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Duke Survives Cuse Scare, 74-72
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Duke Survives Cuse Scare, 74-72
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Duke Survives Cuse Scare, 74-72
By DWHoops Staff
January 8, 2015

Analysis and Stats (JS)

In memory of Jim Sabiston

Why Duke Won: Getting 20 assists on its 26 field goals was the key to the win, as shooting a high percentage made up for getting outhustled and an inconsistent defensive effort--especially on the perimeter.

Why Syracuse Lost: Live by the three, die by the three. The Orange went all-in on perimeter shooting, and a lack of variety on offense led to long dry spells.

The Game Turned When...: Rebecca Greenwell got her own offensive rebound and got fouled, making both shots.

X-Factor: Mercedes Riggs. It's not an exaggeration to call this her best game at Duke. In a gave where he teammates turned the ball over 24 times (including a combined ten from seniors Williams and Johnson), Riggs coughed it up just once against heavy pressure in 16 minutes. She went after loose balls, generated steals, and hit some long-range bombs. This is the Riggs whom I saw in preseason, the gamer whose work ethic helped make up for a lack of size and quickness.

Areas For Improvement: Long rebounds are supposed to be corralled by perimeter players. Johnson had just 3 rebounds while none of the bigs ran out to chase them down. That helped result in 19 Orange offensive boards.

Ramifications: Despite everything, Duke is now 2-0 in the ACC while many excellent teams are 1-1 or worse. Indeed, a fine Syracuse team is now 0-2. The ACC this year will not be about dominant teams; instead, it will be about defending one's home floor and snatching away road victories.

Duke Starters (from post to point)

Elizabeth Williams


Liz continues to diversify her game. Instead of relying solely on her post-up game, she squard up and nailed a 15' jumper and had a steal and runout to open up her scoring. She later scored on post-up, a drive and kicked the ball out to Greenwell for a three. The Orange put an extra body on her at all times to keep her off the boards, a strategy that limited to Liz to just 4 hard-earned rebounds. She went harder inside early in the second half, scoring on a post-up, finishing a high-low and getting a stickback. However, foul trouble limited her effectiveness down the stretch, as did excellent individual defense by Briana Day. Liz didn't help her cause by forcing the issue too often, resulting in a missed layup, an offensive foul and a turnover. She was her usual stalwart self on defense, but the Orange definitely made her less effective than she needed to be.

Kendall Cooper


Kendall had some strong boards and nice passes outside to Stevens and inside to Williams. She's had a lot of trouble establishing herself on offense despite her size and agility; her one attempt in this game was not a strong one. She also threw a pass straight out of bounds at a critical juncture because she expected a teammate to be there. Overall, her defense isn't as strong as Chidom's, but her physical gifts make one hope that she'll truly have the lightbulb go off over head soon.

Azurá Stevens


Azurá was killing Syracuse early in the game, as her ability to shoot on the move shredded Syracuse's zone. She found all its soft spots and exploited them. Her size made her unguardable as a jump shooter. Stevens scored Duke's first ten points and then had an assist to Williams. Later, she turned an ankle and it greatly reduced her effectiveness the rest of the way. Hopefully, she'll be back to full strength when Duke plays FSU, because they'll need her.

Rebecca Greenwell


This was a heroic effort by Greenwell, who sloughed off her struggles from long range against a defense that was keying on her. She blasted four threes, including three in the first half. She had a steal and layup as well as scoring on a drive. Her heroics down the stretch included a steal and pass to Johnson for a score as well as the game's decisive free throws after she got her own rebound. While she had per pocket picked a few times and contributed to a ten-second backcourt call, it's clear that she continues to have more on her plate than any other player. She continues to answer the bell in game after game--either in terms of scoring or occupying the opposing defense.

Ka'lia Johnson


KJ seems like she's understanding her own limitations as a player. It was fine for her to take a couple of open attempts from three when he teammates fed her the ball. For the most part, she's now content to set up teammates rather than hunt pull-up jumpers. At some point during the game, she starts to probe the defense to look for openings off the dribble and makes things happen with the ball. She's also constantly moving, giving her the occasional hoop on a cut. She's also opportunistic, sometimes leaking out on the break (she scored twice that way) or trying to lead others the same way. She's also become an ace foul shooter in the clutch. Though Duke would prefer a star at point guard, the fact is that KJ is a very able role player, and she benefits the team by acting in that capacity.

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Off the Duke Bench (in order of entry)

Oderah Chidom


Oderah's game was a mix of sweet and sour: sweet finishes at the rim after remarkable displays of agility as well as deft passing inside, and sour turnovers and weak attempts near the rim. Chidom is just a player who needs to continue to gain experience, as she will hopefully iron out the gaffes in her game and continue to hone her sharpness and vision.

Amber Henson


Amber had a solid game, hitting a sweeping hook and finding Chidom for a score. Her biggest play was grabbing the final rebound of the game, which clinched the win. The difference between a win and loss is grabbing a single rebound; it was the case in the loss to South Carolina and it was the case here.

Mercedes Riggs


Mercedes showed that she belonged against a perimeter-oriented opponent that has All-ACC caliber guards. She hit open threes, took care of the ball, did a credible job defending the three and poked away some loose balls. Her all-out hustle was infectious.

Duke Survives Cuse Scare, 74-72
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Duke Survives Cuse Scare, 74-72
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