langhorne and
Jade Perry shooting a combined 7-21 from the floor, the Terps were reduced
to being a jump-shooting team--which is certainly not their strength.
Duke's 19-2 advantage in bench scoring was bigger than mere numbers: the
bench really energized Duke and Maryland couldn't find anyone to play a
similar role for them in reserve. Duke now has just one more true road game
remaining as they come down the stretch in the ACC.

** Negatives:

1. Finishing layups. Mistie Williams missed 5 point blank shots, while
Bales missed a couple as well. Black shot too quickly several times, and
Currie simply couldn't finish all day. Duke was getting great shots, but
just couldn't finish them in traffic.

2. Shot selection. Duke took 16 threes, and that was probably about 8 too
many. Whitley's teammates should have emulated her in trying to take
shorter, but open, jumpers.

3. Offensive lulls. The Devils went through several long scoring lulls
and were aided by the fact that Maryland doesn't have a surfeit of
long-range shooters. In a similar situation against Georgia Tech earlier
in the year, the Jackets took advantage with some accurate long-range
shooting. Duke can't afford to rely on their defense all the time, and
must take advantage of the opportunities they are given.

** Positives:

1. Interior defense. This was simply spectacular, as the Devils blocked 9
shots, ruled the boards (+10 against one of the best rebounding teams in the
ACC), and made Maryland do a lot of things they didn't want to do. The
Terps tried to be aggressive in taking it to the hoop, but Bales & Black
wouldn't let them, and they eventually backed down. Frese noted that her
team stopped being aggressive in the second half, and Duke's defense was
the reason.

2. Getting to the foul line. While a lot of Duke's attempts came in the
final minutes, the Devils did a much better job than Maryland at getting
there earlier in the game, and they converted on their attempts.

3. Clean defense. Duke made Doron earn her points instead of putting
her on the line, where she is both deadly and prolific. Doron had 0 free
throw attempts. The officials were pretty clearly not giving the
offensive players the benefit of the doubt--a foul had to be clear and
obvious, not assumed.


** Bales: Ali once again was a force on defense and more than made up for
her poor showing against Maryland the first time they met. While Ali only
hit 1 basket (on a nice power move) and clanked a few shots she should
have made, she earned her minutes by dominated Perry and Langhorne inside.
Bales' 11 rebounds helped limit Maryland's second chances, while her 5
blocks made the Terps think twice about coming inside. Bales also
quickened her decision-making, while keeping fouls and turnovers at a
minimum. Ali now has 95 blocks on the year, tying DeMya Walker of
Virginia for 2nd on the single-season mark in ACC play. Twenty more
blocks will give Bales the record, as she passes UNC's Dawn Royster.

** Williams: Mistie played excellent defense, with a forced jump ball to
go along with 2 steals and overall physical play. However, she is really
struggling from the field. Part of this is a function of other teams
keying in on her as one of Duke's primary weapons and keeping her under
control. Other teams know that Bales and Black aren't huge offensive
threats at this point, and that Whitley is somewhat erratic, so they can
usually afford to lay off those players and concentrate on Williams.
That's resulted in reduced attempts as Mistie has often been fronted, but
it's also meant that Mistie has seemed a bit rustier in general. She blew
5 shots that she really should have made against the Terps as she rushed
those attempts. Another problem has been that sometimes when the team is
really trying to get her going, they throw the ball right into the defense
that has been set up to limit her. Mistie needs to be patient, finish the
shots she does get, and work harder on the offensive boards to get some
easy points and trips to the line. The team needs to get better angles of
attack as they look to her to score, especially in the early going.

** Currie: This was one of the worst offensive games of Mo's career, yet
she hit the shots she needed to when it really counted. Mo couldn't get a
single jumper to fall, missed on several drives to the basket and threw a
few bad passes. Still, she attacked the boards (taking advantage of a
smaller Maryland team) and backed in for two crucial scores at the end of
the game. When Maryland was missing shots at the end of the game, Mo
somehow was around the ball everytime, and converted at the foul line. A
crucial steal led to Wanisha Smith scoring in transition in the second
half. Currie simply makes plays when they're needed.

** Foley: Maryland keyed in on Foley and didn't allow her too many clean
shots at the basket. That didn't matter much, because Jess wasn't hitting
much--until her big-time three late in the game. That suddenly turned the
game into a three-possession contest, and Maryland simply couldn't score
fast enough. More importantly, Jess had an excellent floor game with 8
assists and 3 turnovers. She hit Whitley on most of her scores and also
did a nice job of feeding the post. This was a perfect example of how a
player can help a team without scoring much.

** Smith: Nish brought her shooting stroke with her back home to the DC
area, and the team really needed it to help break up the logjam down low.
She really picked her spots in this game, taking excellent shots without
forcing anything. Nish abandoned some of her wilder tendencies in
attacking the basket and instead read what the defense was doing and
exploited it. Smith only had 1 really bad turnover (a crosscourt pass
that was telegraphed) but otherwise kept things under control.
Defensively, she once again stayed in front of Shay Doron and forced her
to take tough shots. This was a very encouraging showing for Smith

** Whitley: Wynter was the player of the game for Duke, all told. Her
game was simple: she had some open shots, and she knocked them down.
Wynter was the player Duke went to when the rest of the team was
misfiring. Maryland would leave her open, Duke would get her open and
she'd sink the shot. Hopefully, Wynter will continue to hunt her shot off
the bench, especially when no one else is hitting. It's amazing how much
she's being asked to do as a senior. Essentially, she needs to be able to
play 4 different positions. Whitley has to pinch-hit inside and play
physical defense & rebound. Then she has to go out to the wing and knock
down jumpers, while guarding quick players. Occasionally, she'll be asked
to guard the opposing point guard. Coach G plugs her in and trusts that
she'll be up to the job. As Wynter gains more confidence from her recent
performances, she could become a real force.

** Black: All Chante needs to do is relax a little when attacking the
basket so as to get better shots. Other than that, she's flying high at
the moment. Her production over the last few games has been excellent and
couldn't have come at a better time thanks to Currie's injury. Black is a
nightmare on the offensive boards and has seemed to regain most of the
hops she lost after her ankle injury. More importantly, she's playing
with a tremendous amount of confidence again, and is learning to make a
greater impact when she enters the game. I think Chante should make it a
goal to grab at least 10 rebounds a game, though she has the talent to
average 13 or 14. If she can develop a 10-15' jumper, there will be no
stopping her. I'd also like to see her develop a short hook shot--with
her height, it would be unblockable. That would also help make up for her
slight upper-body build.

** Kurz: For some reason, Laura simply didn't match up well with the Terps
this year. Both games were ones to forget, as the Terps shut her down and
forced her into mistakes.