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Duke Slops By Marist

Duke 71, Marist 50. November 17, 2006. Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Sometimes starting out a game on a 10-0 run can be a bad thing. For a team
still trying to develop a regular rotation, such a start can lead to a "false
sense of security", as Coach G put it. Duke was trying to be aggressive and
speed up the tempo throughout the game, but the result was often a bad shot,
out of control drive or embarrassing turnover. When Duke had Marist down 10-0,
there was a sense that the Devils relaxed, thinking that the Red Foxes were done
and that Duke could just coast. Instead, Marist regrouped, got a couple of
shots to drop and took advantage of numerous Duke mistakes and missed free
throws. While Duke was never in any real trouble, they did have to raise their
level of play to get what eventually became a win by a comfortable margin.

Marist is a very solid low-major program, one that's used to playing top 25
teams. In fact, they played UConn in Gampel last year and only trailed by 3 at
the end of the first half. They're also quite familiar with Georgia, Villanova
and New Mexico. While they lost their most talented player to the WNBA after
last year, they returned a tough corps of veterans. Coach G noted that their
5-out motion can be difficult to defend. Indeed, though the Red Foxes had a
few turnovers here and there, they got plenty of good looks at the basket.
Duke's recovery to the open shooter was several steps slow, especially by the
young players.

Coach G had been looking to the bench for an infusion of energy but instead
got sloppy, disaffected play. Just five minutes into the game, Coach G brought
in a mass substitution, with 4 frosh and Emily Waner. That group turned the
ball over repeatedly, took bad shots, and let Marist get into a bit of a flow
on offense. On the frosh, Coach G noted that their strong play in the first
game was "fun while it lasted", but that she anticipated good and bad games
from her youngsters.

The most frustrating thing about Duke's offense in this game was that everyone
was trying too hard. Instead of working the ball around and taking an open
mid-range shot, the players would often drive into the teeth of the defense and
put up a wild floater, or else pull up for an off-balance three. This was done
with plenty of time on the clock. Young players often follow the lead of their
captains, and Lindsey Harding's shot selection in this contest was not very
sound. Wanisha Smith reverted to settling for questionable jumpers in the
first half when she should have been attacking the basket. Duke was trying to
combat a sagging defense, but instead of working from inside-out or at least
getting some penetration and kicking out to open shooters, there was way too
much one-on-one action.

Of course, the Devils were hurt by foul trouble from Alison Bales, who was
dominant in the early going with 8 points and 2 assists. When she was out of
the game, Marist was able to get a little offense going in the post and swarm
Duke inside. Thankfully, the one player who was keeping it simple and sticking
to what she could do well was Carrem Gay. All she did was grab rebounds, take
good shots and fly all over the court to contest jumpers. Abby Waner also had
a solid all-around game, making good decisions and finishing. Duke will look
at tape tomorrow and then get ready for Houston on Sunday. It's a good thing
that there won't be much time for a hangover from this game, and the young
players will get another shot at improving immediately.

The game began with that 10-0 run. Bales scored on a post up seconds into the
game, a couple of free throws and a 19' jumper from the top of the key. She
also dished off to Gay for an easy score. A one-woman fast break by Harding
made it look easy for Duke as Marist missed their first 7 shots. Harding scored
again when Bridgette Mitchell entered the game, grabbed on offensive rebound and
dished back to Lindsey for a drive. A Joy Cheek stickback of a wild Keturah
Jackson shot made it 14-2 seven minutes into the game. Then the sloppiness set
in, and Marist scored 5 in a row. The starters returned and restored order for
a bit, as Bales hit anohter jumper and dished to A.Waner for a three. Harding
then grabbed a rebound on the run and launched a perfect pass to Abby for a
transition basket to make it 21-7.

After that, Duke scored just 3 points in the next four minutes. The Devils
missed close-in shots, free throws and wild threes. They also had several
careless turnovers. Meanwhile, Marist slowly climbed back in the game, cutting
the lead to 24-15 with five minutes left in the half. Bales scored on a drive
and Gay sank a perfect hook shot to put Duke back in double figures, but the
Red Foxes cut the lead to 30-22 with under a minute left. Duke's defense held
and Waner managed to get to the foul line, putting the Devils up 10 at the
half. Duke was able to run, outscoring Marist 8-0 on fast breaks, but didn't
have much of an edge on the boards (+7) and in fact were -2 on turnovers.
Bales had 10 points and 3 blocks and combined with Gay and A.Waner for 26 of
Duke's 32 points.

Duke didn't look much better to start the second half. After three minutes,
the margin was still 10 points. The good news is that Smith stopped taking bad
jumpers and started to attack the basket. She started by getting a couple of
free throws early in the half and was then the catalyst behind a 12-2 run that
put Duke in complete command. Smith scored on a drive and 2 foul shots and
also dished to A.Waner for a three. Abby was pinned on the baseline but
spotted her sister open in the corner, and got it to her for a backbreaking
trey. Eight minutes into the half, Duke now led 50-30.

