Why Duke Won: Even in the face of being down four players starting the game, the Devils had the tremendous luxury of having three intense, talented and mature juniors. They combined for 71 points, 33 rebounds, 14 assists and 11 steals.
Why Shaw Lost: Coming into Cameron with only two experienced & healthy players, missing your top returning scorer, and playing four back-ups in your starting line-up is a recipe for disaster. Shaw played hard and tried to stay in the moment, but Duke had too much of everything for them.
The Game Turned When...: Shaw had 5 turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. Duke turned that into a 10-0 advantage and never looked back.
X-Factor: Ka'lia Johnson. This is really her moment to carve out a role for herself, given the injuries to so many players. Coach McCallie noted that she has the potential to be Duke's defensive stopper. In this game, she was a relentless forced on the boards and on defense, constantly sticking her nose into the fray and coming up with plays. If she can become a better shooter and finisher, she could have a very interesting season.
Areas For Improvement: Duke got a little carried away with their aggressiveness at times, committing 19 fouls. Shaw had 13 free throw attempts but left a lot of points on the rim thanks to missing the front end of several one-and-ones. Jones and Moore were especially over-anxious in this regard, as Sierra managed to pick up three first-half fouls. This is a forgivable offense given that Duke was lackadaisical at times on Sunday, but it's a matter of discipline to know when to back off.
Ramifications: Duke goes back to practice pleased with its efforts, but there is still concern about Elizabeth Williams. Coach McCallie noted that she is still proceeding with her healing, but that shutting her down is the right thing to do so as to help accelerate this process and limit her pain.
Duke Starters (from post to point)
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Alli had a great first half with 12 points, finishing several breaks and finishing off some nice passes from Gray and Jones. Duke very consciously was looking to set up Vernerey in the low block in the early going, given that Duke took too many jump shots in the scrimmage on Sunday. She missed some chippies in the second half that were set up nicely and had her usual problems at the foul line, but her length gave Shaw a lot of problems, as her 4 blocks will attest. After letting a few balls slip through her hands, she steadied herself and finished with a double-double.
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Haley had a double-double by halftime and could have had even more than 10 rebounds at that point. Offensively, she scored in a variety of ways: face-up bank shot, pull-up jumper, fast break finish, stickback, three, cut and 2 free throws. She also moved the ball around well, finding Liston for a three. While she missed some shots that she often hits, it was impressive to see her fly around with so much energy for such a long time.
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Ka'lia once again struggled to hit a shot in the early going, despite doing so many other things well. Coach McCallie noted that when she get a rebound, she's sometimes off-balance, which can affect her subsequent shot. That manifests in the way she maddeningly brings the ball down and takes a dribble when she gets an o-board, allowing the defense to adjust when she tries to go back up. The result is a shot that's slightly awkward. If she simply went right back up after she got a board and sought out contact, she could live at the foul line. In the second half, that's just what she did. Getting a couple of steals + runouts helped get her into a groove, and she followed that up with going hard to the hoop and getting rewarded with a free throw attempt. She did a nice job of passing the ball throughout the game, both in terms of pushing tempo and getting it out to open players after she grabbed a board. There were a couple of times when she perhaps should have passed the ball back out instead of trying to go back to the hoop for an awkward attempt, but in general her aggressive and confident play has been a positive for the team. Now she needs to work on refining her energy and improving her efficiency.
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Tricia was magnificent. It was telling that she opened up her scoring with a stickback. She followed that up with back-to-back treys to give Duke a 16-0 lead. Shaw coach Jacques Curtis noted that they chose to double down in the post and just didn't bring help to close out on her in time, and Liston simply feasted on that decision for open shot after open shot. The way she scrapped after loose balls (she forced a jump ball), drove hard to the basket and kept her mistakes to a minimum was impressive. Liston played solid position defense and anticipated drives smartly, using her size to force her opponents to take bad shots.
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Chelsea was her usual brilliant self in this game, even as her effort level was maybe at a five. She used this game as a kind of laboratory to work on her game. Gray worked on her back-to-the-basket game, backing down her (usually shorter) opponent in the post, turning around and hitting a soft bank shot against the window. She also had a stickback, pulled up for short jumpers, nailed a three, and used a paralyzing head fake to score in transition. She broke off some astonishing passes, including a couple of behind-the-back dishes. Chelsea also took a charge and picked off multiple passes, actually ripping the ball out of her opponent's hands at one point.
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Off the Duke Bench (in order of entry)
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Alexis was a bit tentative at first, airballing a three attempt where she simply waited too long to take the shot. She was obviously concerned about making the right play so much on offense that it started to affect her defense. Instead of getting into a proper defensive stance with feet spread apart and arms extended, she was too often standing straight up. This allowed her opponent to drive right by her on several occasions. This is simply a matter of a young player needing to adjust what worked for her in high school; she may have been quick enough to get to opposing players back then, without good defensive form, but doing that in college will earn you time on the bench. Fortunately, this is a game that was about learning, so she was allowed to play through her mistakes and encouraged by her teammates to play hard on defense. Slowly but surely, she grew more and more comfortable. When she scored on a drive, one could see her look visibly relieved. She drained a three and got fouled toward the end of the first half, and that seemed to really energize her. In the second half, she started to get steals and and score at will, but also made sure to find teammates like Peters, Moore and Liston. Peters noted that Moore and Jones are good players and "just need to play", and this game was a step in the right direction.
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In Sierra's case, she didn't lack aggression or make a lot of mistakes. Her initial difficulty was that the game was moving too fast for her, resulting in her disappearing for stretches or thinking way too hard about her shot. Gray could sense this and made sure to get her the ball in the first half for an easy score. That paid off in the second half when Sierra filled the lane and finished in transition several times. Her confidence boosted, she scored on a drive and then pulled up for a 10' jumper. She continued to pile on points late in the second half. There's a smoothness to her game that's appealing, but she proved here that she's not afraid to attack the rim. She will definitely have to get stronger, however.
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Jenna was forced into early action thanks to foul trouble and played a solid chunk of time in the second half. She had an assist to Peters and kept firing away at the basket with little success. Finally, with under forty second to play, she inbounded the ball, had it passed right back to her by Moore, and drained a corner three, much to the delight of the crowd.