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Duke Slops by FSU Thanks to Currie's Triple-Double

Duke 87, Florida State 68. January 5, 2005. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This was both a good and bad game for Duke. Good in that they won it,
certainly, but bad in that they let their opponent back into it when they
had every opportunity to put them away. However, feeling actual game
pressure late in the second half was a good thing, even if a lot of the
players didn't handle it well. Coach G would prefer to have her team
firing on all cylinders going into a four-game road trip, but better to
have some flaws exposed now than later. I think Duke was so accustomed to
making the flashy play (especially on defense) that FSU took advantage of
this when that sort of play didn't work. This game showed that some of
the team's younger players still have a ways to go in tight situations.

It didn't look like Duke was going to have much trouble in the early going.
Mo Currie was a one-woman wrecking crew, scoring the game's first 8 points on a
couple of threes (from Lindsey Harding and Mistie Williams) and some foul shots.
FSU tried to go inside early to their frosh sensation, Britany Miller. Miller
was clearly not accustomed to going up against bigger players, and her early
shots were sent bad. To add injury to insult, Ali Bales accidentally poked her
in the eye and Miller sat out most of the rest of the half. Nikki Anthony came
off the bench for the Noles and actually did a credible job, scoring 4 early
points. Duke kept on coming after 2 Anthony free throws, with a Mistie
Williams three point play and an Abby Waner three. That gave Duke a 14-2 lead,
but FSU coach Sue Semrau kept experimenting with her lineup and found something
that worked.

Early on, that took the form of frosh Tanae Davis-Cain, who fearlessly went
right at the likes of Currie and Bales and scored some points. She got a three
point play against an out-of-position Chante Black and brought FSU to within
18-9 six minutes into the game. Duke countered with a three from Laura Kurz
and 2 free throws from Wanisha Smith to go up 23-9, but several defensive
mistakes allowed FSU to stick around. Specifically, they let Nole forward
Ganiyat Adeduntan get open for uncontested threes, and she drained 3 of them in
the half. Combine that with threes from Holly Johnson and Davis-Cain, and FSU
managed to stay within arm's reach.

Duke kept up the pressure on their end with 4 points from Smith and buckets
from Williams and Bales. The Johnson bucket cut the lead to 33-22, but Currie
took over with a jumper and a score in transition, and then Bales hit a jumper
of her own. Duke went up 17 and seemed like they were close to breaking the
game open, but Adeduntan hit another three to slow momentum. Carrem Gay came
off the bench with a big offensive rebound and bucket to swing things back
Duke's way, while Harding and Currie scored again to push the lead out to
45-26. Once again, Adeduntan hit a three, but the Devils scored 4 straight
points to finally get a 20 point lead with over a minute left.

Bales and Black both had 2 fouls apiece, so they went to the bench, along with
Williams, during that last minute. Semrau immediately brought Miller back in
and it paid immediate dividends. Currie fumbled away a rebound right into
Miller's hands, who scored easily. After a Duke miss, FSU went right into
Miller for an easy score over smaller Gay. FSU shaved 6 points off the lead to
only trail by 14 at the half, despite a number of turnovers and mediocre
shooting. Their key to survival was playing Duke even on the boards, and
getting a number of offensive rebounds. Duke shot well, but was never quite
able to established complete dominance. This was mostly a function of problems
on defense, with poor communication and sloppy blockouts. Currie was mostly
brilliant in the first half, with her jumper looking smooth, her rebounding
fierce and her passing eye sharp. It was clear that she was heading towards a
triple-double just by her first half numbers alone.

In the second half, Duke came out meaning business. Once again, they
concentrated on getting the ball into Bales, who could not be stopped by FSU.
It didn't help Miller that she picked up 2 quick fouls trying to handle Bales,
who scored on a three point play and then nailed 2 foul shots. Duke turned up
the pressure and forced some turnovers, and got easy layups for Waner and
Harding. When Currie hit a jumper with under thirteen minutes to go, that put
Duke up 67-44 and it looked like the game was over. Coach G put in four subs,
hoping to keep things going.

Instead, forward Alicia Gladden attacked Kurz inside and Duke's defense began
to fall apart. The Devils started turning the ball over as well, and no one
looked like they wanted to shoot. Coach G brought Williams back in, who scored
on a jumper, but FSU was on a roll, cutting Duke's lead to 69-55. The other
problem was that Williams and Foley both missed front ends of 1+1
opportunities, giving FSU the daylight they needed. Semrau figured that the
best way for her team to come back was to go more athletic, using Gladden
extensively and replacing the lead-footed Johnson with Shante Williams.

That duo brought FSU within 14 before Harding pulled up for a crucial short
jumper to make it 73-57. Gladden and Williams both scored against Duke to cut
it to 12 with the ball, but a bad shot led to Currie getting the rebound and
fouled. Mo wasn't about to miss her freebies, and the team seemed to exhale a
bit when she made them. Still, the game was in reach until Harding sank a
three tht made the score 79-62 with under four minutes to go. That was too
much to overcome, and by this time Duke had regained its composure at both ends
and kept the Noles at arm's length.

