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Duke Dominates #6 Maryland

Duke 86, Maryland 68. January 8, 2006. Comcast Center.

This was the first of many tests that Duke must pass this season, but it was a
great way to kick off a road trip. Playing against a Maryland team that had a
huge crowd of over 15,000 screaming at them to beat their most hated rivals,
Duke calmly took control of the game late in the first half and then staved off
several comeback attempts. They did this despite foul trouble for the entire
front line and the return of superfrosh Terp guard Kristi Toliver. They did it
despite a no-show for Mo Currie during the game's first fifteen minutes. While
the Terps matched Duke offensively both inside and out, Duke's superior depth
and commitment to defense carried the day for them. While Currie is the team's
star, there are plenty of other players who can step up when needed, and this
game was proof.

Duke zipped out to a 4-0 lead, thanks to a Lindsey Harding drive and Mistie
Williams bucket, but the Terps quickly tied things up. Alison Bales was called
twice for offensive fouls and had to be yanked in favor of Chante Black. Chante
was more than ready, and scored immediately. Maryland stars Marissa Coleman and
Crystal Langhorne scored to put the Terps up 8-6, but a Harding jumper and 2
Black free throws gave Duke the lead again. Langhorne had posted up Williams
and then blew right by her for a three point play (she missed the freebie).
After that, Coach G either double-teamed Langhorne or assigned Black to keep up
with her, and she wound up scoring just 6 more points the rest of the way.
Harding drove and was fouled, nailing both to put Duke up again. Black then
sank a nasty fadeaway plus 1, and Wanisha Smith came off the bench to nail a
jumper. Twelve minutes into the game, and Duke suddenly led 18-11.

Maryland stormed back with a 7-2 run, led by Laura Harper inside. Harding
responded with a drive, a dish to Black and a 17' jumper to put Duke up 28-20
with under seven minutes left. After a Langhorne free throw, Duke went on an
8-2 run with threes from Harding and Kurz to go up by 13. That's when Currie
woke up and started pouring gas on the fire, pushing Duke to a 41-25 lead with
some acrobatics. The teams went back and forth for a bit, with 4 straight
points by Smith being outdone by a Toliver three and a basket by Ashleigh
Newman with 15 seconds left. Duke got the last laugh when Currie raced down
the floor and found Kurz in the corner for three; this has always been a
favorite half or game ending play.

Duke shot a smoking 61% in the half and hit 3 of their last 4 threes
attempted. Their 10 turnovers were manageable comapared to 13 for the Terps.
Harding and Black combined for 18 of Duke's 48 points. While Bales, Williams,
Currie and Waner had a combined mark of 8 points, the bench of Black, Smith &
Kurz had 25! After the bench played so poorly against Florida State, this was
a major statement for them.

In the second half, Coach G was trying to get her other starters going, and
while it worked early on when Bales and Williams both scored, the chemistry
wasn't quite the same on the floor. Duke had been pounding Maryland with
superior speed, and this lineup was a bit slower. Sure enough, Duke started
missing some shots and the Terps finally got on the same page with each other,
and they trimmed a 17-point lead down to 12 in the first five minutes of the
half. Black came in off the bench once again and instantly scored, and that
was followed by Bales finishing off a lob to put Duke up 58-42.

Back came Maryland, who got a stickback from Jade Perry and another three from
Toliver to cut the lead to 11. A Harding jumper was matched by a Toliver three
after Duke bungled several tries at extending the lead. With under ten minutes
to go, Maryland was within 60-50. Black responded with a 10' jumper, but
Toliver hit her 4th three of the game to bring the Terps within single digits.
Jess Foley was fouled driving and hit 2 crucial free throws, because the Terps
scored again to make it 64-55 with seven minutes to go.

