2008 WNBA Wrap Up
Armistice Day 2008
Photos of this Game
Duke unleashed a savage beating on Division II Anderson University, using a full court press for most of the game to force a jaw-dropping 50 turnovers. Coach McCallie noted after the game that Duke wasn't really concentrating on the opponent, but instead was trying to work on its own aggressiveness and pressure. Anderson was actually quite good last year, finishing 28-4 and making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Of course, that team was led by former FSU reserve center Nikki Anthony, who put up monster numbers. She and two other key players were gone from that team, which played its first game for first-time head coach Jim Brunelli.
Things actually got off to an auspicious start for the Lady Trojans, breaking out to an early 8-2 lead over Duke. They broke Duke's press early on for an easy score and got two wide open looks from three. The Devils had an early turnover and missed some jumpshots before Abby Waner scored 7 straight points. She started with a mid-range jumper after grabbing an offensive rebound, and that seemed to get her into the flow of the game rather nicely. In under three minutes, Duke ripped off a 12-0 run with 5 steals. Chante Black got into the act with a nice finish on a lead pass from Waner and a slick up-and-under. The run was capped off with Waner draining a long three off an inbounds play. Anderson cut the lead to 17-11 seven minutes into the game on another three. Duke had a defensive breakdown and left a shooter wide open, but that wouldn't happen again for quite some time. In fact, Anderson wouldn't score again for the next fifteen minutes of game time as Duke unleashed a staggering 42-0 run.
Duke kept up its intensity for the first few minutes of the second half to finish off that run, as the starting lineup of Black, Waner, Joy Cheek, Carrem Gay and Jasmine Thomas were really clicking. There were really all on the same page with each other and anticipating steals and cuts. After that initial second-half burst, Duke's attention to detail on defense and on the boards began to wane a big, as Anderson started to attack the offensive boards and some open looks at the basket. As Duke built its lead and continued to attack, one could see Anderson's players just trying to get the whole thing over with. They were outmatched and facing a level of speed they had not dealt with before.
The best thing about this game for Duke is that they were able to use a lot of
different combinations and line-ups. In particular, the freshmen were given
the opportunity to spend time with the upperclassmen, which benefited Chelsea
Hopkins in particular. We got to see Waner run a bit of point, the jumbo
lineup with Black and Krystal Thomas playing together, Shay Selby playing with
Jasmine Thomas and other variations. Every player but Bridgette Mitchell
played at least ten minutes, while no player was in the game longer than 24
minutes. Duke shot well, with five different players hitting threes and four
players winding up in double figures. The game was not especially
well-attended (just over a thousand people), but I imagine that will pick up a
bit for next Friday's season opener against Oklahoma State.
Player by Player Analysis
Black: Typical lunchbucket game for Chante, who did add a little spice to the proceedings when she almost dunked a stickback rebound. She certainly leaped up and grabbed the rim with one hand. Chante's ballhandling and overall patience is much improved, as she took one opponent off the dribble and was quite willing to employ countermoves. Black's touch around the basket has become much more sensitive as her career has progressed, finishing tip-ins, avoiding fouls and finding all sorts of clever ways to score. She was up against a 6-4 opponent in Kirsten Peterson and spun her silly with her low-post moves. Chante's jumper wasn't falling in this game, but she more than made up for that. It was good to see her pass out of double teams and pick up 3 assists, as well.
Cheek: After a quiet first half, exploded with 11 second-half points. She hit a three, got a steal and drained a jumper, posted up and hit a baseline jumper on an inbounds pass. While very active on defense, forcing several steals, Joy didn't make her presence felt on the boards, grabbing just 1. Given the relatively close rebounding margin for Duke, I would have liked to have seen Cheek assert herself a bit more vehmently at that end, even if she did wind up in foul trouble. All told, a solid showing. Cheek was experimenting with playing wing more in this game, trying to take opponents off the dribble rather than simply post up or spot up.
Gay: Carrem was quiet on offense, scoring on a short pull-up jumper and spin move. She focused on defense (forcing a jump ball), rebounding and covering a lot of space on the floor. Essentially, Gay didn't assert herself much on offense and as a result didn't get many shots. It would be nice to see her handle the ball just a bit more so she can start thinking about attacking the basket off the dribble.
Waner: Abby's shot was falling early and often in this game as she led Duke back from an early deficit with 10 of its first 17 points, and followed that up in the second half with 7 quick points to continue to set a tone. She set up Black and Jasmine Thomas with some pinpoint passing, roamed the passing lanes for steals and even stuck her nose in to get some rebounds. Waner was a bit careless with the ball at times, throwing several passes out of bounds, but in general her effort level was rewarded with shots that dropped. There was an early square when she winced in pain and limped off the court, but she was back out there a few minutes later with no noticeable pain or restriction of movement. Overall, Abby was playing with a lot of passion, crashing into the sidelines area twice in the early going as she was pursuing loose balls.
