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#2 Duke Holds Off #3 DePaul, 70-63
The Nutshell
#2 Duke Holds Off #3 DePaul, 70-63
Player by Player

#2 Duke Holds Off #3 DePaul, 70-63
By Rob Clough
March 27, 2011


Game Recap

Duke's win over DePaul can best be described as workmanlike. They used their defense and rebounding to carve out a lead, get some rest for the starters, and then hold off a DePaul comeback at the end. Really, this game played out pretty much as I expected. The Blue Demons shot 43% from three but Duke got 7 more shots and 15 more free throws thanks to its rebounding and defense. Duke was +5 in both points off turnovers and second chance points. The Devils forced 19 turnovers and committed just 13. As I noted in my preview, DePaul star Keisha Hampton is extremely foul-prone and wound up fouling out in just 22 minutes of play, due in large part to the aggressive play of Karima Christmas. Down their best player (as well as key reserve Taylor Pikes, who was hurt in the win against Penn State), DePaul went through long stretches lacking serious firepower. That enabled Duke to survived a nearly eight minute offensive drought in the second half. The offensive boards that Christmas & Haley Peters collected wound up playing a big difference in this game, while Chelsea Gray's sensational play helped close the game out.

Duke was far from brilliant on offense but still had more assists than turnovers and really cleaned up at the foul line. Christmas in particular was a one-woman wrecking crew that DePaul had no answer for, as she went to the basket at will to score on drives and free throws. The fact that Duke won relatively easily despite getting nothing from its post players (a combined 1-7 from Allison Vernerey & Krystal Thomas), little from its bench (just 8 points 10 rebounds) and only shooting 1-10 from three is particularly remarkable. Duke didn't completely shut DePaul down, but they did hold them 11 points under their season average. What I liked best about Duke is that when J.Thomas, Christmas and Gray were on the floor together, they formed an attacking trio that was difficult to defend. DePaul clearly keyed in on Jaz and let Karima have open lanes, a mistake that was repeatedly exploited. Why they played Duke for the jumpshot instead of the drive is unclear, but Duke had no real difficulties in going baseline against their zone and simply driving right by opponents going straight to the rim. Duke dictated the terms of how this game would be played and never let DePaul change the script.

The Blue Demons actually held a lead for most of the first five minutes of the game as the two squads were taking each other's measure. During that stretch, it became clear that DePaul was going to give up the drive to Duke and would have trouble keeping them away from the offensive boards. Christmas got into attack mode from the very beginning, getting a stickback for a score and then grabbing a long rebound and zooming all the way down court for a fast break basket. Meanwhile, Gray and J.Thomas both scored off the dribble. At the other end, DePaul had some success getting the ball inside. I'm convinced that this is the main reason why coach McCallie never tried going small in order to combat DePaul's shooters; it was clear that she'd take her chances with long-range shooting rather than give up shots at the rim.

A three by DePaul sparkplug Sam Quigley gave her team a 14-12 lead, which would wind up being their last of the game. A 9-0 run by Duke at the thirteen minute mark gave them the working margin that they kept the rest of the way. The run was Rima-powered, as she scored on a feed from Shay Selby, passed the ball to Jaz for a three, and then muscled her way in for back-to-back drives. With 11:04 left in the half, the Devils suddenly had a 21-14 lead. DePaul's long-range shooting kept them in the game even though they couldn't stop Duke for a few minutes. Haley Peters had a stickback and Jaz found Allison Vernerey for her only basket of the game. A jumper by Richa Jackson made it 27-20, helping to negate a couple of treys by DePaul.