Williams and Currie had big plays, with Mistie throwing a great pass to Currie
on a cut, and Mistie then finishing a lob thrown her way. This time, Doron hit
a three to cut the lead to 10 and keep the pressure on. That's when Duke
really put on the clamps. Harding was fouled and hit both. Williams then
blocked Perry, and Currie swooped in for a three point play. Williams came up
with another big defensive play when she took a charge on Coleman, and Currie
sank a three. Foley then came up with a steal, and Bales was fouled rebounding
a Currie miss and made both shots. With under four minutes to go, Duke had a
commanding 78-58 lead.

Maryland had one last run in them, scoring 7 in a row to make it 78-65 with
2:36 left. But Currie and Foley hit back-to-back threes to kill of the Terps'
last chance. Duke cooled off a bit in the second half but still shot 58% for
the game and forced 24 turnovers. Only sizzling long-range shooting kept
Maryland in the game, nailing 8 of 12 threes. Still, Duke made life miserable
for Doron, who was 3-8 from the floor with 7 assists and 9 turnovers. I had
predicted that both teams would shoot a high percentage, and that the team with
the fewest turnovers would win. The final figure for points off turnovers: Duke
28, Maryland 11, which was roughly the final margin of the game. While this was
a nice win that helped answer a few questions, there's still a long way to go on
this road trip, with a hungry Georgia Tech team and a desperate Boston College
squad waiting for the Devils. Still, the team can savor this one for a bit.


** Bales: Ali was clearly frustrated in the early going, but it was pretty
clear that the refs were calling the charge early and often in this game.
Coach G made a point of going to her early in the second half, because the
truth was is if Bales got good position, the Terps weren't tall or strong
enough to stop her. It's just that she had trouble establishing position. She
got an easy score in the second half when she had Langhorne on her hip, and
later scored on a lob from Currie. Bales also hit 2 freebies to cap off the
game-clinching run for Duke. Just as importantly, Bales was fresh down the
stretch and was a step quicker than the Terps in getting to rebounds. This is
the first time in quite a while that Ali didn't have a block in a game.

** Williams: Mistie scored early, but then picked up 2 quick fouls and had to
sit out much of the first half. She was blocked out very effectively by Perry
and Langhorne, getting just 1 rebound. She scored with her left hand in the
second half, and had a great finish on a lob pass from Foley during the run
that put the game out of reach for Duke. Her best play was a sensational
backdoor pass to Currie that she bounced behind her. Maryland was clearly
pretty worried about Mistie's scoring potential, which helped leave Chante open
on many occasions, especially early in the game. While this wasn't a great game
for Mistie, she did make some plays, and was fresh down the stretch. Her best
play came when she took a charge with 4 fouls, and absolutely stuck it

** Currie: I'm not sure what Mo's problem early on was, but she threw up some
absolute bricks. With less than four minutes left in the half, Smith threw her
a perfect pass in transition for a three point play. Being knocked on her
backside seemed to wake her up a bit, because she scored on Duke's next play on
a drive, and then threw a perfect pass to Kurz for a three to end the half.
Currie was quite energized after that (her time spent on the bench was at least
resting her), and hit a long jumper & found Bales inside early in the second
half. But as always, Crunch-Time Currie saved her best for last. When
Maryland pulled within 9, Mo scored on a cut. Later, she drove and spun for a
ridiculous three point play, and followed that up with a three. When the Terps
pulled within 13 with under three to play, Mo hit another three and then found
Foley for a trey. After going scoreless for over fifteen minutes, she wound up
with 18 points!

** A.Waner: Abby really struggled in this game. She couldn't hit anything in
the first half and got pickpocketed by Doron for a layup. In the second half,
she picked up 2 quick fouls and had to sit. Still, she was active on defense
(she did a reasonable job on Toliver and Newman) and still managed 4 assists.

