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Duke Outsizes FSU

Duke 75, Florida State 64. February 6, 2005. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

FSU has been a bit of a bugbear for Duke in recent years, as much as any
ACC team has been during Duke’s dominant run. The ‘noles stopped Duke’s 50+
game winning streak last year in Tallahassee, and they were the last league
team to beat Duke in Cameron, back in 2001. Last year’s win was unusual in
that the ‘noles underachieved for the season, but managed to eke out a win
against Duke. This year’s squad was picked towards the bottom of the ACC
for a number of reasons. First, they lost a number of valuable veterans.
Second, the team was struck by the untimely death of Ronalda Pierce.
Lastly, starting point guard Shante Williams had to miss the season due to
(ahem) “unspecified medical reasons”. Coach Sue Semrau retooled her team
around speed and quickness, essentially starting five guards and giving her
inexperienced post players limited minutes. The result was a surprising 5-3
start in the ACC and wins over UNC, Maryland and Virginia Tech.

This matchup was one of size vs speed. FSU opted to play Duke
straight-up, more-or-less, and concentrate on disrupting Duke’s perimeter
game while conceding a certain number of scores in the post. It’s the
formula that UNC used with great success, though the ‘noles lacked a
rebounder like Erlana Larkins to help contain Duke. Offensively, FSU was
hoping to spread the floor and get either wide-open looks for shooters
Linnea Liljestrand & Ganiyat Adenuntan or create lanes for acrobatic scorers
Alicia Gladden & Roneeka Hodges. The team’s weak link is at point, and it
was Duke forcing FSU point guards into turnover trouble that turned the game
around in the second half.

In the early going, FSU’s offensive game plan was working perfectly.
Adeduntan was killing Duke from the perimeter, Gladden used her quickness to
score even over Bales, and Hodges was everywhere. FSU was trading twos for
threes in the early going as no Duke guard scored until nine minutes had
gone by. During that period, Mistie Williams scored 4 points on post-ups,
Bales scored 4 points, while Black & Whitley combined for 4. FSU actually
led 14-8 with six minutes gone by and later by a score of 19-12. That’s
when Duke’s offense diversified. Mo Currie, battling a stress fracture in
her foot, passed to Wanisha Smith for a 15’ jumper. That was an important
basket because Smith’s confidence in her shot had been at a low ebb in
recent games, and making that basket seemed to lift her spirits. That
sparked a 6-0 run, with Laura Kurz scoring on a drive and Williams finishing
another seal-and-postup for a score. Duke had closed to within 19-18 with under ten minutes left in the half.

FSU scored 5 straight points, including a three point play, to blunt
Duke’s momentum for a moment. Duke went back inside, with Currie finding
Bales on a lob and then posting up herself for a score. Smith tied the game
at 26 with a free throw after Jess Foley hit Williams for a score inside,
and then Jess sank a 10’ baseline jumper on an inbounds play. That was
another important shot, because it demonstrated that Jess’s accuracy was
back after a prolonged slump. That was Duke’s first lead since they were up
4-3, but it didn’t last long. After a Duke turnover, Holly Johnson drove to
the basket and managed to get a three point play. The teams traded points,
as Foley and Black both nailed 2 free throws. Black gave Duke the lead on a
drive and bank-in, but FSU scored with under a minute left to take a 35-34
lead at the half. FSU shot 52% to Duke’s 50%, with their long-range
shooting being the difference in the half. It was a cleanly-played half
with only 13 total fouls and 17 total turnovers.

FSU indeed came out and started fronting the posts, leaving room for
Duke’s guards to try some things. Foley, Currie and Smith attacked the
basket on three consecutive possessions, resulting in a bucket for Nish and
foul shots for the others. That gave Duke a 40-37, and FSU cut it to 40-39
shortly thereafter. The Devils then turned up the defense and clamped down
on FSU to the tune of a 16-0 run over a nearly eight minute stretch. Duke’s
offense got into a nice flow and started to get some easy looks in
transition. The first score of the run came on a gorgeous play where Bales,
Williams and Currie ran a bit of triangle. It ended with a touch pass from
Bales to Currie, who glided in for a score. Duke then adjusted their
matchup zone a bit. Earlier in the half, they tried a blitz out of the zone
that resulted in an easy FSU score. This time, they used a bit more
deceptive pressure and turned Johnson and LaQuinta Neely over repeatedly.
Smith blew one layup after a turnover, but Currie didn’t miss the next after
Smith came up with another steal.

