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Duke Chops Down Wake Forest

Duke 100, Wake Forest 54. January 2, 2006. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

After fifteen relatively competitive minutes, Duke turned up the
intensity on defense and controlled the boards to smash Wake in the ACC
season opener. The circumstances surrounding the game were a bit weird.
With the men's team playing at home at 4:30pm (thanks to television), the
women opted to do a "breakfast special". Of course, the fact that the
team came back from the west coast on Saturday and was fighting both jet
lag and New Year's festivities may have contributed to some initital
sluggish play.

The closeness of the game had a lot to do with Wake Forest, however.
Duke had spent several games playing against smaller opponents that used a
lot of zone to combat the size disparity. Of course, Duke shot lights-out
against the zones, but the result was that they weren't used to an
opponent playing aggressive man-to-man defense. Given that Wake lacks
quality size, the Devils expected more of the same. Instead, Wake coach
Mike Petersen surprised Duke by using man and double-teaming Mistie
Williams. This was the approach used by UNC last year in their wins
against Duke. Wake backed up this approach with surprisingly active
rebounding that led to some fast break opportunities.

Perhaps by design, this defensive approach left Monique Currie with many
one-on-one opportunities, and only Liz Strunk to defend her. Now, Strunk
has turned herself into a very solid forward who can score inside and out,
but she couldn't stop Currie on her best day. And this game was certainly
not her best day. Mo had half of her team's first 24 points, getting any
kind of shot she wanted. While Currie had an important role in turning
the game around for good, it was actually due to a shot that she missed.

At the game's beginning, Duke got off to a quick 5-0 lead thanks to a
Harding three and a Bales jumper. That latter play was something that
Duke worked on more extensively in the second half. Wake got a couple of
easy baskets in transition as Duke simply didn't get back on defense
quickly enough. Currie countered with a floater, a strong drive and a 15'
jumper after Wake actually went ahead 8-7. Mistie Williams got loose for
a sweeping left-handed hook to give Duke a 13-8 lead with thirteen minutes
left in the half. Wake hung around, coming with 17-14 with under ten
minutes to go on a Cotelia Bond-Young three pointer. Duke was fortunate
to still be in the lead, because the Deacs missed a number of open looks
from the perimeter. Duke's defense was surprisingly casual defending the
three against a team known for its perimeter prowess.

Currie scored on another floater in the lane and Laura Kurz hit a three
to put Duke up 22-14. Wake continued to hang around, with Strunk nailing
a three as the Deacs closed to within 26-21 with under seven minutes to
go. Currie drove and passed to Williams, who sank a pretty 17' jumper.
Abby Waner stole the ball and dished to Harding in transition. Duke had
its chances to extend its lead out to double figures, but Wake instead cut
the lead to 30-23 with 5:15 to go. The Devils were making an effort to go
inside whenever possible, and this was rewarded when Williams found Alison
Bales inside for a power-up. Then came that aforementioned game-breaking

Waner stole the ball and started a 2-on-1 break with Currie. The
defender was in perfect position, but Waner flipped a nifty
behind-the-back pass to Currie. However, Mo missed the shot and the ball
dropped into the lane. Mo dove for the ball, outwrestled a defender for
control of it, and then dished to a cutting Harding while flat on her
back. Lindsey scored and was fouled, sending Cameron into a frenzy and
firing up the team. Harding in particular was fired up, subsequently
nailing a 10' baseline jumper and dishing to Currie to finish off a 2-on-1
break. Currie tipped in a miss to put Duke up 41-25, and the Devils
settle for a 42-26 halftime lead.

Harding and Currie combined for 26 of Duke's 42 points, but it should be
noted that the rebounding of Black and Williams (combining for 12 first
half boards) was another key for Duke in taking control of the game.
While Duke once again fouled too much (putting Wake on the line 10 times),
they did a nice job of taking care of the ball with just 6 turnovers.
Duke actually shot under 50% in the half (46%), a testament to the decent
job that Wake did.

Duke was determined to put Wake away early in the second half, and
that's just what they did. Williams and Bales expertly worked the
high-low, with Williams passing to Bales for a long jumper, and Ali then
returned the favor. After Abby Waner hit Williams in transition for a
basket, Wake called timeout as Duke went up 48-26. Essentially, the game
was over.

The starters were replaced when Duke went up 57-33, with Waner getting
her first score with a three and Harding hitting another short jumper.
Black then entered the game and proceeded to go on a second-half rampage.
Chante had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in the second half alone.
She got her second half started with a superb dropstep for the basket and
the foul, and later had a stickback + the foul, 2 foul shots, a 17' jumper
(!) and a post-up. As nice as it was to see her looking so aggresssive on
the offensive end, it was her defense that was truly special. She had
several blocks that were absolutely spectacular, erasing sure baskets and
claiming the rebound as well.

Duke went on a 19-4 run in the second half that ballooned the lead up to
76-37, with the Devils nailing a number of jumpers that turned the game
into a laugher. Wake had a couple of mini-runs here and there, but the
lead never dipped below 30. Duke shot a staggering 74% in the second
half, dominated the boards and held Wake to under 30% shooting for the
contest. Of course, Wake has been struggling this season, but they
certainly came to play. Duke worked hard to put them away and fixed their
errors quickly. Things start to get tougher from here with a home game
against Florida State (one of the few ACC teams that beat Duke in Cameron
in recent years) and 4 straight road games.


