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Thoughts On Cancun
 
Interview Notes on Cancun, OSU
Previewing Ohio State and Southern Cal
By Rob Clough
December 1, 2009

Homestand Against Quality Foes Will Test Blue Devils



#3 Ohio State - Thursday 12/3 @ 7 PM - Cameron Indoor Stadium
ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Last Year: 29-6, Big Ten Champions, NCAA Sweet Sixteen
Currently: 8-0

Significant Losses: The Buckeyes lost imposing second-leading scorer Star Allen (11 ppg, 8 rpg) and part-time starting guard Ashlee Trebilcock (7 ppg, 44% 3FG). Allen was a space-eater who helped open things up for Jantel Lavender, while Trebilcock was mostly just a scorer who filled in the blanks.

Who's Coming Back: The Buckeyes start things with 6-4 All-America center Jantel Lavender, a physical presence who is currently averaging 24 ppg and 9 rpg, a year after averaging 21 & 11. She's active, aggressive and has a soft scoring touch; she also shoots 76% from the foul line. She's the team's star, but the team's catalyst is whirling dervish PG Samantha Prahalis. Prahalis is averaging 14 ppg and an astounding 10 apg. Both stars are somewhat turnover prone (they combine for 5 a game), but their aggressiveness more than makes up for that. The Buckeyes start a pair of 6-0 forwards in Sarah Schulze and Brittany Johnson. Both average about 10 ppg and are shooting nearly 60% from the foul line. With Prahalis' improvement as a sophomore (she averaged 10 ppg and 6 apg as a frosh), that's lifted the games of Schulze and Johnson (who averaged 3 ppg and 7 ppg last season, respectively). 6-5 Andrea Walker serves as Lavender's backup and is solid in that capacity, averaging 4.5 ppg and 5 rpg. Shavelle Little is Prahalis' back-up, scoring 6 ppg.

The Skinny: Lavender and Prahalis are superstars, and Duke will need to find ways to contain both of them. The Devils have the size and bodies to throw at her. This game will be a big proving ground for Krystal Thomas. If she can hold her own on the boards and keep her out of the deep post as much as possible, then Duke will have a great chance to win. Vernerey will also have a chance to prove herself against a great opponent, giving OSU a different look. Early foul trouble for the posts could be a significant momentum swing.

Mitchell and Cheek match up well with Johnson and and Schulze; Joy in particular needs to exploit her matchup and draw fouls in the paint. The key matchup will be Keturah Jackson defending Prahalis. Prahalis' main weakness is that she's a mediocre shooter. Duke will need to turn her into a jump shooter and keep her out of the paint. In particular, the Devils will have to close out on Johnson and Schulze; if they're open, they will drain threes. The other OSU weapon to consider is frosh Tayler Hill (a one-time Duke recruit) who is averaging 9 ppg. She's not shooting all that well at the moment, but she has the potential to be a deadly scorer.

OSU has already beaten Cal and Oklahoma State without too much trouble, but Duke will be the first team they face that has any real size. So far this year, they're +10 on rebounds and go to the line 24 times a game. They only turn the ball over 13 times a game. This is a team that is efficient, has clearly defined roles and that makes few mistakes. To win, Duke will need to get them out of their comfort zone. The Devils are quicker and match their size and will need to exploit both factors. Look for Ohio State to clamp down in the post defensive and force Duke to hit jump shots (like all of Duke's other opponents). The difference is that OSU will be happy to leave Lavender alone to protect the rim while they send a chaser to shut down any open shots. It's a given that Jasmine Thomas needs to have a big game for Duke to win, but Karima Christmas and Shay Selby also have the potential to be difference-makers. We'll see if Duke is tough enough to beat the #3 team in the country.

   
  • Prahalis driving and dishing
 



Southern Cal - Sunday 12/7 @ 2 PM - Cameron Indoor Stadium

Last Year: 17-15
Currently: 3-3

Significant Losses: The Women of Troy lost three big contributors in lead guard Camille Lenoir (13 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg, 40% 3FG), forward Nadia Parker (11 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 31 blocks) and guard Brynn Cameron (8 ppg, 2 rpg, 35% 3FG). Cameron scored 16 points in last year's matchup against Duke. Mark Trakh and his coaching staff were dismissed at the end of last season.

Who's Coming Back: Guard Ashley Corral is leading the team in scoring at 15 ppg, with 5 rpg and 4 apg. She's shooting just 30% from three, however. She scored 16 points off the bench against Duke last year. Briana Gilbreath is a talented 6-1 wing who's putting up 11 ppg and 6 rpg; she had 11 and 6 against Duke. Forward Aarika Hughes is the team's leading rebounder at 6 rpg and is also scoring 10 ppg. Duke held her in check last year with only 4 points. 6-5 Kari LaPlante is averaging 6 ppg and 5 rpg; she came off the bench for 8 points in last year's matchup. Wing Heather Oliveris only averaging 5 ppg this season after scoring 9 ppg last year; she scorched Duke for 14 points. 6-2 guard Hailey Dunham gave Duke problems last year with 10 points; she's only averaging 4 ppg this year.

The Skinny: The Women of Troy have lost games to (now top 10) Xavier, Rutgers and Gonzaga, but managed to knock off two top 25 squads: Gail Goestenkors' Texas team, and Mississippi State. USC gave Duke all it wanted on the road last year, as Duke had to furiously rally to send the game to overtime and finally win. Duke's seniors carried the load that day, but the shooting of Shay Selby and Jasmine Thomas off the bench (they combined for 33 points) was the x-factor that allowed Duke to win. USC has struggled to shoot (32% from three), rebound (-5), and hang on to the ball (16 turnovers a game). That said, they have size at guard and wing, a new weapon in frosh Christina Marinacci (7 ppg) and the knowledge that they can hang with Duke.

Duke has advantages with size and J.Thomas' ability to attack. The key will be taking care of the ball. They turned the ball over 29 times last year and put USC at the foul line 28 times. If Duke simply takes care of the ball, patiently gets it into the post and attacks the boards, they should be able to win by double digits. One other thing to watch is the way USC moves the ball around, and if they're able to get open looks from three. If USC can get into a shooting rhythm, they will be difficult to stop because they have so many players who can score. USC can run and Duke should be careful when and how they press. Corral is only 5-9 and is already averaging 4 turnovers a game. Duke needs to show her a lot of different looks: full-court press, half-court traps, and ballhawks like Hopkins & Jackson pressuring the ball.

   
  • Corral getting open looks
 




Thoughts On Cancun
 
Interview Notes on Cancun, OSU

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