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Devils Hold Off Lady Toppers, 59-56
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Devils Hold Off Lady Toppers, 59-56
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Devils Hold Off Lady Toppers, 59-56
By Rob Clough
November 29, 2008

  NUTSHELL     BOX     RECAP     STATS     NOTES  

Game Recap


Joanne P. McCallie noted recently that her team in practice is trying to work on dominating. When Duke went on the road for the first time against well-prepared but less-talented mid-major opponents, one would expect that this is precisely the sort of opponent that Duke should dominate. There were any number of problems that Duke had with Western Kentucky, a team that they tried to run and press off the floor. The first problem was that starting point guard Jasmine Thomas strained her MCL in practice this week and sat out this game. No word on a timetable for return, but her loss is a blow for a team that was just settling in around her as a fixture in the backcourt.

Chelsea Hopkins stepped up in a big way off the bench for her in the first half. Duke started Keturah Jackson at point, which led to a first ten minutes of offensive confusion. When Hopkins came off the bench, she sparked Duke at both end of the floor and was a big reason why Duke had staked out an 8 point halftime lead. In a half where Duke shot a miserable 32% from the field, Waner and Hopkins combined for 8 steals as Duke scored 12 of its 28 points off turnovers. After WKU made a run right at the very end of the half, Hopkins drained her first career three at the buzzer. In the halfcourt, Duke once again struggled against an opponent playing a tight, disciplined zone. Chante Black only managed 3 first half attempts as the Hilltoppers zeroed in on her.

With Jackson back in the starting lineup in the second half, Duke turned the ball over on their first three possessions, giving WKU momentum and the chance to close the gap. Hopkins subbed back in and Duke promptly was able to get the ball into the post much more effectively, as Carrem Gay and Black scored. When Hopkins went out with an injury, a curious substitution of Shay Selby, Bridgette Mitchell & Kathleen Scheer led to WKU cutting an 8-point lead to 5 in short order. Duke was no longer to press WKU effectively and the Hilltoppers adjusted well to Duke's pressure. WKU only committed 7 second-half turnovers and the Devils shot themselves in the foot with 12 miscues--only one of which was a WKU steal.

The Hilltoppers tied the game with about four minutes left, stole the ball from Jackson and had a chance at the go-ahead score. They missed a transition layup and then promptly turned the ball over when they got it back. Duke took advantage of that small momentum swing to pound the ball inside as Joy Cheek and Black combined for 5 straight points. WKU recovered with a three, but Waner took a long rebound and scored, giving Duke a 4-point lead with 3:38 left. WKU suddenly got hot from long range, hitting another three, but Karima Christmas (who has not gotten nearly enough minutes this season) responded with a clutch jumper. Cheek blocked a shot but Black missed the front end of a one-and-one and WKU pulled within 1 with a minute to go. A Jackson turnover gave the Hilltoppers a chance to win the game with under 30 seconds to go, but Duke got the stop, Jackson got the rebound and coolly sank 2 free throws with ten seconds left. WKU was forced to take a contested three, and Duke survived.

The big problem with the second half is that Duke allowed WKU to dictate the flow of the game. The Devils didn't help themselves with a number of unforced errors and a lack of efficiency in the halfcourt. Duke tried to wear WKU down by using its depth, a tactic that didn't quite work. It obviously didn't help that Duke was missing two of its key ballhandlers, but that still doesn't entirely explain the assist/turnover ratio of 9:21. If Duke is going to beat the nation's elite, they have to become more efficient in the halfcourt. In order for that to happen, McCallie simply can't "work on us" and expect that to work. Duke simply doesn't have the kind of personnel to throw out on the floor who can successfully create their own shots. The Devils are going to have to get much more creative in how they break down zones and do a better job in exploiting the tendencies of their opponents. That said, their defense once again carried them in the end and earned them a win on the road, and I would expect that the team will have to continue to rely on it.



Devils Hold Off Lady Toppers, 59-56
Team Box
 
Devils Hold Off Lady Toppers, 59-56
Player Stats

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