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Spartans Revenge Dismisses Duke, 63-49
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Spartans Revenge Dismisses Duke, 63-49
Player by Player
Spartans Revenge Dismisses Duke, 63-49
By Rob Clough
March 24, 2009

  NUTSHELL     BOX     RECAP     PBP  

Game Recap


Duke's loss to Michigan State was overdetermined in a number of ways. The Devils lacked some sharpness after their ACC tournament run. Playing on an opponent's home court in the second round of the NCAA tournament certainly didn't help, especially given an overwhelmingly partisan crowd. Of course, many other teams in the tournament faced similar difficulties and overcame them; it's just that these were two more roadblocks for a Duke team that was outplayed and outcoached. MSU coach Suzy Merchant did a masterful job of overcoming her team's many lacking areas against Duke (athleticism, quickness, versatility, depth) and instead exploited Duke's problem areas. Namely, the Devils rely too much on turning defense into offense, on scoring against smaller teams and struggled when certain players played outside of themselves. Defensively, they exploited Duke's gambles on defense, a lack of on-ball pressure in the halfcourt and remarkably lazy help-and-recover defense. The latter left the Spartans with all kinds of wide-open shots from three. MSU is not a great shooting team, but their comfort level of playing at home combined with having all day to shoot gave them just enough juice to hit some key shots.

Duke's players felt frustrated because coach McCallie's game plan was being thwarted at every turn, and there didn't seem to be a single significant in-game adjustment. By the same token, the players clearly panicked in the last minute of the game when, as coach McCallie noted, they started taking "ridiculous threes" instead of attacking the basket to extend the game. Of course, with the team down 8 and having no success doing anything else, it was hard to blame the players for trying. Duke's senior trio of Chante Black, Abby Waner and Carrem Gay combined for 6-21 from the field as MSU neutralized what each player liked to do best and Duke never found a way to get them better shots. Instead, Duke tried the same thing over and over again, and MSU was quite happy to wait for them to do it. That said, the players' body language on defense was horrible as the Spartans held advantages in second chance points, points off turnovers, bench points and fast break points. Players with far less quickness than Duke's players were getting open lanes to the basket, easy stickbacks and wide-open shots.

Duke started the game with a promising 7-3 run as Waner hit a three and Karima Christmas had a steal & layup. Black sank a baseline jumper off a Waner feed to make it 9-5 eight minutes into the game. What was immediately clear was that Duke was much quicker and every bit as physical as MSU but blew opportunities: quickly taken threes, missed free throws, wild layup attempts, missed layups after steals, etc. The Devils very easily could have been up 20-5 at that point. Instead, the Spartans ripped off a 10-0 run to put pressure on Duke. The Devils turned the ball over on 3 straight possessions to fuel the run. Jasmine Thomas, who emerged as Duke's best all-around player late in the season, kept her team in the game with a a couple of pull-up jumpers and an assist to Christmas for three. The Devils eventually closed to within 23-20 late in the half, but they gave up 3 offensive rebounds to the Spartans, who pushed the lead to 5. Duke had a couple of cracks at the basket late in the half, but a wild shot by Keturah Jackson and a missed three by a cold Kathleen Scheer (just inserted into the game) kept Duke down by 5.

Duke came out with a lot of determination to start the second half as Black scored on a runner and then stole the ball. She then dished to Waner for a three to tie the game up. Duke eventually took the lead a couple of times thanks to a Waner fastbreak finish and a banked-in three by Thomas. That made it 31-29, but Duke's offense sputtered for a couple of minutes and MSU's Mia Johnson stroked a huge three to put MSU up by 3. The next ten minutes would be a battle of wills as Michigan State bent but didn't break. Duke tied the game up 5 times but could never take back the lead despite numerous opportunities. Christmas was hustling like crazy and scored 7 points, Joy Cheek was finding ways to score and Jasmine Thomas was setting up her teammates. Black left the game for about five minutes with her third foul and was a non-factor the rest of the way.

With the score tied at 47, MSU turned the ball over 3 times and missed twice, but Black missed twice and Cheek had her shot swatted twice by MSU giant Allyssa DeHaan. This was a perfect example of Duke trying the same thing repeatedly, even when it wasn't working. Finally, Duke committed a shot clock violation and MSU was able to run down the clock and score. When Cheek missed a shot and her own stickback, MSU's earthbound post Lauren Aitch just kept pounding away inside, powering her way through Cheek with ease. When she scored to make it 51-47, with three minutes left, the bottom dropped out for Duke. Amazingly, Duke missed their last 17 field goal attempts (last one was at 7:24) and MSU didn't let up. They hit their free throws and stayed within their team concept throughout the game. At the same time, they had players step up to hit big shots and make plays without fear.

In the end, one of the biggest problems with this game was overconfidence. On paper, MSU shouldn't have been able to beat Duke. However, the Devils stuck with their press when it stopped working, were sloppy in the halfcourt, displayed little chemistry or communication, and looked entirely unmotivated and uninspired by their coaches. Even high-energy and high-effort players like Bridgette Mitchell and Keturah Jackson weren't able to harness their hustle within a team concept. The seniors were so thoroughly neutralized that they perhaps lost their poise a bit, something that may have trickled down to some of the younger players. This was still a very solid year for Duke and certainly an improvement over 2008, but a window may have just closed for the Duke program. It will be up to the returning players and recruits, working with the coaching staff, to see if this will not be the case.



Spartans Revenge Dismisses Duke, 63-49
Team Box
 
Spartans Revenge Dismisses Duke, 63-49
Player by Player

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