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Duke Smashes State

Duke 77, NC State 57. January 19, 2006. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Sometimes, the stats jump right out at you and tell the whole story. In
this case, two related stats told the tale of Duke's victory over State: The
first is points off turnovers: Duke 23, State 4. The second is fast break
points: Duke 20, State 2. The Devils have only lost once to State in
Cameron since 1992, and were certainly in no mood to reverse that trend in
this game. Despite a number of unusual defensive breakdowns, Duke's
pressure, depth and aggressiveness were too much for State. Basketball's
all about matchups, and the Wolfpack Women struggled at point guard.
Ballhandling in general is a weakness for State, and Duke exploited that to
the tune of 19 NCSU turnovers. State has a huge frontcourt, but that didn't do
them much good when Duke forced a turnover and was off and running in
transition. State pounded it inside, and when Duke tried to rotate, they
weren't quick enough to stop the Pack from getting open shots. Fortunately for
Duke, a lot of those shots weren't falling in the early going.

The game started with aggressive State forward Khadijah Whittington hitting a
turnaround jumper against Alison Bales. Duke countered with a 7-point flurry
from Mo Currie, who was being fed by Lindsey Harding for shot after shot. Duke
kept the pressure up with spin moves by Mistie Williams and Lindsey Harding.
Six minutes into the game, and Duke had built a 13-4 lead against the Pack.
This was good news, because while State is quite athletic, they tend to play a
more deliberate style than Duke, and forcing them to play faster made them very

Billie McDowell, the player who just came back from an ACL injury last March,
nailed a three. Duke brought in Chante Black for an offensively ineffectual
Alison Bales and Chante responded with 4 quick points to keep the pressure on
State. Of late, Chante is scoring both more prolifically and in an increasing
variety of ways. State pulled within 17-11 with about thirteen minutes left,
but Duke went on a 7-0 run as Abby Waner hit a three, Black scored on a
turn-around jumper and Currie hit a couple of foul shots. Shortly after that,
Mo left the game with her second foul. With a thirteen point lead, Coach G was
willing to take her chances and so yanked Mo from the game.

The Pack responded with 3 quick points, but Jess Foley came off the bench to
hit a huge three in response. State then scored 4 in a row, but Abby Waner
rose up for a 15' jumper to make it 29-18 with under five minutes to go. After
State cut it to 9, Duke scored 6 straight points thanks to Harding and Foley.
Harding drove and was fouled, hitting both. Foley then stole the ball at
midcourt and ran it back very carefully to make sure she hit the layup. Foley
then stole the ball on State's next possession and tossed it to Harding, who
found Williams for the finish. Rachel Stockdale hit a three for State to keep
them alive, but a free throw by Black and a three from Waner gave Duke its
biggest lead at 39-23. Some errors underneath the basket gave the Pack a
chance to cut that lead to 12 at the half. Duke had a chance to rely bury them
and couldn't quite do it, but keeping that lead without Currie was a major
accomplishment against such a good opponent.

Marquetta Dickens opened the second half with a three for State to cut Duke's
lead to single digits. Duke got a sort of fluke play when a loose ball popped
into Mistie Williams' hands and she deftly passed it to Smith for a layup. The
Pack then went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 43-39. Duke couldn't get any
shot to drop and started to look a bit glassy-eyed out there. State looked
confident and thought that they'd take the lead at any moment. The problem
with comebacks is that if you can't quite complete one, it's harder to try for
it again if you've been knocked back. After State pulled within 4, Currie
connected for a run-deflating 17' jumper. Black reentered the game and
immediately scored, then Harding had a steal and layup in traffic. Suddenly,
Duke was back up by 11.

After a State score inside, Duke went to Alison Bales. First she hit a 17'
jumper and then started powering her way up against some tough competition.
State stayed within arm's reach at 10 with eleven minutes left, but Currie
squashed that notion with a three. That was the beginning of a 9-2 run that
saw Duke go inside to Black and Bales. A Currie finish on the break made it
63-46 with under nine minutes to go. Currie went one-on-one with Gillian
Goring to score an acrobatic basket under duress. With that, Coach G pulled
her from the game, because the score was now 65-48.