Marist still didn't give up, and managed to get Bales in foul trouble. Ali
had to sit out the last three minutes of the first half with 2 fouls, and she
picked up her third just three minutes into the half. This time, Duke adjusted
well to life without her to go on that run, but Marist kept attacking and
getting to the line. The Devils had 14 team fouls in the second half, which
made this an excruciating game to watch. There was no flow, and Duke playing
defense with their hands instead of their feet nullified their otherwise solid
effort at that end. Marist scored 15 points from the floor and 13 from the
foul line in the second half, and 3 of those points came in the final seconds
from three.

The Red Foxes got as close as 52-36 with under ten minutes left, but the
Devils really put the clamps onfor the next six minutes. They went on a 14-4
run that opened up a 26 point lead. Harding had 5 points and Gay 3 during the
run, as Duke wasn't allowing any good looks. Marist went on a mini-run to
close out the game, but Duke clearly wanted the game to end.

Coach G noted that Duke's rotations were out of whack and that her team lacked
energy, focus and patience. It seemed like everyone was excited to make plays
but didn't quite know how to execute as a team. The fouls added to the
frustration level, but the team needs to learn how to play through all of that.
There will be plenty of teams that will try to push Duke around, and the Devils
simply have to take their lumps while attacking the basket.


** Bales: When Ali was in the game, she was quite effective. This was good to
see after her tough first outing of the season. Bales was out to attack right
away and Marist couldn't do much to stop her. It was especially nice to see
her take long jumpers without hesitation. Defensively, Bales erased several
shots, once zooming from the foul line back to the hoop to recover in time to
block the shot of a Marist player driving in. She blocked that shot with such
force that her opponent flew out of bounds, prompting that sly smile of hers.
There wasn't much smiling to be had in the second half as Bales didn't get a
single field goal attempt in eight choppy minutes. Still, this performance was
an upgrade over Northeastern, especially since Bales did a nice job defending
Sarah Smrdel on the perimeter.

** Gay: Carrem kept it simple and stuck to the things she could do well, and it
paid off with her first career double-double. Carrem was especially effective
with her foul line jumper, sinking 2 of those. Gay also hit a hook shot,
dropped in a stickback, and drove in for a score. Carrem also played excellent
defense, blocking a jumper and directing it toward Bales for the rebound. She
also controlled the boards in the absence of Bales. Nothing about her game
screams spectacular--just efficient. One almost doesn't notice her on the
floor, but she quietly got the job done for Duke.

** Smith: Nish had a terrible first half but was instrumental in Duke pulling
away in the second. In the first half, she threw up an airball three and was
off-balance in taking several other shots. In the second half, she attacked
the basket for easy scores and free throws and rebounded like crazy. Smith
also triggered several fast break baskets, finding Abby for one after a Bales
block. It was encouraging seeing her recover from a first half that could have
crippled her confidence; it's a definite sign of maturity.

** A.Waner: Abby played smart and aggressive ball throughout the game, and was
really the only Duke player who was successful in creating her own offense. She
spotted up nicely for a couple of threes, finished fast breaks and attacked the
basket. Waner prowled the passing lanes for 4 steals and found Harding for a
finish after she pilfered a pass. The most improved aspect of her game is
rebounding. She had 7 in this game, and it seems to be the result of greater
strength and toughness.

** Harding: A surprisingly out of control game for Duke's leader, and that
carelessness spread to her teammates. She took an unusual number of
off-balance, running, one-handed jumpers that clanged off the rim. Harding was
only able to score in transition or at the line, and wasn't all that effective
in creating for her teammates. Defensively, she was her usual disruptive self,
helping to short-circuit Marist's motion attack. Lindsey was clearly looking to
create her own offense, but she must learn to balance that aggressiveness with
better decision-making.

** Mitchell: After a great debut, Bridgette looked like a freshman out there in
this game. That included wild shots, balls dribbled out of bounds, getting lost
on defense and having trouble fitting in. That didn't stop her from hustling,
scrapping and rebounding. She wound up with 7 boards, 4 offensive. While her
energy level is remarkable, there are times that she simply needs to take a
breath, relax and let the game slow down a bit.

** Cheek: Like Mitchell, Cheek struggled throughout much of the game, but did
find a few ways to contribute. She stuck back a miss and later split the
defense to score off the dribble. It would have been nice to see her get the
ball in the post more often in this game, but Marist did a good job of forcing
bad decisions in the half court from Duke. At the same time, Joy needs to post
up and demand the ball more often.

** Mitch: Brittany also had several strong moments but often played with a
flustered look on her face and exasperated body language. She's still trying to
master several positions; she played point, off guard and wing in this game for
different periods of time and switching back and forth wasn't easy. Still, she
did get a block, a steal and found Gay inside for a hook. In the second half,
she sank a three with that textbook form of hers. Hopefully as she continues
to gain experience, her confidence and comfort levels will grow.

** Jackson: KJ was out of control throughout much of the game even as she was
trying to hustle to make plays. Her best play was an offensive rebound that she
dished to Gay for a jumper. Like Mitchell, KJ is an energy player who simply
needs to focus a bit more. Time and experience will help.

** E.Waner: Em hit a big-time three in the second half but once again struggled
to find herself in Duke's rotation. She frequently looks uncomfortable on the
court, but she's slowly starting to make plays, finding Mitch for a three.