Nish then scored 6 straight points with an open three (her first trey in
some time), a free throw, and a nice 10’ jumper. She then found Foley for a
three on a perfect skip pass. Foley then hit Kurz for a three, and Whitley
followed up by finding Kurz inside for a post-up. The Devils suddenly led
56-39 as the three frosh played a huge role in the run. The Seminoles
started to fight back, but it was an uphill climb as the Devils were able to
keep scoring. Foley and Kurz formed quite a one-two punch on offense,
scoring 14 straight points for the Devils.

After FSU cut the score to 58-41 with ten minutes left, Foley nailed a 15’
jumper. Another FSU basket was met by a Kurz floater that bounced on the
rim a couple of times before dropping. Five straight points by FSU were
blunted by Foley finding Kurz for an open 15’ jumper and Bales for a
post-up. With six minutes to go, Duke led 66-48. The ‘noles kept coming,
making some incredibly tough shots inside and cutting the lead to 66-52.
Currie hit Black inside for a crucial score, but FSU hit a three to move
within 13. Currie drove in for another basket, but the ‘noles hit another
three to make it a 70-58 game with under three minutes left. Duke was still
firmly in control, but wanted to keep the score in double digits.

Duke got the ball inside to Black, but she missed the shot. Grabbing her
own miss and falling out of bounds, she had the presence of mind to zip it to an open Currie with the shot clock running down. Mo pulled up and
drained a three that was the knockout punch for FSU. With about a minute
left, Foley drove in for a basket that made it 75-60. FSU scored the last 4
points of the game, but it was too little, too late. Duke held the ‘noles
to just 36% shooting in the second half and forced 9 turnovers, while only
committing 6 of their own. Meanwhile, Duke kept up their shot shooting with
a 52% clip for the game. With a +9 showing on the boards, good defense and
limited turnovers, this was easily their best performance in several weeks
and easily their best in an ACC game. FSU was a quality opponent that had
given plenty of other teams fits, but Duke was able to rebound strongly out
of its zone, used matchup principles to keep the ball out of the hands of
FSU’s shooters, and was heads-up enough to force 13 turnovers. The win
makes Duke 9-1 in the league, keeping them ahead of UNC and putting more
room between themselves and other contenders like Virginia, the ‘noles, and

** Negatives:

1. Blocking out. Duke allowed the smaller ‘noles to get too many second
chance opportunities. FSU actually outgained Duke 13-12 in that area, with
the quicker Gladden, Adeduntan and Hodges combining for 8 offensive boards.

2. Attacking the basket. While Duke’s posts did a pretty decent job, they
didn’t attack inside as much as they could have. Younger posts,
especially Black, were often so intent on setting screens that they
weren’t aggressive enough in asking for the ball or being ready to
receive a good pass when they were at the right angle. They were also
hesitant in taking some open shots.

** Positives:

1. Unselfishness. Duke had an astonishing 23 assists for 29 field goals as
every player had at least one assist. Perimeter players Currie, Foley and
Smith combined for 16 assists, but Black had perhaps the biggest of the

2. Balance. The Devils had 4 players in double figures and three more with
8 points apiece. With Currie ailing, her teammates had to come up big in
order for Duke to win, and they did.

3. Perimeter defense. Duke’s guards overall did a good job of containing
Hodges, who was limited to 7-18 shotingand many of the shots she did make
were of the circus variety. For the game, FSU shot just 26% from three.
The Devils kept their hands up on defense and forced FSU to take tough shots
in traffic.