Duke was never truly in any danger, and in fact they did a much better job of
controlling FSU's perimeter game in the second half. The real problem was 15
second-half turnovers, many of which helped set the Noles up. Duke didn't make
a lot of mistakes, but FSU made them pay every time. It's one thing to turn the
ball over throwing a long pass for an attempted fast break, it's quite another
to have balls slip through your fingers underneath your own basket. In a
sense, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. When your mistakes have no
immediate repercussions, it can be easy to laugh them off (like in the Wake
game). FSU and other good opponents will make Duke pay for their errors, and
so the team must learn to tighten up at both ends. At the end of the day, Duke
got another ACC win, and one over a team that will likely see postseason play
(though most likely the WNIT at this point). This sets up the team's brutal
four-game road trip (Maryland, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Holy Cross: 4
games in 8 days), which in turn sets up the season-making homestand of NC
State, Tennessee and UNC. The team has a lot of work to do this month, and
hopefully they'll be up for the extra effort.


** Bales: This was a strong performance by Ali, despite the turnovers. One of
the turnovers was a walk, but others came on bad passes bouncing off of her.
Other than that, Ali posted up strongly, dominating Miller whenever she was in
the game. Miller was only able to score once against her. Ali also hit
jumpers, made free throws and was dominant on the boards and blocking shots.
She actually could have been a little less aggressive in the latter department,
since she was called for several fouls that limited her playing time. That led
to Duke having troubles at both ends of the floor. Still, I'd rather see Ali
be too aggressive than passive, especially at the offensive end.

** Williams: Solid game for a Mistie, who nailed several jumpers and also sealed
off her opponents for plenty of easy chances inside. At this point, players who
are the same size as Mistie stand almost no chance of being able to guard her.
She's simply become too effective a scorer. It's been quite satisfying to see
Mistie evolve from being a high school star who demanded the ball every time
against smaller opponents to a complete player who is perfectly happy giving up
the ball when she realizes that it's the best play for the team. After a
freshman year of throwing up shots that didn't always have a good chance of
going down, she almost never takes a bad shot now. She's also learned to stay
out of foul trouble. About the only negative one can take from this game was
her 2-6 shooting from the foul line, troubling for a player who has otherwise
been so solid shooting free throws this season.

** Currie: With the exception of some truly hideous turnovers, this was a
brilliant performance from Mo. She gave FSU a gut-punch with those 8 quick
points, but really killed them with her passing. Currie was feeding Williams
and Bales in particular all game long. Most of all, it was great to see Mo
attack the boards again. The wrap that had been around her knee is now gone,
and it seemed obvious that she had been ordered to take it easy while she wore
it. Of course, her defense was excellent throughout the game, and her jumper
was beautiful to watch. This game was certainly the kind of statement that Mo
needed to put herself in position for postseason honors. Her triple-double was
only the second in Duke history, with Katie Meier's coming in the Debbie Leonard

** A.Waner: Abby's shot was off in this game, with several threes bouncing out
that usually go in. This was not one of her better overall games, though she
did have 5 rebounds. She had some trouble going up against FSU's quicker
guards, though she compensated with some hustle plays. FSU did a good job of
turning her into a jump-shooter rather than a hustling decision-maker.

** Harding: Monique was the game's star, but Lindsey made the crucial plays in
the second half. Her short jumper slowed down FSU, while her three essentially
ended the game. This came after a first half where her shot looked very flat
once again. It was interesting to see her make adjustments at the half to
regain her now-pure form. Her shaky shot seemed to affect other aspects of her
game in the first half, but her 4-5 shooting in the second half was accompanied
by superb play all-around. What I most liked about her performance is that she
demonstrated the Currie isn't the team's only crunch-time star and that she's
both willing and able to take and make the big shot when needed. That has to
help Currie, who was content to rebound and distribute late in the game.

** Black: Chante hurt herself early on with foul trouble, and was a bit
too eager at times to go for the block rather than play solid defense and
block out. Her early foul trouble limited her to just four minutes in the
first half, which hurt down the stretch when Miller pounded Duke inside in
the last minute of play. Chante had a key stickback in the second half
after a missed 1+1 and grabbed a few boards, but also was out of position
for rebounds and Duke paid for it. Happily, this simply made her amp up
her level of play and she never got discouraged. I'm not too worried
about Black anymore, because she seems to have found a way to play through
mistakes, rather than get discouraged about them as she did last year.

** Kurz: Laura came off the bench with Black to replace the starting
posts, and this had mixed results. She had some definite difficulties
defending inside against bigger and quicker players, though her quick
hands earned her 3 steals. Kurz did hit a three in the first half, but
otherwise didn't see the ball much. Not a bad showing with limited

** Smith: Nish was one of the few bench players to have a real impact in this
game. She nailed a couple of jumpers (though did miss a couple of others
during FSU's big second-half run) and had some assists, though she did turn the
ball over a bit too much in the second half. Still, she played reasonable
defense and certainly didn't mind attacking the basket. Smith loves going
baseline, using her size and strength to either score or get fouled.

** Foley: This was Jess' worst game of the season, and the unfortunate
thing is that the harder she tried to turn it around, the more her
pressing made her play worse. She shot quickly in the first half, but the
real problem is that she lost Adeduntan a couple of times on defense. The
second half was just plain bad: bad passes, bad defense, bad body
language. Everyone has their off days, and Jess is definitely known as a
"next play" kind of player. Hopefully she'll be able to make more of an
impact against Maryland.

** E.Waner: Emily just got some spot duty here and there and didn't have
any significant moments, other than forcing a held ball.

** Gay: Carrem also didn't get much run, but she did grab an offensive
rebound, post up and pivot in for a nice score towards the end of the
first half. That came after FSU had scored 4 straight points. I'd like
to see Carrem get a few more minutes, playing next to one of the other
three main posts. Her rebounding and ability to hit the short jumper make
her very intriguing, even if her defense isn't quite up to Duke standards