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Duke Takes Down Maryland, 71-64
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Duke Takes Down Maryland, 71-64
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Duke Takes Down Maryland, 71-64
By Rob Clough
January 6, 2011


Game Recap

"I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. It's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering along the edge of a straight razor...and surviving."

  --Marlon Brando as Col. Walter Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

Maryland represented the fourth time this season that Duke crawled along the edge of a razor and survived. Once again, there were times when Duke looked helpless to score against a zone as well as times when their opponent seemed to score at will. The Devils had every excuse to fold, as the team was no doubt mentally and physically exhausted from the war they had with Kentucky two nights earlier, whereas Maryland was well-rested. Indeed, coach McCallie noted that she thought Duke's poor early play was due in part to that fatigue, and that the players had to push through it. When I asked Krystal Thomas how players pushed through fatigue, she was incredulous. "We hate losing", summed up her response, and it was clear as the game went on that no matter how many mistakes were made, Duke would settle down when it counted.

That said, it's been almost supernatural to see just how good Duke has been in closing out their opponents in the last minute or two of play. The Terps had a 60-58 lead with 2:41 left and then got outscored 13-4 to end the game. Once again, the three seniors and Chelsea "The Closer" Gray made all the plays to put away a Maryland team that had all the tools to win. Duke has a way of exploiting the flaws of their opponents in such situations and here it was Maryland's propensity to turn the ball over combined with a lack of dependable outside shooters. What was rewarding about this win was that there were no lucky bounces or no-calls that aided Duke, but rather a series of tremendous defensive plays and clutch shots. On a crazy night in the ACC, Duke taking a win over a team projected to be in the conference's top 4 finishers was an important achievement.

The game started with Shay Selby finding Haley Peters rolling to the basket. The fact that that basket dropped was very important for Duke, because Peters needed to see her hard work start to pay off. She subsequently missed a layup in transition, but her hard work on the boards showed that she was here to work. After the game, I asked her about her recent struggles and what she did to change things up in this contest. She replied that she was going to stop worrying about things she couldn't control (like whether or not her shots went in) and instead focus on that which she could control (namely defense and rebounding). That was certainly the case after she missed that layup, because she followed up that play with a great block-out and rebound.

Jasmine Thomas scored on a drive and then hit a wing three to make the score 7-2. Maryland cut the lead to 1, but Peters got in the middle of Maryland's zone and drained a 15' jumper. The Terps went zone about three minutes into the game but it wouldn't pay big dividends for a couple of more minutes. Karima Christmas made two high-difficulty plays: a drive that featured a shot she banked high off the glass and into the basket, and a thread-the-needle post pass into Krystal Thomas for an easy two. Krystal did a great job of getting into perfect scoring position, turning and shooting. Christmas' drive made it 13-8 with about fifteen minutes to go, and it looked like Duke's offense was fluid.

Maryland was devoted to pounding the ball inside and had gotten scores from Lynetta Kizer and Diandra Tchatchouang one-on-one in the post. Frosh Alicia DeVaughn got a post-up to make it 13-12, Tchatchouang scored on a turnaround jumper after a turnover from Allison Vernerey and she hit another short one to put the Terps up 14-13. At this point, Duke was one-and-done on the offensive end and the frustration was starting to show up on defense. Duke gave up two wide-open shots to Kim Rodgers that she drained from three and was reduced to long jumpers from K.Thomas and Vernerey. Rodgers, a Duke-killer her entire career, then scored in transition to push the Maryland lead up to 22-13.

Maryland had 4 chances to extend their lead while Duke was missing close-in shots and open jumpers. Finally, Tricia Liston came in off the bench, forced Maryland's defense to move thanks to her running them around, and delivered a perfect pass inside to K.Thomas. The Terps went up by 10 with 8:43 left in the game but would score just once in the next seven minutes. Duke was starting to exploit Maryland's defense for offensive rebounds, as Krystal scored on a reverse stickback in traffic. Chloe Wells came in and gave the team a lift with a rebound, a steal & pass ahead to Chelsea Gray, and a dish to Jasmine Thomas for three.

This was the point of the game where Coach McCallie made a counter-intuitive move that paid dividends. She put three point guards on the floor with J.Thomas, Wells and Gray joining a frontcourt of K.Thomas and Peters. This small team relied on KT and Haley for rebounds and used its speed to force turnovers. Two free throws by Terp frosh sensation Alyssa Thomas made it 27-22 with five minutes to go, and both teams struggled for a couple of minutes. They both battled like crazy to get the ball, both in terms of rebounds and steals. Finally, Gray found Liston for a three and hit K.Thomas in the post perfectly with a pass that Krystal decisively used to attack the basket and score.

