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Armistice Day 2009
 
Duke Blows Out Houston Baptist, 104-35
The Nutshell
Preview of Texas Road Trip
By Rob Clough
November 12, 2009

A Look at Duke's Season Opening Games at Houston Baptist and Texas A&M



@ Houston Baptist, Friday 11/13, 8:30 PM

Last Year: 8-21

Significant Losses: Seven players departed from last year's Husky squad, including the top four scorers. Posts Jelela Simpson and Megan Morris averaged 10 ppg and 6 rpg apiece, while ballhawking guard Fallon Thomas put up 8 ppg and shot 31% from three. Cindee Wright averaged 9 ppg and 5 rpg.

Who's Coming Back: Only three players who received any significant playing time last season return. That includes guard Raquel Jones, a volume shooter who averaged 8 ppg and shot 30% from three; 6-0 post Jamie Spriggs, who put up 7 ppg and grabbed 4 rpg; and guard Megan Green, a shooter who averaged 4 ppg at a 30% clip from three. I expect the Huskies to be primarily a perimeter team this year.

The Skinny: HBU struggled to stay competitive in the Great West Conference a year ago, losing to Oral Roberts by 40 points in just one example of being blown out by a low-level opponent. HBU is tiny, turns the ball over a lot and will be trying to integrate 10 new players in its season opener. Duke simply needs to be patient and not press just to press, instead relying on its normal defense for long stretches. The Devils should dominate the boards and get plenty of second opportunities, along with lots of great looks for their post players. If double-teamed, the players should remember to pass out or reposition instead of trying to force shots. All told, the Devils shouldn't pay attention to the score, but rather stay focused and intense for the duration of the game. With any luck, Duke should get lots of playing time for its younger players and try a variety of combinations and defenses.

  Offensive or defensive impatience.  



@ Texas A&M, Sunday 11/15, 3:00 PM

Last Year: 27-8, NCAA Sweet Sixteen

Significant Losses: Departing from the Aggies are leading scorer Takia Starks (16 ppg, 4 rpg) and leading rebounder Danielle Gant (14 ppg, 7 rpg), along with rebounding specialist La Toya Micheaux (3 ppg, 6 rpg). Those were the three remaining players who got significant playing time in A&M's beatdown of Duke two years ago in the NCAA tournament. Starks, much like her former NBA star uncle John, was a volume shooter who loved attacking the basket. Gant was versatile and made her living next to the basket, as did the athletic Micheaux.

Who's Coming Back: The team will rebuild around three starters from last season: wing Tanisha Smith (11 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg, 45% 3FG), point guard Sydney Colson (6.5 ppg, 3 apg) and forward Adaora Elonu (5 ppg, 3 rpg). Other significant returnees include wing Tyra White (5 ppg, 2 rpg), point guard Sydney Carter (yes, the Aggies have two point guards named Sydney--Carter averaged 4 ppg and 1.5 apg), and 6-2 forward Damitria Buchanan (2 ppg, 2 rpg).

The Skinny: The Aggies have been known for their tough, physical, grind-it-out style on offense and an aggressive defense that forced 22 turnovers a game last season. Colson and Smith are both dangerous defenders who will apply a lot of ball pressure and take care of the ball themselves. The Aggies will need to find more scoring, and I'm guessing that White will step in and take the attempts that Starks got. She'll need to improve on her 26% percentage from long range to make this an effective plan. Smith is a deadeye shooter whom Duke will need to zero in on immediately; look for the Devils to throw a number of different defenders at her, including Karima Christmas, Jasmine Thomas and Bridgette Mitchell. I don't expect Keturah Jackson to be available for this game, which is unfortunate because this would have been her primary assignment.

Texas A&M is a pretty small team this year. They have some newcomers with size (like 6-3 frosh Diamond Ashmore and 6-1 JuCo transfer Danielle Adams), but lost nearly half of their rebounding from a season ago. I expect A&M to regroup around an aggressive perimeter attack. Fortunately, Duke has the personnel to handle such an approach and superior size across the board. Look for Duke to try to pound it in and exploit size matchups as much as possible. Duke's overall imperative will be taking care of the ball. A&M will be looking to exploit Duke's turnover-prone nature of the past couple of years to get easy baskets. If the Devils can keep their turnovers to under 15 or so, Duke will likely win easily. That's because I expect them to have a huge edge on the boards, setting themselves up for stickbacks and fouls after shots. "Controlled aggression" needs to be the team's mantra as they attack the basket, go inside-out for threes and pound it in, all while avoiding lazy passes or falling into traps.

  Silly Duke turnovers, Smith getting open shots  




Armistice Day 2009
 
Duke Blows Out Houston Baptist, 104-35
The Nutshell

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