** Harding: Once again, Lindsey was absolutely brilliant from beginning to end,
dominating the Terp guards at both ends. With Currie misfiring, Lindsey knew
that she had to put pressure on Maryland in order to open things up inside for
her posts. Harding attacked right away with a drive, blowing right by Doron.
After a dish to Williams, she sank a 15' jumper, and hit 2 free throws to put
Duke up again. Later in the half, when Maryland cut the lead to 2, Harding
scored on a drive, found Black inside, and hit jumpers from 10', 17' and from
three. She was 6-6 in the half, with 3 assists, 0 turnovers and 3 steals.
Maryland sent a spy after her in the second half, which only served to open
things up for Currie. Still, Lindsey hit a 17' jumper after Maryland cut the
lead to 11, and sank 2 free throws after the Terps cut it to 2. Harding has
proven that when her team needs her, she's capable of doing whatever is
necessary, be it drive, shoot, defend or pass.

** Black: Chante is really coming on, and she bailed Duke out after Bales and
Williams went out with foul trouble. When Chante is aggressive and focused,
she's pretty much an unstoppable force because of her length and quickness.
With Bales out, Black entered the game and immediately scored on a post-up.
Remember, Black dominated the same set of players in the ACC semis last year,
and knew just what to do against them. She drew a foul and effortlessly nailed
both shots, which was certainly a good sign if you're a Duke fan. Chante
followed that up with a fadeaway baseline jumper plus the foul, and nailed that
shot. Her next two scores both came on stickbacks, 2 of just 5 Duke offensive
rebounds for the game. Harding fed her for one last basket in the half,
tallying 13 points in all and single-handedly carrying Duke inside. Only
picking up a couple of fouls even slowed her down. In the second half, she
halted a Maryland mini-run with a turnaround jumper, then later pulled up for a
10' shot. She had a gamebreaking play when she touch-passed over to Currie in
the corner for a three. Black topped off her career high with a tip-in. She
wasn't rebounding or blocking shots like she normally does, but she did play
the lanes smartly and wound up with 3 steals. Again, when she's active, she's
at her best. The fact that she outplayed what many consider to be the best
frontline in America has to be a huge confidence booster. Really, she didn't
do anything "special"; she just used her quickness to get good position and
finished plays. She can do this against any team in the country.

** Smith: Nish hit some big shots in the first half, which was quite needed
considering that both Currie and Waner were misfiring. She nailed a 17' jumper
early in the game, and took over towards the end of the first half with a dish
to Currie, a drive for a score, forcing a held ball and a pull-up 18' jumper.
She wasn't quite as sharp in the second half, turning the ball over twice and
missing a couple of shots. Coach G went with Foley down the stretch, but Nish
did plenty to help her team in this one.

** Kurz: I'm sure it wasn't Coach G's plan to put Laura in against Maryland's
starting post players, but foul trouble dictated that she at least try it out.
To her credit, Laura did a credible job at both ends, and that three she hit at
the end of the half was a big momentum-changer. When Duke had to bench players
left and right in the last six minutes of the first half, Kurz hit 2 threes and
had an assist, along with grabbing a couple of rebounds. The fact that Duke
dominated the game when it went small was a testament to Kurz's increased
maturity and toughness this year. About her only gaffe was a terrible hook
shot she threw up in the second half, taken off-balance. This performance
makes Duke's depth a reality, not just something on paper.

** Foley: After a hideous performance against FSU and a tough start in this
game, Coach G stuck with her senior over struggling Waner and Jess delivered
some big plays down the stretch. She missed a layup and a turnaround early on,
and also missed when trying to post up Toliver. But with Waner struggling with
foul trouble in the second half, Coach G brought Jess in down the stretch and
she responded. She hit 2 crucial free throws after Maryland pulled within 9,
found Williams on a lob, hit Currie for a three and then nailed a three of her
own to put the game away. Foley did have a couple of cringe-inducing
turnovers, but she made up for it with hustle (outworking a Maryland player for
a rebound) and those key plays. It was good to see the veteran excel when she
was really needed.

** Gay: Carrem just got some spot minutes, throwing the ball out of bounds on
one miscommunication.