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NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
The Nutshell
 
NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
Player by Player
NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
By Rob Clough
March 22, 2010

  NUTSHELL     RECAP     PLAYERS     PHOTOS  

Game Recap


DWHoops Photos by Orin Day
Van Chancellor
LSU Head Coach Van Chancellor comes off the bench to high five Katherine Graham.
LSU defenders swarm Keturah Jackson
LSU defenders swarm Keturah Jackson
Karima Christmas drives and is fouled by Lasondra Barrett
Karima Christmas drives and is fouled by Lasondra Barrett
Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie
Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie calls out a defense. A switch from man-to-man to zone sparked Duke's comeback.
Keturah Jackson
A key steal for Keturah Jackson
Jasmine Thomas soars to the basket
Jasmine Thomas soars to the basket
Bridgette Mitchell delivers what Van Chancellor called a dagger of a shot, tying the game for the thirteenth time.
Bridgette Mitchell delivers what Van Chancellor called a dagger of a shot, tying the game for the thirteenth time.
A happy Coach P in the postgame presser talking basketball with Rob.
A happy Coach P in the postgame presser talking basketball with Rob.
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Going into this game, writer Jim Sumner and I joked on the over/under on combined turnovers between Duke and LSU, guessing it would be about 40. The total wound up being 41 (22 for LSU and 19 for Duke), and the intense pressure both teams applied was emblematic of their defensive approaches. LSU didn't apply a lot of pressure, but they forced Duke's players into making uncomfortable decisions and positioned themselves to take charges when Duke was trying to get physical. The Devils were all about pressure. Not just getting steals out of traps and ball pressure, but also applying psychological pressure and forcing mistakes. LSU coach Van Chancellor noted that the one problem he had with his team's performance was their 22 turnovers, a number of them physically unforced but certainly influenced by Duke's relentlessness.

LSU found ways to offset Duke's size and depth advantages throughout much of the game. Rugged forward Courtney Jones blocked out Duke in the first half and prevented Duke from getting second shots; the Devils had only 1 rebound through the first seven minutes of the game and grabbed their first offensive board ten minutes into the game. LSU's transition defense was spectacular, holding Duke to 6 fast break points and holding Duke to 14 points off turnovers despite forcing 22 miscues. LSU's discipline also helped stave off foul trouble, as they committed just 4 turnovers in the first half. Facing a focused and tightly-knit opponent meant that Duke would have to match that focus and level of communication, and the fact that they eventually did is what won the game for them.

In the game's early minutes, the two teams wound up being tied four times. Krystal Thomas hit a runner from the right side, while Jasmine Thomas had a steal & runout and a 10' baseline jumper that rolled around every bit of the rim before dropping in. Bridgette Mitchell hit the first of many long jumpers off the dribble. While this was not her usual form of production in a game, she told me "we practice dribble pull-up jump shots all the time, so it was nothing different; it was just open for me tonight." On LSU's side, they used their quickness and some clever back picks to open things up for prolific scorer Allison Hightower. Coach McCallie said that the big problem with this defense was that it put them in chase mode and allowed Hightower to squeeze in and get open looks.

Indeed, Hightower boosted her point total up to 11 in the next minute, pushing LSU's lead up to 13-8. After a Jasmine Thomas miss, LSU post Lasondra Barrett followed her own miss and was fouled, hitting 2 shots to give LSU their biggest lead at 15-8. The Devils switched to a 2-3 zone (that flipped between matchup principles and more positional play) that held LSU to 10 points in the last 12:18 of the half and slowly began a comeback. J.Thomas got it going with a three, while KJ pulled up for a 17' jumper that dropped in. A stickback by K.Thomas made it 17-15 with 9:16 left in the half.

Duke's zone cut off LSU's penetration. Without a post option to throw it into and without being able to dribble, LSU was forced to set up 19' jumpers from players other than Hightower. That worked for a couple of minutes as the Tigers hit a couple of those shots to go up 21-15 with 6:33 left. Duke blew a number of opportunities as Joy Cheek turned the ball over twice and missed a point-blank shot in the post, while Allison Vernerey missed 2 foul shots. KJ settled the team down once again by hitting a 10' baseline jumper, but LSU continued to hold Duke at arm's length, going up 23-17 with four minutes left.

Karima Christmas, who had been shut down for the entire half, attacked the basket and got fouled, hitting 2 shots. At that point, Duke stepped up their pressure as J.Thomas stole the ball for a runout, and then stole the ball again and flipped it to Cheek for a score. Suddenly, the game was tied at 23 with 1:48 to go. Barrett hit a long jumper, but Mitchell stuck back a miss by Vernerey with five seconds left to tie the game at 25. The Devils were outrebounded in the half by 4 but rallied to make that deficit a bit smaller. Indeed, Duke's run at the end gave them a lot of momentum. Considering that LSU shot 52% to Duke's 42%, it was remarkable that the Devils were able to get back into the game. LSU's 13 turnovers were a big part of what enabled Duke to come back.