** Bales: A solid game for Ali. Wake respected her size, but also did a
good job of shooting over her. Ali hit a couple of jumpers and powered
her way up for another score, but didn't seem to be in good position for
rebounds. Still, I liked the way she shared the ball, especially in terms
of passing into and out of the post.

** Williams: This was a great game for Mistie, who had to break out a lot of
her tertiary skills and used them extensively. Not only did she hit the foul
line jumper, she also hit a long shot from the elbow. Her 6 straight points in
the second half put Wake away. Scoring aside, it was her passing that was
truly remarkable. She found Emily Waner on a cut and fed Bales for 2 jumpers
and a basket inside. Mistie was as aggressive as I've ever seen her on
defense, going after blocks and bodying up her foes. This was a mature
performance by a player who is maximizing her skill set, and is now ready for
tougher competition.

** Currie: Mo came out firing and was hitting from all over the place. Her
ability to take anyone from Wake off the dribble made her especially tough to
stop, since there was no shot-blocking presence to stop her from doing whatever
she wanted. Currie also absolutely shut down Liz Strunk, holding her to 5
points (1-6 shooting) and forcing 4 turnovers. Currie in this game passed
Iciss Tillis on the Duke scoring list and now stands in fifth place with 1723
points. Currently, she's just 2 rebounds from fifth place all-time in that
category as well.

** A.Waner: Abby didn't get many good looks in the first half, but she wisely
didn't force things and wound up having an impressive floor game. Her 3
assists and 3 steals proved to be crucial in the first half and set the stage
for her impressive offensive showing in the second half. Abby's best move came
on a drive across the middle that she finished with a sweeping hook. Her main
errors came on attempts to be spectacular, like when she threw no-looks to the
wrong spots on the floor. Still, her hustle never stops and she's learning how
to fit in. Her unselfishness, a team trademark, makes her an especially good
fit with this group.

** Harding: Lindsey's performance was a preview of future games against tougher
opponents. With Harding's improved jumper, and more importantly, her improved
confidence in her jumper, look for her to be a much more important part of the
offense. She's usually quite content to simply set everyone else up and play
defense, but Lindsey is figuring out when the team needs her to score. One
will note that after taking 9 shots in the first half, she only took 3 in the
second (when the game had already been decided). I like the way that Harding
and Waner complement each other. Harding is more of a shut-down defender who
is now less prone to go after steals, whereas Waner is a gambler who loves to
play the passing lanes. Harding's steadiness and ability to cover a lot of
ground helps make up for any mistakes that Waner might make, and that
confidence allows Abby to be aggressive and make things happen.

** Black: As noted above, Chante was superb. It's interesting to see how
much of her performance is based on confidence. She can always rebound
and defend, but when she's attacking the basket, shots seem to magically
go in for her. The fact that she nailed a long jumper and swished her
last 3 free throws after missing the first 2 demonstrate what kind of a
groove she was in. It was not unlike early in her career, when she was
blocking and rebounding everything in sight. A big key was that she
stayed out of foul trouble and consequently didn't have to hold back. If
Chante can provide this kind of scoring from the bench, Duke will be very
tough to beat.

** Smith: This was a tough game for Nish. She fouled out in just 12
minutes of play. A couple of those were questionable touch fouls, but she
also reached in when she shouldn't have. Her only score came on a runout,
but she did have a couple of nice assists. It was pretty clear that the
foul trouble disrupted her rhythm as a player, and along with Black, she's
very much a player who needs time to get into the flow of things.

** Foley: Jess continued her recent string of efficient & effective
performances with 4-5 shoooting and 3 assists/0 turnovers. Always one of
Duke's best players without the ball, she finished a cut on a pass from
A.Waner, dished to Kurz for a three, fed Black inside, nailed a three and
finished in transition. Foley made the most of her minutes and provided a
nice veteran presence for Duke. She just passed 800 career points and is
now one of Duke's top-30 scorers all-time. It seems unlikely that she'll
get to the 1000-point mark, but it would be nice. Jess is nearing 300
career assists (280) and 150 steals (130), but most notably is #4 in
threes made with 148. She has a good chance of getting as high as #2 on
that list.

** Kurz: This was another solid showing for Laura, whose versatility is
really coming in handy in the post. While she's not quite able to do this
against teams with huge frontlines, Wake was the perfect opponent for
this. Laura got some meaningful minutes in the first half, hitting a
three. She nailed a long jumper in the second half as well, and also got
a few boards. While she wasn't posting up, her ability to stretch the
defense and move without the ball served her well.

** Gay: Despite playing with an injured shoulder (and a compression
sleeve to hold it together), Carrem looked as smooth as ever. She didn't
do much with limited first half minutes, but she looked great in the
second half. She nailed a couple of 15' jumpers, scored on a feed from
Bales and went to the foul line a few times. Her timing on her 2 blocks
was beautiful as well. Her ability to hit the jumper from the foul line
and rebound will certainly her some minutes in real games.

** E.Waner: Emily scored on a nice cut on a pass from Williams but
otherwise had a pretty quiet game. No errors, but not much of an impact