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Duke Starters Outlast Louisville, 66-58
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Duke Starters Outlast Louisville, 66-58
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Duke Starters Outlast Louisville, 66-58
By Rob Clough
February 2, 2015


Analysis and Stats (JS)



In memory of Jim Sabiston

Why Duke Won: They owned the paint against a team that loves to control rebounds and paint points, and prevented them from running (just 4 fast break points). More to the point, size beat speed and Duke won the overall tempo battle. Getting balance on the offensive end (all five starters were in double figures) was also crucial.

Why Louisville Lost: They had too many dead scoring stretches and didn't press Duke nearly enough. While the Devils had 22 turnovers, they could have easily had more if the Cardinals had taken a risk and started pressing earlier. That made Duke's advantage on the inside all the more devastating, as Louisville simply didn't have much to counter it until they started hitting some threes late in the game.

The Game Turned When...: The Devils went on a 12-0 run early in the second half, turning a five point lead into a 17 point bulge. The Cardinals went on to shave ten points off that lead at various points, but it was too little, too late.

X-Factor: Amber Henson. With three other Duke bigs in foul trouble, she returned from injury problems to make two crucial passes to Stevens, grab key rebounds and play tremendous shot-blocking defense. She made a big impact on this game without scoring a single point.

Areas For Improvement: Duke missed a lot of free throws, turned the ball over against pressure and gave up 18 offensive rebounds. Their scoring drought in the first half can be attributed in part to having some key players on the bench with foul trouble, but the bench needed to do much more than it gave, other than Henson.

Ramifications: The Devils are now firmly in the ACC's top four, as they now hold the tiebreaker over Louisville with both teams at 7-2. This is a confidence-building win, as Duke held a number of advantages on paper but they were able to finish against a high-ranking opponent in a way they didn't in several other games.

Do Not Want: In this game's preview, I listed "Louisville staying close on the boards" as the thing Duke Did Not Want the most. The result: Duke was +8 on the boards and held edges in second chance points.

Duke Starters (from post to point)

Elizabeth Williams

 
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Liz had 11 points, but that was beside the point. She guarded the basket like her life depended on it, swatting anything that came near her and taking two charges along the way. Duke badly missed her presence when she was in foul trouble in the first half, but a fresh Williams attacked the basket with a vengeance in the second half, knocking aside defenders along the way. When KJ threw her a touchdown pass late in the game, Liz managed to finish a gliding left-handed layup. She did miss several close shots that should have been three-point plays and also missed five foul shots. Still, her defense was remarkable, as she was clearly hungry to go up against a good opponent.


Oderah Chidom

 
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While Oderah is good for a couple of inexplicable turnovers in every game, she also adds incredibly smart passing and deft ball-handling to the equation. In her case, she must be allowed to make those mistakes, because the return yielded by the team can be remarkable. She finishes at the hoop, can attack the basket off the dribble, and make incredible post passes. She's a fierce if slender defender, which often results in her getting called for fouls at this point in her career. She has to start to let some of those shots go and live to fight another day, because Duke needs her on the floor to facilitate its scoring, especially without a true point guard.


AzurŠ Stevens

 
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AzurŠ bewildered the Cardinals with her ability to rebound, move without the basketball and use both timing and agility to score. Her pair of reverse layups in the first half were things of beauty, but her dishes to Johnson for a trio of baskets were almost as pretty. She was quieter in the second half, but she had a key stickback to push Duke's lead up to 12 with under five minutes to go. She was also 3-4 from the foul line down the stretch. When Duke was missing the rest of its front line, she accepted the challenge and took on the mantle of aggressive scorer. She was frequently shaky with the ball (at 6-5, her dribble is understandably high at times), but that's worth it considering what she can do going off the dribble.


Rebecca Greenwell

 
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After a slow first half, Greenwell got hot early and helped boost Duke's lead. The trey she hit with eight minutes to go was a gut-punch shot, and she followed that up with a pass to Johnson for three. She had a few heat-check attempts that didn't land, and I would have preferred that she tried to work the ball inside on a couple of those attempts. Errant Duke jump shots allowed Louisville to crawl back into the game as the Devils took threes instead of pounding it in the paint. That was due in part to Louisville going zone, but Duke needs to continue to be patient with the ball even when in a zone instead of looking for a chucker.


Ka'lia Johnson

 
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In order for Duke to beat elite teams, KJ has to play well. She simply cannot be a liability out there. What playing well looks like for her is shooting a limited number of shots at a high percentage. It means avoiding all but the most open of mid-range jump shots, and it means taking threes off the pass, not off the bounce. It means taking care of the ball and playing great defense. She did all of these things against Louisville, as she hit a trio of treys and another short jumper. KJ stayed out of foul trouble, moved the ball around and limited her turnovers. It wasn't a superstar performance but rather just a solid one, and that's all Duke really needs.



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Off the Duke Bench (in order of entry)

Kendall Cooper

 
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Kendall had near-immediate foul trouble, but she rebounded well in limited minutes, was a physical presence in terms of swatting at the ball and had a key pass to Greenwell for a three in the second half. It would have been nice if she had been able to score the way she had against Pitt, however; she really needs to become a more consistent presence.


Mercedes Riggs

 
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Not one of Mercedes' better games, but this was a game where I knew the speed of the opponent would make things very difficult for her. She was a bit jittery in terms of her play as a result.


Amber Henson

 
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Without hitting a single shot, Amber was a key player for the Devils. While she didn't score, her presence helped stretch the floor a bit. Her smart passing led to a couple of baskets for Stevens. Her shot-blocking and rebounding were both tremendous, as she went toe-to-toe with a physical opponent and did not flinch.


Erin Mathias

 
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Erin made the briefest of first half cameos and didn't return.




Duke Starters Outlast Louisville, 66-58
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Duke Starters Outlast Louisville, 66-58
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