Harding and Smith took care of business down the stretch, combining for 6 of
Duke's last 12 points. Harding absolutely shut down McDowell, State's primary
offensive weapon. Despite some success in the paint, the Pack shot only 36%
from the floor in the first half and 37% overall. After outrebounding Duke by
1 in the first half, the Devils ralled behind Williams to outboard them by 8.
Duke kept its turnovers low (12) and used a diruptive defensive attack to force
State into mistakes. Duke did a nice job getting them to play quicker than they
liked. Forcing the tempo tempted State into taking more bad shots and limiting
their frontline a bit. Duke was hardly perfect in this game: they gave up too
many easy baskets inside, shot just 43%, and even missed some free throws.
Still, Duke was in control the whole time, and the fact that State never could
take the lead back was big down the stretch. With a huge crowd (nearly 8000),
this was a nice warmup for the real event next Tuesday.


** Bales: Offensively, Ali had a weak first half. She didn't go up strong
and as a result missed shots against more powerful players. Defensively,
she was fine. She blocked shots, drew fouls blocking out for rebounds and
even picked up a steal. In the second half, her teammates made sure to try
to find her and set her up for scores. Initially, she was in the high post
but for some reason kept deferring when she had the ball. She finally put
up an ugly jumper that missed, but the cajoling from her teammates finally
had an effect. With State having broken up a Duke run, Bales nailed a 17'
jumper and then posted up for another score. That gave Duke the breathing
room they needed to set up their game-clinching run. Later in the half,
Bales played some physical defense against State's tall timber. In
particular, it was exciting to see her battle Goring, a player of the same
height and overall size. With their usual size advantage neutralized, it
came down to positioning and aggressiveness. Ali helped slow Goring down in
the second half after being outmuscled a bit in the first.

** Williams: Mistie struggled in the scoring column a bit against State's
post players, who were noticeably concentrating on limiting her movement.
Mistie had only one shot out of a set, a gorgeous spin move with a
left-handed finish. Other than that, her only other score was a fast break
basket. In the past, that lack of scoring opportunity would have frustrated
her on the court and caused her to commit silly fouls. In this game, Mistie
instead focused all of her efforts on rebounding. While she's always been
adept at blocking out, it was remarkable to see how her improved mobility
allowed her to fly all over the court to fight for rebounds. State's
players did drive by her a couple of times, but she certainly adjusted and
came up with a couple of big steals. Her most impressive plays of the game
were her 2 assists: one a heads-up play where she tossed a loose ball over
to Smith, and the other a great read when State's bigs moved up to meet her
down low, and she found Black for an easy bucket. This was not an
earth-shaking performance for Mistie, but she did contribute quite a bit.

** Currie: Mo started out on fire, scoring Duke's first 7 points on long
jumpers. State left her open, reasoning that they'd rather take their
chances with Mo's jumper than with her attacking the rim. After she hit a
couple of free throws to put Duke up 24-11, she picked up her second foul
with ten minutes to go in the half. Her teammates stepped in nicely,
allowing Coach G to keep her on the bench until the second half. Five
minutes into the second half, when State was making their comeback, a rested
and refreshed Mo took charge. She buried a 17' jumper to halt State's run
and played relentless defense. She pulled up for a three when Duke pushed
the lead up to 10 and then found Bales inside for a score. The capper came
when she went one-on-one with Goring in the open court and another State
defender flew over to block her from driving in the other direction. Mo
rose up, twisted her body so that she was now facing away from the basket,
and threw in a sick reverse layup without looking at the goal, all with the
6-7 Goring bodying her up. Mo is quite able to flourish in a structured
system, but her creativity and fearlessness are what set her apart from
other players. She wasn't needed in the last six minutes of the game,
giving her 20 points in just nineteen minutes. Currie will certainly be
good and fresh for the Tennessee game.

** Smith: Nish was not feeling it from the floor in this game. Her only
scores came on opportunities created by others: a fast break layup, a pass
from Williams on a broken play, and a couple of free throws. Smith did wind
up with a strong floor game, especially in the second half when Duke was
really trying to push the ball up the court. In particular, Nish threw a
wicked bounce pass to Gay for a transition layup and tossed one ahead to
Currie. Nish struggled on defense at times with McDowell, but when she
switched over to Key she was quite effective. While this wasn't her best
game overall, it's good to see her reclaim her starting role, just in time
for the biggest games of the year to date.