J. Thomas: Jasmine had trouble shooting and finishing some shots, but otherwise played a fantastic game at point. She made it her imperative to get the ball inside early and often, feeding Black & K.Thomas for a number of scores. Defensively, she prowled the passing lanes all night and came up with an impressive 7 steals. Her on-ball defense was not quite as intense as Gay's, Jackson's or Hopkins', but it was still solid. The main problem with her shooting is balance. She's frequently off balance when she shoots and is still working on shortening her release time without affecting her shot. There's no question that she's shown a lot of growth over the summer and that she's ready to become one of the team leaders. If her shot mechanics can get a bit smoother, she could become a great player.
Jackson: KJ didn't play a ton of minutes in this game, but there was one play that was quite encouraging: pulling up from the corner and smoothly draining a three. What was remarkable was not that she hit the shot, but how totally confident she looked in taking that shot. If that confidence can carry over to the season itself, then Duke will be much harder to zone. That perimeter game is exactly what KJ needs to become a well-rounded players, especially given her strengths as a defender. Hitting the occasional jumper will open up her off-the-dribble game as well; she often has to force shots in traffic.
Christmas: Karima's aggressiveness is off the charts, but she's not quite there yet with regard to her shooting. Her form is getting better, but she wasn't able to sink a single jumpshot. Both of her baskets came off the dribble on fairly easy finishes, though one of those scores came after an impressive steal. To her credit, her form at the foul line is greatly improved and she smoothly sank both attempts in this game. Christmas' strength made her a nightmare to deal with, and her speed give her a tremendous edge as well. It was interesting seeing her play power forward, especially since she had no problem muscling out whoever was thrown at her.
K. Thomas: Krystal looked a bit rusty and mechanical in the early going but loosened up and got comfortable as the game proceeded. That comfort was in large part generated by the chemistry she's developed with Jasmine Thomas, finishing 4 times on plays set up by Jasmine. That included a jump hook, an up and under, an alert inbounds play and a leaping catch of a pass in transition. That latter play signaled that Krystal is getting closer and closer to the kind of athleticism and speed she possessed before her injury. Thomas has the potential to be one of the best backup centers in the ACC this season, and I'll be curious to see what kind of impact she can have against good opponents.
Selby: Some freshmen are tentative on the floor and have trouble asserting themselves at both ends. This is not the case for Selby, who is all-out aggressiveness personified from the moment she walks out on the court. In her case, it will be a matter of refining her game a bit to get it to mesh a bit better with her teammates. Selby loves attacking the basket and has a lot of flair in her game. She likes attacking the basket at crazy angles, flipping the ball up toward the hoop when she draws contact, and attacking passing lanes. The form on her jump is unorthodox, to say the least. Rather than releasing her shot in a fluid downward motion, she brings her left elbow all the way across her body. The result is some strange form that leads to some bad misses, especially from the wing. She did get a friendly bounce on a long three and later had a steal and layup, as well as sinking a couple of free throws. Selby's 3 turnovers came on trying to make plays happen but forcing passes. There is tremendous potential here to be a scoring force off the bench, but like almost all talented freshmen making the jump to the ACC, she'll have to refine elements of her approach to become more efficient.
Mitchell: Bridgette struggled when she was out on the wing, bricking a couple of jumpers. When she operated closer to the basket, she ripped down a couple of rebounds, blocked a shot and had a slick assist on a drive to Waner. Given Duke's glut at wing, it's going to be tough for her to get regular minutes, but I hope Duke can find some way to employ her remarkable ability as a rebounder.
Hopkins: This game highlighted Chelsea's strengths as a player, especially when given a chance to work with more experienced players and turned loose full court. She is extremely aggressive on defense, ripping one ball out of her opponent's hands and weaving her way through traffic for a score. Hopkins had a nice assist to Scheer, finding her cutting to the basket. She also led a break and found Christmas for the finish. Offensively, Chelsea is still most comfortable attacking the basket rather than facing up for a jumper, and she was able to make that work against Anderson. How many minutes she winds up playing this year will depend on how quickly she can prove she can hit the open jumper when forced to. Regardless, Hopkins is a player you want on the floor when pressing an opponent, given her speed, nose for the ball and aggressiveness.
Scheer: Kathleen was last off the bench, entering the game for the last sequence of the first half. She mostly played in the post and did a nice job of denying passes inside against players with some decent size, picking up a couple of steals. She scored once on a nice cut, moving well without the ball. Scheer also spotted up from the corner late in the game, using that nice form on her jumper to drain a three.
2008 WNBA Wrap Up
Armistice Day 2008