The Devils used that momentum to take the lead in the second half on 2 foul shots by Krystal Thomas. Keturah Jackson then dove after the ball, stole it and called a time-out a split-second before it was going to be ruled a jump ball. With the arrow still in Duke's favor, that play would have ramifications later in the game. The Devils got several great cracks at the basket but LSU held fast and survived 3 turnovers to start the half, tying the game on a stickback by tough forward Courtney Jones. It was Jones' second foul late in the first half that helped Duke make their run.

After a drive and short jumper by KJ, the Tigers scored on back-to-back stickbacks to retake the lead at 31-29, with Hightower scoring after a 17 minute lull. Cheek posted up and got fouled, earning both. That was part of a weird series where LSU was called for 5 fouls in the first four minutes of the half, followed by Duke committing 5 fouls during the next five minutes. Two foul shots by Hightower put LSU up 33-31, but K.Thomas passed out to Mitchell for another long jumper. Duke went could for a couple of minutes as J.Thomas couldn't get anything going and Mitchell turned the ball over trying to attack the basket. Hightower's 2 free throws made the game 37-33 with 12:39 left. Mitchell responded with another "dagger shot" jumper from 19'. Cheek had the ball in her hands with seconds left on the shot clock. She drove and didn't panic, finding Allison Vernerey in the post for a left finish to tie the game again at 37. That was a big play considering Cheek's many miscues in the contest and Duke's general difficulty in cracking LSU's post defense.

Duke got the ball back but Cheek committed an offensive foul, and Barrett responded by draining another long jumper. Christmas found a seam in LSU's defense but missed on a drive. She got her own rebound and stuck it back for another tie. The Devils got a couple of stops but couldn't score, and LSU kept the pressure on with a score inside by Barrett to make it 41-39. Mitchell once again hit a tough shot as she drained a jumper from the elbow to tie the game up once again, but Hightower found Jones to once again push LSU to a 2-point lead.

Christmas split the defense driving to the basket, scored and was fouled. She hit the foul shot to give Duke a 1-point lead. Duke forced a miss and Mitchell sank a 10' jumper to give Duke its largest lead at 46-43 with 5:37 to go. After another stop, K.Thomas was fouled. The roaring crowd was energizing the Devils and there was a sense that they could get a bit of separation, but Thomas airballed the front end of a one-and-one, and LSU took advantage with a layup by Barrett with 2 seconds left on the shot clock and 2 foul shots by Katherine Graham after she was fouled taking a jump shot. LSU had weathered Duke's run and was back up by 1 with 3:49 left.

That's when Duke took over the game. Despite Cheek picking up her fourth foul (on her third offensive foul of the game), Coach McCallie noted that she never wavered in putting the senior out on the floor. Indeed, she thought that Cheek's anger at herself for not playing better would focus her down the stretch, an intuition that was 100% correct. She made the decision to go small during that period with Cheek and Mitchell anchoring the back of Duke's zone because she was so pleased with their communication. It was that communication that she thought was the most important component of Duke's win.

Jasmine Thomas sloughed off her offensive struggles and got her first basket of the half on a strong drive to the basket. Duke's pressure forced an LSU turnover and Jackson stuck back a missed three from Mitchell. Once again, Duke had a 3-point lead. After a turnover by J.Thomas, KJ once again dove on the ball and forced a jump ball. Thanks to her earlier heads-up play, the arrow pointed in Duke's direction. Cheek got the ball in the low post and this time finished a right-handed hook, a shot she had missed earlier. That gave Duke a 5-point lead with 1:24 left in the game.

Jasmine dove after a loose ball and wound up fouling Hightower, a forgivable bit of enthusiasm even if it would have been wiser to let the ball go. Thomas drove and missed, but Cheek cleaned up to make it 54-49. Hightower put up a wobbly-legged shot and Jones missed a jumper that Cheek rebounded. With 23 seconds left, Christmas hit 2 free throws to give Duke a 7 point lead. Jones hit a rare three with 16 seconds left, but Jasmine Thomas closed the game with 4 straight free throws to send Duke out of Cameron this season on a winning note.

The Devils led for just 6:38 of this game that featured 15 ties and 7 lead changes. Their veterans made the sort of tough-minded plays they'd made all season in closing out games. It wasn't always very pretty, but Duke's execution eventually wound up matching their effort. They outrebounded LSU by 9 in the second half, shot an impressive 11-12 from the foul line and held the Tigers to 33% from the floor while shooting 46% themselves. Duke's struggles on offense were less a matter of beating themselves than they were the result of a tough opponent that played great defense. Still, Duke's depth mattered down the stretch, as players like Vernerey and Shay Selby helped buy rest for several of their teammates. Chancellor played three of his players 40 minutes and said that he had no plan B at back-up point guard, since the normal back-up had suffered a concussion. He didn't want Duke to know that and urged his players to keep going until they dropped, and that "We'll carry you to the hospital after the game." His plan almost worked, but the Devils earned their win against the #21 team in the country, and a trip to Memphis for the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.



NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
The Nutshell
 
NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
Player by Player

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