** Harding: An efficient game that wasn't quite as spectacular offensively
as Lindsey's been putting up of late, but she also had a difficult task on
defense. Namely, shutting down Billie McDowell. State
was allowing Monique Currie to shoot off screen & rolls in order to
concentrate on Harding and limit her penetration, and this actually worked
reasonably well. Lindsey didn't get many open looks at the basket, and all
of her drives were heavily contested. As a result, most of the shots she
took were of a high difficulty degree, resulting in a lower shooting
percentage than usual. Still, she scored on a spectacular spin move, a
steal where she snaked her way through traffic to score on her own, and a
tough floater that pretty much broke State's spirit. Her real impact came
as a floor leader, however. She fed Currie for her first three baskets
before scoring 4 points of her own. In the second half, she made a point of
feeding Alison Bales inside and out. However, the job she did on McDowell
was one of the key factors in Duke's win. McDowell torched Duke for 11
first half points and hit a three early in the second half to help lead
State's comeback. Harding was assigned to more-or-less face guard
her, and McDowell only got 2 more shots the entire game. Harding also
forced a held ball and turned the ball over just once. Currie is obviously
the team's best player, but Harding is in some ways its most

** Black: After sitting out a game with a sore foot and wearing an orthotic
that she hadn't had a chance to get used to yet, Chante was still a huge
factor in this game, going right at State's bigs. Upon entering the game,
she immediately started posting up on slightly smaller opponents and scored
on a feed from Harding and then confidently sank 2 free throws. Black later
hit a turnaround jumper when she ws given a little room and played her usual
aggressive defense. Even if she couldn't jump as high as she usually does,
Chante was all over the court, going after rebounds and getting in good
defensive position. In the second half, she got in a bit of foul trouble
and made some defensive mistakes against State's frontline. That's a team
that can certainly make you pay for your
mistakes. She continued to go right at the basket, scoring on a post pass
from Williams and then hitting a sweet left-handed turnaround jumper. That's
a move I'd never seen from her before. If she can score with either hand by
using her superior quickness, then she suddenly becomes a
tremendous option on offense. Black is playing with a lot of confidence and
knows that while she's not starting, she's still making a huge impact on the

** A.Waner: Abby put in a solid day's work coming off the bench. The best
news is that her three point shooting stroke is back on target after several
bad games. Both of her threes were big in the first half: the first came
from Currie that sparked a 7-0 run. Later in the half, she nailed a
crowd-pleasing trey that put Duke up 16. Abby also hit a 15' jumper during
the stretch when Currie was out, helping carry Duke. She faded a bit in the
second half, missing her only shot and coughing up the ball a couple of
times. One turnover came right after an open court steal. She saw a
defender in front of her and waited for her team to catch up, then tried to
break off a behind-the-back no-look pass in traffic that wound up in NC
State's hands. I do admire her guts during a period when Duke was going for
the throat with their fast break, but that was not the move to make. Still,
Abby did well in this game and helped stretch out State's defense with her

** Kurz: Laura's minutes were noticeably reduced in this game, which only
makes sense. Against State's huge front line, Laura wasn't quite ready to
take on that physical challenge. She did hit a couple of free throws to
help fuel Duke during their Currie-less first half run, and did a decent
job on the boards when she was in there with 4. Laura did miss a couple of
jumpers, but this wasn't a bad effort, all told.

** Foley: Jess was one of the keys to keeping Duke on top during Currie's
extended absence in the first half. Jess is one player I never really worry
about in terms of slumps or her mental approach to the game. She's a great
"next play" player, not to mention a "next game" player. Jess set aside a
couple of disappointing shooting games with laser focus here, especially
since Currie was out. During that stretch, Jess nailed a three and got
back-to-back steals. She took one in herself and passed to
Harding who passed to Williams for the other. That basket put Duke up by 15
and in control, which is a good thing considering State's later comeback.
It's clear that Foley is not going to have a statistically
dominant season, but it's also apparent that she's ready and willing to make
big plays when needed. It reminds me a bit of Krista Gingrich's senior
season. Her stats were modest, but she hit clutch shots and was always a
calming presence on the court.

** Gay: The bad news: Carrem landed on her injured shoulder and was in
agony for a for minutes. The OK news: she walked off under her own power,
albeit still in some pain. The good news: in the minutes before she got
hurt, she looked a lot more like her old, pre-injury self. Coach G
slipped her in for a couple of minutes in the first half to buy a little
time for her frontline, and then gave her second half minutes down the
stretch. Carrem responded by finishing a wicked Smith pass in transition
and attacking the basket. Gay also had an incredible block and in general
battled State's tall trees nicely. Gay will have to have postseason surgery
but can play in pain until then; she may just have to get used to her
shoulder popping out from time to time.

** E.Waner: Em got a few minutes in at the end and managed to get to the
line. With so many ballhandlers on the team and still trying to come back
from a foot injury, Waner will likely be last off the bench for Duke's
tougher games this year. She'll have plenty of opportunities for playing
time down the road.