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Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
The Nutshell
 
Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
Player by Player
Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
By Rob Clough
November 21, 2010

  NUTSHELL     RECAP     PLAYERS  

Game Recap


Duke is certainly getting each opponent's best effort this season, and the undermanned Lady Toppers of Western Kentucky were no exception. Missing leading scorer Amy McNear to suspension, they nonetheless stayed within single digits for about the first thirteen minutes of the game, before a key defensive change shut them down for nearly ten minutes of game action. Duke was working on a number of different offensive pieces in this game, including trying to create a more productive fast break. That resulted in 21 turnovers (many of them just out of the reach of their intended targets), but it also meant 21 fast break points (many of them crowd-pleasers).

The Devils did cut down on a few things that plagued them against Auburn, like fouls (they committed just 16 for the game, though they did put WKU on the line 14 times). Duke pressed for much of the game, and that yielded 33 turnovers (17 of them from steals). That pressure did lead to some open looks for WKU, but their shots stopped falling after Duke's depth and constant aggressiveness started to take a toll.

Duke never trailed in this game, but WKU did tie the game once at 4-4 after Chloe Wells made a couple of plays early in the game. She drove and found Krystal Thomas for a 17' jumper and then drove in for a layup. Duke quickly pushed the lead up to 15-8 with 13:07 left in the half after 7 early WKU turnovers. Chelsea Gray was a big part of that push as she finished a nice look from Jasmine Thomas after a steal, drained a three (also on a pass from Jas) and then broke off a brilliant no-look pass to Karima Christmas.

The Lady Toppers struck back with an 8-3 run that included a couple of threes (including one in transition after breaking Duke's press). Shay Selby entered the game and made a difference, subtly directing a touch pass to Haley Peters in transition and then finding Haley for a three. With 8:39 left in the first half, Duke led 36-16. WKU's Janae Howard drained her third trey of the half to pull her team within 7, but J.Thomas finally scored on a pass from Christmas after the Devils had four cracks at the basket. Christmas and J.Thomas carried Duke for the next couple of minutes, keeping the lead in double figures.

With about three minutes to go in the half, Duke went in a zone that flustered WKU. Their coach, Mary Taylor Cowles, said they had prepared for Duke's zone but simply didn't do a very good job executing against it. Duke closed the half on a 7-0 run that included a three from Jasmine, a 15' jumper from Kathleen Scheer and an amazing redirect from Gray to Wells in transition as Duke threw the ball over WKU's press with seconds remaining in the half. That came after Duke missed several close-in shots but never stopped working hard on defense. Duke led by 17 at the break for the obvious reasons: they shot better, they had a 19-9 edge in turnovers and they were just a little bit better in every category. Western Kentucky hung around because they were down by just 1 in the rebounding department and were able to get back on defense just enough to stop Duke after they turned the ball over.

After failing to score during the last three minutes of the first half, WKU scored just 3 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. That allowed Duke to run off a 16-3 scoring binge. Jasmine scored 5 points on a drive, steal & runout and foul shot. Gray threw a long bomb to Scheer for a fast break bucket and then initiated a play that ended with Scheer finding K.Thomas for a fast break finish. Richa Jackson ended the run with an aggressive baseline-to-baseline sprint after grabbing a rebound for the finish. That made the score 56-26 with 13:05 left.

Things got sloppy after that as Duke blew a defensive assignment that allowed WKU to get a wide-open three. That spurred them to a little run that saw them pull within 22 points, but the Devils counter-punched late in the game to push the lead back up to 30. Duke played a small lineup for much of the half, resting Krystal Thomas while letting Allison Vernerey sit after not feeling well in the first half. What this demonstrated is just how vulnerable Duke is in the post when those two centers are both out of the game. With Krystal to block out, Duke had trouble getting to the right spot to grab the board. WKU's Arnika Brown had 4 of her 7 boards during that period, and she did it simply by outhustling Scheer and Peters.

The Devils kept up the lead with some hot shooting, including three point bombs from Scheer and Selby along with 10 points from Peters in the last ten minutes of the game. She wound up as the game's high scorer with 17 after shooting an impressive 8-11 from the field. The Devils had a 15-0 edge in fast break points in the second half, a testament to how committing to speed up tempo can wear an opponent down over the course of a game. The Devils shot a sizzling 62% in the second half and 51% for the game. Western Kentucky simply couldn't keep up that sort of pace. As I noted, this was a respite game for Duke before they go on the road for four straight games, a last chance to work on a few things before encountering the rigors of travel. Trips like this can be an excellent chance to build team chemistry off the court, something that will be crucial as Duke continues to integrate its younger players into the rotation.



Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
The Nutshell
 
Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
Player by Player

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