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Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
The Nutshell
Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
Player by Player
Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
By Rob Clough
January 23, 2011


Game Recap

In what was truly a "that's why they play the game" scenario, NC State outworked Duke for thirty minutes, playing in a free and easy manner on offense and with a tenacity on defense that confounded the Devils. In my preview, I noted that if State's scorers get hot, then the game could be very close. It certainly was, but not in the manner that I was expecting. In particular, it was State's frosh who were killing Duke, getting a combined 26 points and 20 rebounds (and outplaying most of Duke's frosh). Duke held State's Amber White & Bonae Holston to a combined 8-22 from the floor during the game. Marissa Kastanek had 14 points, but had 12 in the first half and just 2 field goal attempts in the second half. When State's younger players started to wear down, Duke's press tore them apart.

Still, this was a miraculous escape for Duke. The Devils were down by 20 points a minute into the second half, and by 18 points with under eleven minutes to go. Not since UConn led Duke by 20 in Hartford in 2004 has Duke come back to win from such a deficit--and that was a first-half lead! Coach McCallie said that her team missed some easy shots early in the game and it seemed to rattle her players, which made them tentative and sloppy on defense. The Devils' lack of focus spread to the foul line, where they shot just 12-23 from the line--and 4-12 in the second half! Their comeback might have been completed much quicker if they had hit some of those shots.

Both teams had a lot of misses in the first four minutes of the game. Duke was on top 4-2 thanks to a 15' jumper by Jasmine Thomas and a pass from Jaz to Krystal Thomas inside. When frosh Myisha Goodwin-Coleman splashed in a three, it triggered a 15-1 State run, one where State made 6 of 8 shots. State was scoring in the paint, they were penetrating and pitching to open shooters, they were getting to the foul line, and they were running against Duke. A couple of foul shots by Chelsea Gray made it 17-7, but Duke wouldn't get another field goal until the 6:56 mark, when Jasmine hit a short jumper. All told, Duke missed 16 of its first 18 shots and turned the ball over 6 times.

State frosh Kody Burke dropped in a rare three to push State's lead to 25-10. The Thomases combined for 3 foul shots to cut the lead to 12 with 5:49 left in the half. Those were the first consecutive scores Duke had since the very beginning of the half. After 3 straight points from NCSU, Tricia Liston found Chelsea Gray on a cut and Chelsea followed that up with a scoop shot on a drive to make it 28-17 with under four minutes left. Just when it seemed like Duke was going to get it under 10 before the half, Kastanek once again burned Duke on a drive. After Duke pulled within 31-19 on a Vernerey stickback, Kastanek got open in the corner and loaded up for another three point bomb that made it 34-19. Liston, who had lost Kastanek on that play, made up for it with a driving three point play with 1:55 left.

Duke gave up 6 straight points to the Pack to end the half, thanks mostly to silly fouls. Duke didn't block out Burke, who was fouled by Liston and hit 2 shots. State's Breezy Williams hit a fade-away jumper, and Burke hit 2 more after being fouled by Vernerey. With one second to go in the half, Gray fouled Brittany Strachan, but she missed both shots. That still left State with an 18 point lead and with some incredibly dominant stats: 7-2 in points off turnovers, 9-0 on fast breaks, 17-5 in bench scoring, +2 in rebounding (against a much bigger Duke team), and 52% shooting compared to 22% for Duke.

State pushed the lead to 20 on a Burke jumper with 19:15 left in the game. While their lead never grew larger, it didn't drop much below that until the eleven minute mark. What was different about this half was that Duke turned up their intensity right away. It didn't bear immediate fruit, but they were able to slowly wear down their opponent thanks to their substitutions. Players like Shay Selby (who started in the second half in place of Haley Peters) and Kathleen Scheer played with the leave-it-on-the-floor burning desire that you want to see in a bench player. Selby answered that Burke basket with a three in the corner. Amber White hit a shot, but Duke had a 5-0 spurt as K.Thomas had a foul shot, Selby stepped back for a 17' jumper and J.Thomas sunk a 15' baseline jumper. That made it 44-30 with 16:39 left. State answered with a couple of stickbacks, but Duke spaced the floor well as Scheer hit Vernerey inside from the high post. After a Scheer steal, Chloe Wells had her only bucket on a tricky drive.

