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Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
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Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
Player by Player
Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
By Rob Clough
January 4, 2011


Game Recap

Teams learn the most about themselves when they play against elite opponents. In their top-10 tilts against Xavier, Texas A&M and Kentucky, there have been a few common threads. First, Duke learned that they have to get some production from their freshmen. The fact that the frosh didn't show up at all against Xavier nearly doomed the Devils. Second, Duke's defense can make the most fluid of offensive teams look bad. Only a future top-5 WNBA draft pick like Xavier's Amber Harris was able to dominate Duke offensively, and even she was forced into repeated turnovers. Third, as focused as Duke becomes on the defensive end, they make curiously poor decisions on the offensive end time and again. Players go 1-on-3 or miss open shooters, indications that there hasn't been enough attention paid to connecting plays. Fourth, Duke's depth makes them close to foul-proof (with the exception of Jasmine Thomas). Finally, Duke is as mentally tough as any team in the country. In the final minutes of a close game, Duke is able to put all of their mistakes behind them and make plays at both ends.

Kentucky came in as a high-octane offensive opponent, averaging 80 ppg. They turned opponents over 27 times a game thanks to their pressing, trapping defense. Star forward Victoria Dunlap was a double-double-machine. Guard Keyla Snowden was a sniper from long range and she had help from other players. This wasn't a half-court team that would settle into a zone, but an opponent who wanted the game to be played as fast as possible. Well, Kentucky was forced into 22 turnovers, picked up just 5 steals and got all of 2 points off the bench. In a game where fouls proved to be a problem, the Wildcats went through some crucial minutes of the game without Dunlap and Snowden. The intensity of this game took a toll on both teams mentally, as Kentucky was just 9-18 from the foul line and Duke was 15-26.

The game started off much differently, as the teams took turn running up and down and scoring easily. Kentucky scored on a 3 layups and a short jumper, while Duke countered with a Jasmine Thomas drive and 2 foul shots. Krystal Thomas, who struggled for much of the game, was given a quick hook in favor of Allison Vernerey after both she and surprise starter Haley Peters had serious defensive breakdowns. Peters reentered the game and followed up one of Vernerey's many missed shots with a stickback. Vernerey got into a passing lane and tipped the ball to Karima Christmas, who scored to tie the game at 8 with 16:42 to go in the half.

After the Wildcats took the lead again, they went on a nearly six minute scoring drought. Duke had every opportunity to knock them out but couldn't close the deal. Duke got foul shots from Christmas and Chelsea Gray along with a steal/runout by Chloe Wells and a pass from Wells to Gray for a three. That made the score 16-10, and it would remain that way for nearly four minutes. Kentucky missed 6 shots and committed 1 turnover during this span, but Duke missed 6 shots and committed 4 turnovers. Most of the turnovers where travels, where a player like Peters lifted her pivot foot trying to get another shot instead of taking the open one that was available. Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell gambled and brought Dunlap & Snowden back into the game, and they repaid him with a three-point-play and three, respectively.

Things went back and forth for a few minutes as Kentucky regained the lead with a free throw, but J.Thomas found Gray in transition. The Wildcats went up 20-18, only to see Gray hit another three and Vernerey stick back her own miss. Duke had chances to extend that lead, only to see Vernerey miss a couple of point-blank shots. With two minutes to go in the half, Kentucky crept within 23-22. Jasmine stuck back her own miss with 1:44 to go and came up with a steal. She drove and dished to an open Tricia Liston, who knocked down a 15' jumper. After a Kentucky turnover, Jasmien drove and pulled up for a 15' dagger. Gray then came up with a steal with twenty seconds left and fed J.Thomas, who knocked down a 10' jumper in the lane. That flurry put Duke up 31-22, which was their biggest lead of the game. The Devils were +21 on the boards while holding Kentucky to 36% from the field. Kentucky missed 4 foul shots and went 1-7 from three. Duke had the lead because of their rebounding; 16 offensive boards led to 8 points, versus none for Kentucky. J.Thomas and Gray combined for 19 of Duke's 31 points.

Coach McCallie felt Duke had Kentucky on the ropes at that point and hated for halftime to come. She was certainly right to feel that way, because Duke's momentum came to a screeching halt to start the second half. With a quick layup and a three, Kentucky pulled within 31-27. The next few minutes consisted of missed field goals by Duke (13 in a row) but also a flurry of fouls for the Wildcats. As a result, Duke still held a 35-30 lead with under fiteen minutes to go. Dunlap had a stickback and K.Thomas badly bricked a shot close to the basket. A three by Snowden made it 35-35. McCallie wisely brought Liston back in, and this move paid off when Vernerey relocated from post to perimeter, setting up Liston for a three. This was Duke's first field goal of the half, made at the 12:05 mark. Incredibly, it put them up by 3.

Over the next three minutes, Duke missed 4 shots and J.Thomas twice missed the front end of one-and-ones. After their own dry spell, Kentucky took a 39-38 lead with 8:47 to go. K.Thomas threw a beautiful pass to a cutting J.Thomas for the layup and the lead, but Kentucky's frosh PG, Maegan Conwright, made her second straight layup. A determined Jaz went into improv/solo mode, scoring 14 of Duke's final 16 points. She drove for a layup and hit 2 foul shots to put Duke up 44-41. Dunlap turned the ball over and Duke had a chance to take control, but Jasmine missed an open three in the corner.

Kentucky soon tied the game up at 44 with 3:51 left, but J.Thomas once again slipped inside the defense and popped a 10' jumper. Dunlap got fouled and hit both. Kentucky was now desperate to get the ball out of Jasmine's hands, and Chloe Wells wound up with it. She drove and put up a half shot/half runner that missed, and Kentucky caught Duke's transition defense napping to go up 48-46. Wells then had a three blocked but Jaz snuffed out a jumper by Snowden on the other end and grabbed the board. She tied the game on a fadeaway 17' jumper with 1:33 left.

Kentucky started to panic as the volume of the crowd went up several dozen decibels. Christmas came up with a steal with 1:03 left as the shot clock was running down. After a time out, McCallie subbed Gray in for Wells. Chelsea went baseline and what was supposed to be a pass to Vernerey was tipped up and in by a Kentucky player. With 38 seconds to go, Snowden missed but A'dia Mathies got the rebound. K.Thomas alertly blocked her shot and Duke got the rebound. The Kentucky bench erupted as coaches and towels were thrown on to the floor, but the officials calmed things down. J.Thomas was fouled after Duke managed to run 10 seconds off the clock and hit 1 out of 2. Jasmine then blocked a shot by Snowden that Wells rebounded and gave back to Jasmine. The Kentucky bench exploded again, which this time prompted a technical. Jaz nailed both tech shots, then hit 1 out of 2 to account for the final 54-48 margin. She was rather blase' after the game, noting that the frenzied conclusion wasn't anything they hadn't been through before...several times.

Despite shooting 6-30 from the floor in the second half and 10-20 from the line, Duke survived. Cutting their turnovers down to just 2 helped quite a bit, as did blocking 6 shots and forcing 8 more turnovers. Jasmine scored 14 of Duke's 23 points in the half and made every key play on defense. Crucially, Kentucky only went to the line 18 times (10 under their average) and shot just 3-15 from three. Duke took another vaunted offense and put it through a meat grinder. Unfortunately, watching Duke's own offense was like seeing sausage being made. The eventual outcome was pleasing, but the process was grisly, to say the least. Maryland will likely be another grinder, but hopefully the week off after that can be devoted to offensive fundamentals as a refresher. The team has defense and rebounding down to a science at the moment.

Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
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Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
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