** Bales: Ali really seems back to her old self after a run of some tough
games. She was even calling for the ball on offense and worked hard to get
proper position on her defender. Ali had 7 rebounds and tipped out several
more, and blocked several shots. More importantly, she did a good job of denying open outside shots, simply by keeping her feet on the ground and her
arms raised. Gladden was able to body her up once or twice, but had to take
some really high degree-of-difficulty shots in order to score. Offensively,
Bales missed a jumper but hit 2 early free throws and scored on post-ups
near the basket. A solid, role-fulfilling game for Ali overall.

** Williams: When Mistie got the ball, she pretty much had her way inside
against the smaller FSU defenders. Defensively, she had to run around a
lot, chasing FSU’s point guard and trying to deny penetration. Her ability
to score early on forced FSU to use Gladden, their best defender, to defend
her by fronting her. This pretty much worked, but it freed up Currie to
drive a bit more.

** Currie: One could see how Mo’s foot injury is affecting her as she lacked
some of her usual explosiveness Her jumper also seemed a bit off as she
perhaps wasn’t able to push off on her foot as much as she would have liked.
Despite all that, she still made a number of great plays, including a
three that put the game away. Another smart play came right before that.
With the shot clock running down and Duke holding on to a 13 point lead, Mo
took a shot that missed. However, she grabbed her own rebound. FSU’s
defense relaxed, thinking that Currie was going to pull the ball out and run
some clock. However, Mo saw them relax and turn away, and instead headed
straight for the basket and an easy score. While Mo didn’t have to carry
the team, she still made more than her fair share of big plays.
“Crunch-time Currie” had a few more plays for her career highlight reel as
she continues her campaign for ACC player of the year.

** Foley: Jess played a strong all-around game, really getting in the face
of her foe. Offensively, she looked to pass first and get easy baskets for
her teammates, but she really exploded in the second half, hitting a
game-breaking three. She and Kurz really took over for about six minutes
in the second half, keeping Duke ahead by a substantial margin. While it
was great to see her hit a three, it was almost as thrilling to see her hit
the 15’ jumper that should be an automatic make for her. Defensively, she
dug in for a couple of jump balls and deflected a couple of passes that
would have led to open shots.

** Smith: While Nish had 7 turnovers, most of them were of the “commission”
variety as she was trying to create scores off fast breaks, rather than lazy
crosscourt passes that get returned for layups. More importantly, she had a
lot more confidence in her shot in this game. Nish was responsible for 11
straight points during Duke’s crucial 16-0 run, as she scored 6 points and
assisted on a three to Foley and a fast break pass to Currie. Her quick
hands gave FSU’s ballhandlers problems all day.

** Whitley: Wynter played her usual stellar defense, but after missing an
early shot, really seemed to lose confidence in her ability as an offensive
force. She would pass up wide-open shots in favor of tougher ones, and
didn’t work hard enough in getting to the basket. Defensively, Wynter was
her usual self, digging in for jump balls, harassing the ball-handlers and
playing tough in the post. She did have 2 excellent entry passes into the
post for scores, but should have used her mobility to get to the basket a
bit more, or square up a bit farther away for threes.

** Black: Chante often seems to go through lapses on offense where she seems to forget where to go on the floor, when to look for her own shot, and how
to be aggressive. Then she snaps back into focus after a little prodding
and makes some significant plays. Defensively, she was a big key in this
game, using her combination of size and quickness to help slow down FSU in
the halfcourt. Chante also used her leaping ability and hands to grab
several key boards in the second half. That helped fuel a huge Duke run by
keeping FSU away from the offensive boards. Her best score came on an
aggressive drive to the basket, though a post-up on a pass from Currie in
the second half was more important. A positive showing overall, though
there is room for improvement in terms of aggressiveness.

** Kurz: Laura was certainly the x-factor in this game. Held out of some
contests because she was having problems adjusting to physical play, she was
at home against a five-guard lineup. Her size actually made her tough to
shoot over and defend, and she took advantage by attacking the basket, using
her floater. She also confidently nailed a couple of jumpers, including a
three and an open 15 footer. Laura used her versatility to even score in
the post against FSU’s guard lineup. Her 9 second half points were the
spark that Duke needed to turn a tightly-contested game into a laugher.