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Previewing Duke at Kentucky
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Kentucky Outlasts Duke, 71-61
By Rob Clough
December 20, 2015

Devils Cold From Three in Loss to #8 Wildcats

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RUPP ARENA -- Duke's 71-61 loss to #8 Kentucky was marked by the two teams adjusting to each other's style as well as foul trouble. In the end, Kentucky simply made the most of its opportunities and used its offensive capabilities to pressure Duke just as much as its ferocious defense. The Devils were held to just 37% shooting from the floor and 2-13 from three. What really killed the Devils was an inability to score when they were attacking the basket, because they had a number of chances to make it a one or two possession game in the fourth quarter, but they simply couldn't get it done.

To Kentucky's credit, they executed their game plan well. They wanted to establish Evelyn Akhator in the post, thinking that her quickness would match up well with Duke's quickness. They wanted to go inside-out instead of jacking up threes like they did against Duke last year. They wanted to force Duke into turnovers and use their speed at guard to get some easy transition baskets.

In establishing Akhator in the early going, it helped the Wildcats that Oderah Chidom picked up two quick fouls in the span of a minute. With Kendall Cooper being suspended from the team for the next semester and Amber Henson being similarly MIA, Duke's depth at post suddenly got a lot thinner. When Chidom got sent to the depth, Duke's jumbo alignment was immediately neutralized. Akhator scored 8 of Kentucky's first 10 points as the Wildcats blew out to an 8-3 lead. Duke came as close as one point in the second quarter and four points later in the game, but they were never able to get over the hump and take the lead.

The Devils pulled within 2 a couple of times, thanks to a banked-in trey by Kyra Lambert and a long jumper by Crystal Primm, but the Devils went through a drought that led to Kentucky going up 16-8. Every time it looked like the Wildcats were on the verge of squandering their lead, they hit a big shot, like a trey at the end of the first quarter that put them up 22-13.

After UK opened up the quarter with a basket to go up by double digits, the Devils fought back with a 7-0 run as Angela Salvadores scored on a driving three point play and then found Azura' Stevens for a score. A trey by Salvadores and stickback by Lynee' Belton made it 26-25 with six minutes to go in the half. However, the Wildcats went on a 12-3 run to re-establish a ten point lead as Duke went ice-cold once again. Only a last-second drive by Haley Gorecki kept the halftime score under ten points. The Wildcats shot 50% in the first half (compared to 39% for Duke), committed just six turnovers and were only -4 on the boards against a bigger team. That was especially important because the Wildcats suffered inside when Akhator went out with foul trouble.

Stevens sent Akhator to the bench with her third foul just a minute or so into the second half and hit 4 straight foul shots to bring Duke within 40-34. This was when the Cats started to find the range on their shots and star player Makayla Epps really made her presence felt. Kentucky went up nine but Stevens scored five straight points. Duke went through another drought as UK went on a 7-2 run. Primm kept Duke close by hitting some more jumpers, but Duke couldn't get the stops they needed, and fell behind by ten after three quarters.

Duke made another push in the fourth quarter as they were able to get some clean looks at the hoop. Chidom had back-to-back baskets to make it 57-52. Kentucky went up by nine with 6:38 left and neither team was able to score for nearly four minutes. Duke was taking panic shots instead of taking their time to get clean looks that they could finish. Kentucky couldn't stop Duke from getting the ball in the paint, but they bothered the Devils just enough to force a quick shot.

Primm had a stickback and scored on a drive to make it 65-58. Duke missed a layup with 1:24 left and Kentucky immediately converted in transition, a four point swing that gave UK a nine point lead and an impregnable lead. The Cats closed it out as the Devils couldn't come close to hitting any last-gasp threes. The Devils were able to stick around because of relentless offensive rebounding, but they simply couldn't execute on the opportunities they had.

Five Fast Observations About Duke-Kentucky

Presented in memory of Jim Sabiston
  1. Quick But Don't Hurry. Kentucky represented a greater level of quickness than either Texas A&M or South Carolina, especially since speed is built into their offensive attack. Duke's response, especially in the second half was to take shots just a bit off-balance and out of the flow of the offense. While Duke usually prefers to go up-tempo, they did so at Kentucky's behest and not their own, and it made a difference.

  2. Frosh Power. The foursome of Salvadores, Lambert, Primm and Gorecki combined for 33 of Duke's 71 points and 14 of its 38 rebounds. Considering that they were planning in a raucous (though nowhere near as loud as South Carolina) arena, it was an impressive showing. Primm in particular demonstrated remarkable poise in going up against a fantastic group of athletes, as she nailed jump shots and attacked the rim.

  3. Greenwell: Kentucky's Correct Choice.If you watched Rebecca Greenwell against Liberty, you saw a player who was not only a shotmaker, but also one who was the essential connective tissue of the team. By face-guarding her and making it hard for her to even breathe on the floor, they frustrated a player who wanted a good showing for her home state fans. Greenwell tried not to force things too much, but she rushed the few open shots that she did manage to get.

  4. Youth Not Served. While Duke was down a couple of players, they certainly had the talent to match up with Kentucky, just as they did with South Carolina and Texas A&M. They battled for long periods of the game and didn't give up when their opponent went on a run. Mentally, this team is stronger than some recent ones. That said, Duke keeps breaking down because good teams render the Devils into a group of individuals instead of a unit that knows that they can depend on each other and stay within their roles. Duke will break through when they win a game because of teamwork instead of just talent.

  5. Get More Physical. I don't think it's a coincidence that Duke has lost to the three most physical teams that they've played. Some players have responded better to that than others, but figuring out how to get physical without fouling will be crucial as the season proceeds. On the offensive end, the Devils simply need to find ways to score working through getting hit, and that's what was their ultimate undoing in Lexington -- despite a 38-28 advantage on the boards

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Previewing Duke at Kentucky
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