Maryland broke a tie with three offensive rebounds on a single possession (a DeVaughn stickback), and extended that to 31-27 on a beautiful shot by A.Thomas. Liston hit a couple of pressure-packed foul shots to cut the lead to 2, and the Devils got a chance to tie or take the lead at the half. Instead, Krystal Thomas bobbled the ball away and then gave up a half-ending shot by Kizer. Still, Duke did well to pull within 4 points, given poor shooting and little scoring outside of the Thomases. Duke managed to make up the rebounding deficit most of the way as it was 21-20 in favor of the Terps. It was a physical game but one where a total of only 9 fouls were called in the first half.

Duke quickly tied things up with a pass from Peters to Christmas on a short jumper and then a steal & runout from J.Thomas. Tchatchouang and Tianna Hawkins scored near the basket to put the Terps up by 4, but Duke pulled within 1 thanks to Liston finding J.Thomas for a three with 18:05 left. From this point on, the action got extremely intense as neither team was able to get any breathing room. About three minutes into the half, Duke switched to a matchup zone and the result was a steal and layup from J.Thomas. Throughout much of the half, coach McCallie was lobbying hard for Karima Christmas to get a call when driving to the basket, yelling at ref Bonita Spence during a timeout instead of saying much to her team. That lobbying paid off after Liston came up with a steal and Christmas was hammered attacking the rim. Duke continued to push the lead up to 3 when Kathleen Scheer hit a little jump shot to make it 43-40 with 14:51 left.

Duke had their chances to increase the lead but couldn't capitalize, and the Terps eventually made it the foul line and turned over J.Thomas for a score. Jas hit an increasingly-clutch Liston for a three but Rodgers responded with a trey of her own. Peters sank a 10' jumper after grabbing an o-board to make it 48-46 and then hit another short shot on a feed from Gray to put Duke up by 4. Maryland fought back with a jumper from Kizer and a leakout by Rodgers. Tchatchouang left two points at the foul line and Duke took advantage with a drive by Liston. Tchatchouang hit a three from the top of the key to make it 53-52 with 6:16 left. A foul shot by A.Thomas gave Maryland a 2 point lead, but Liston hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game up once again. Maryland went up by 2 when A.Thomas hit 2 more foul shots when Vernerey fouled her. With under five minutes left, Duke got 3 cracks at the basket and was rewarded when Christmas got fouled and hit both.

A.Thomas hit a rainbow to give Maryland another lead, but Gray hit Scheer rolling to the basket, and Leener lived up to her nickname as she twisted her way to a score. Both teams missed some shots as the clock started to creep by. With 2:41 left, Anjale Barrett stole the ball from K.Thomas and hit Kizer in transition to make it 60-58. From this point on, Duke got hyper-focused and made some amazing plays under pressure. Liston missed a three but KT grabbed the rebound. Scheer hit J.Thomas at the top of the key and Jasmine drained a huge three that gave Duke a 1-point lead with 1:58 to go. A.Thomas missed a shot and Jasmine grabbed the rebound.

With the shot clock running down, Jasmine drove right, elevated and somehow stuck a runner that made it 63-60. On the next play, with Cameron at a near-deafening volume, Gray came up with a steal and layup that suddenly gave Duke a 5-point cushion with 51 seconds to go. Maryland and Duke traded foul shots to make it 67-62 with 42 seconds left. Gray came up with another steal, passed it to Jasmine and got it back to make it 69-62. Maryland hit 2 more freebies and Karima missed a foul shot, but Gray came up with a third steal to seal the win.

Jas was amazing in the second half with 14 points, but Liston & Christmas had 7 points apiece in the period. Duke outrebounded the Terps by 5 to win the overall rebound battle and had significant edges in in points off turnovers (+6) and second-chance points (10-4), which proved to be the key stat of the game. In a game where Duke shot under 40% and committed 16 turnovers, defense & rebounding once again won the day. Of course, the bottom line is that it's just one ACC game of many, and despite a week off, the Devils have to go on the road and play another ranked opponent. This will be the first such contest for Duke (a ranked road opponent), so we'll see how Duke copes if their opponents go on a scoring run and have a roaring crowd behind them.

Duke Takes Down Maryland, 71-64
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Duke Takes Down Maryland, 71-64
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