Chloe Wells came off the bench and found J.Thomas on a beautiful "up" going to the basket. DePaul got a basket from Hampton to cut it to 30-24, but Duke had another 9-0 run to seize control of the game. Jasmine scored on a short jumper thanks to another great pass from Wells to kick off the drive. Christmas came up with a steal and tossed it to Wells in transition. On the next play, Jasmine got whacked with an elbow, which happens to be an automatic intentional foul: two free throws and the ball. She hit both shots, but Duke didn't cash in on the extra possession. Christmas earned 3 points at the line as she kept going to the rim. DePaul broke up the run with a short jumper, but Wells found Gray for a short baseline jumper that made it 41-26. DePaul made it to the free throw line for the first time in the closing seconds of the half to cut the lead to 41-28. Wells got a great look from three that didn't drop, and Krystal Thomas was blocked trying to stick the ball back in. Though DePaul shot a solid 42% against Duke and drained 4 threes, they were -6 on the boards, let Duke shoot 46% and gave up 11 attempts at the foul line. Duke was +7 in points off turnovers and +8 in second-chance points. It was a wonderfully efficient half for the Blue Devils against an opponent that still played pretty well--but not well enough. Christmas and J.Thomas combined for 25 of Duke's 41 points.

The first eight minutes of the second half featured the sort of offensive drought that Duke followers have become accustomed to all season. The drought's origins had much to do with Christmas picking up her third foul at the 17:27 mark. With one of her main offensive sparks gone, McCallie opted to go big by bringing in Vernerey. The move backfired as Vernerey committed a turnover and missed 2 great looks at the basket. K.Thomas committed 2 turnovers during this stretch. The one positive is that Vernerey & K.Thomas made it impossible for DePaul to score in the paint; they closed within 43-39 because they got free for some threes.

Christmas returned at the 13:53 mark and got fouled a minute later, hitting both shots to spark a 6-0 run. Vernerey made a nice pass to Jackson and J.Thomas zipped a pass to Gray in transition to make it 49-39. The lead stayed between 7-10 points for the next five minutes as Jaz, Rima and Chelsea all scored to keep DePaul at bay. DePaul's Deirdre Naughton, formerly of Wake Forest scored after a Gray turnover to cut the lead to 57-49. This is when key breakdowns by Duke nearly let DePaul steal this game, and it came after their star Keisha Hampton had fouled out of the game. Christmas and Peters both missed the front ends of one-and-ones. Krystal Thomas missed two free throws after she was fouled going up. Instead of being up by 12, Duke let the Blue Demons stay close. Quigley made Duke pay with 2 free throws and then stole the ball from Gray. Naughton was fouled and hit both to make it 57-53 with 2:54 left.

Duke seems to live to play in close games, however. Jaz drove and was fouled, hitting both shots. An energized DePaul was now in rhythm, and post Felicia Chester scored over K.Thomas. Gray blew by the defense to score on a drive, making it 61-55 with 1:56 left. Naughton and J.Thomas exchanged baskets, leaving Duke with a 63-57 lead with 1:19 left. Duke got the ball back but Christmas couldn't connect after only eleven seconds had run off the shot clock. Naughton hit a three to make it 63-60 but Christmas came right back to get fouled at the rim. She hit 2 crucial free throws to make it 65-60. Duke inexplicably did not stop the ball and DePaul's China Threatt had a clear lane to the basket--but she blew the layup. Christmas was fouled once again and made 1 of 2 shots for a 6 point lead. Naughton hit another three, but Duke went to Gray on the inbounds, and The Closer calmly sank 4-4 from the line in the closing seconds of the game. Jasmine snuffed out an attempted three by Quigley with eleven seconds left, making the final margin 7 points.

Duke did a great job limiting Chester's touches (just 8 shots) and getting Hampton out of the game. They forced Quigley to become a shooter (just 3-11) instead of a distributor and made secondary players Anna Martin & Katherine Harry take more shots than they would ahve liked. To their credit, that duo was 8-12 from the floor. And of course, 6th-year senior Naughton (who is old enough to have played against Monique Currie) was amazing in defeat, nearly bringing her team back by herself. In all, I'd say Duke played about an average game compared to what they're capable of doing. They didn't shoot as well as they could have, missed some key free throws and allowed DePaul to shoot too well from three. The defense was solid but not stifling. Of course, another way to look at this game is that Duke was in full control against the #10 team in the country, one that had beaten Stanford by double digits, for almost the entire duration of the contest. But, if this was a "B" grade for Duke, then they'll need to bring "A+" against UConn.

#2 Duke Holds Off #3 DePaul, 70-63
The Nutshell
#2 Duke Holds Off #3 DePaul, 70-63
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