Goodwin-Coleman drained a three to make it 51-34 with 12:05 left and Christmas hit a foul shot, but State followed that with 2 free throws. Scheer sank a turnaround jumper, but White threw a touchdown pass to Holston that narrowly escaped the grasp of a Duke player. With 10:50 to go, State matched their halftime lead once again, 55-37. Sometimes the defense helps the offense, like when a steal turns into a layup. In this game, however, the offense started to help the defense. Scoring not only tends to energize players and encourage them to play better defense, it also allows a team to set up a full court press and forces the other team to expend a lot of energy to break it.

That's what happened over the last ten minutes, as State started making tired plays on offense and defense. Their physical play, bumping cutters and penetrators, started to ebb a bit. Jasmine Thomas matched that Holston basket with a 10' jumper. Gray rebounded a State miss and went right up the gut, throwing up the ball as she was being fouled (and nearly horizontal). Somehow, it went in, even if she missed the free throw. A steal and basket by White pushed the lead to 16, but Jaz hit a foul shot and Selby stole the ball and threw a rocket of a pass to Scheer in transition. Holston hit a shot inside to make it 59-44 with 8:45. One could see State's players start to clench up with each passing minute, as they were desperately hoping time would run out before Duke could complete their run--even when still up by 15. Indeed, that basket would be State's last field goal of the game.

Selby stroked a long jumper and came up with a defensive rebound at the other end. Gray was open, so she simply nailed a long three to make it 59-49. Getting within 10 energized the team anew, but it looked like they were going to blow their chances to come back when the Thomases each missed the front end of a one-and-one. Duke's defense held fast as Christmas blocked a shot and Scheer hit a streaking Selby for a layup. Scheer stripped Goodwin-Coleman (who looked completely gassed) and Christmas set up behind a pick and sank an 18' jumper to make it 59-53 with 5:10. Amazingly, it was down to a two-possession game with lots of time left.

Holston was fouled and hit both shots, but K.Thomas stuck back a Selby miss and was fouled, hitting the capper. That made it 61-56 with 4:13 to go. Selby dug out another miss and found J.Thomas on the wing for a three that looked good from the moment it left her hand. It was the kind of cold-blooded shot Jaz is known for. That made it a 2-point game at 61-59. State turned the ball over and K.Thomas stuck back a missed three from Gray to tie the game up. The State coaching staff was screaming for a travel call, but to no avail on that possession. Burke hit 1 of 2 free throws, Gray got the ball to K.Thomas, and she shot over her shoulder to put Duke up 63-2 with 1:56 left. Duke got the ball back after a State turnover and Gray found K.Thomas again, but this time she was whistled for traveling. Kastanek was fouled by Krystal with 29 seconds left and she hit both shots to push State ahead by 1.

Gray had the ball, quickly observed the way State had set up on defense, and drove to the hoop for what would prove to be the game-winning basket. It was a shot not unlike the one that she hit to win her state high school championship. With 12 seconds left, State opted not to call a time-out. Harper explained that Duke had been giving her team so much trouble on inbounds plays and traps that if her team got the ball over center court, then she wanted to see if they could get to the basket. State couldn't do that, but they did set Kastanek up nicely for a three, but she missed. Holston rebounded, but she didn't know she had 3 seconds to gather herself and instead put up an off-balance shot that wound up in K.Thomas' arms as the clock wound down. Duke had pulled off their craziest win to date in a year filled with crazy wins.

Duke swamped State in every category in the second half: 18-12 points in the paint, 14-6 in points off turnovers, 8-5 in second-chance points and 17-8 in bench points. Duke shot 56% in the half, compared to 32% for State. J.Thomas led the team with 14 points, while Gray & K.Thomas had 13 apiece. But it was the energy and passion of Selby & Scheer that really sparked the team to victory. Combined, they had 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals and just 3 turnovers as they shot 6-12 from the field. Considering that Duke lacked passion and urgency for much of the game, the way they came off the bench to bring it and the way their teammates responded to their energy was a big positive for Duke. The Devils demonstrated what can happen when they don't bring focus and energy into a a game against any opponent: potential embarrassment, not just a loss. It's one thing to know that every opponent is gunning for you. It's another to take that knowledge and use it to demoralize your opponent with ruthless efficiency and boundless energy. This is what Duke did against Georgia Tech and Florida State, and what they did not do against Virginia Tech and NC State. Clemson, and only Clemson, must be on Duke's mind on Wednesday night; if Duke is thinking ahead to UConn, it could be another game where Duke has to work hard instead of working smart.

Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
The Nutshell
Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
Player by Player

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