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Duke Escapes USC (Again), 78-72
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Devils In Detail - December 2009
Previewing Duke at Stanford
By Rob Clough
December 14, 2009

Duke Heads to Palo Alto to Face the #2 Cardinal

Stanford - Tuesday 12/15 @ 10 PM - Maples Pavilion

Last Year: 33-5 (PAC-10 Champions, NCAA Final Four)
Current Record: 7-0

Significant Losses: The only important player gone from last year's squad is guard Jillian Harmon, a starter in 36 games. She averaged 10 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3 apg, sharing point guard duties when JJ Hones went down with an injury.

Who's Coming Back: The Cardinal will bring back three players who started all 38 games and four others who started at least one game. They are led by the all-around greatness of 6-4 center Jayne Appel, who averaged 16 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg and 2 bpg. Duke couldn't handle her last year as she went for 16 and 10--and could have had more points if she hadn't gone 4-12 from the foul line. Next to her at forward is 6-5 Kayla Pedersen. She struggled against Duke in their last meeting (4 points on 2-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 fouls and 5 turnovers), but on the season averaged 11 ppg, 8 rpg and 2 apg, sinking 34% of her three point shots. 6-2 mega-athlete Nneka Ogwumike (a former top priority in Duke recruiting) was up and down as a frosh but still averaged 11 ppg and 6 rpg, all while shooting 63% from the field.

The backcourt will feature breakout star Jeanette Pohlen (11 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 37% 3FG), who stepped up in a big way last year when Stanford lost Hones. She burned Duke for 14 points (4-8 from three) last year, the only Stanford guard who was able to do anything against the Devils. Hones averaged 10.5 ppg and 3 apg in the two games she played in prior to her season-ending injury. Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was a defensive specialist who put up 4 ppg, 2 rpg and 2 apg. 6-5 center Sarah Boothe got some minutes off the bench, putting up 5 ppg and 3 rpg. Lindy La Rocque (3.5 ppg) and Melanie Murphy (2 ppg, 2 apg) filled in at the guard spots.

The Skinny: There are all sorts of factors to consider in this game, but there's one element you can boil it down to: rebounding. The Cardinal outrebounded opponents last year by 13 boards a game, and they're at a frightening +18 this season. It's no coincidence that Duke was able to tough out a win last year because they narrowly won that battle. To win this game, they'll need to do exactly the same thing.

The Cardinal so far have beaten solid programs in Old Dominion, Rutgers (both on the road), Utah and Gonzaga. None of these games were close. Pedersen is really on a rampage so far, averaging 20.5 ppg and 9 rpg (plus shooting 44% from three). Ogwumike has blossomed as a soph, putting up 19.5 ppg and 9 rpg. Appel is chugging along at 14 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 2 bpg. This is, without question, the most imposing frontline in America. Assuming the WNBA still exists when they graduate, they will all be first-round choices.

Pohlen and Hones are doing solid work at guard. Pohlen is shooting a ridiculous 47% from three as she's averaged 12 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg and 2 spg. Hones is putting up 9 ppg, 2 rpg, 4 apg and "only" 38% shooting from long range. Stanford hasn't received a lot of production beyond their starting five. Gold-Onwude, La Rocque and Murphy continue to fill in at guard, while Michelle Harrison has played a few backup minutes in the post. Star frosh Joslyn Tinkle has a bruised foot and missed several games.

Stanford gets by on sheer size, mobility and skill. This is not a physical team, which works to their advantage as their starting five has not had any significant foul trouble this year. They aren't going to do anything stupid on defense to help out their opponents. Instead, they will use their size to alter shots, block out and get rebounds. If Duke is to win, they'll have to find ways to go right to the hoop. If Stanford uses zone (which coach Tara VanDerveer rarely does), Duke will be hard pressed to penetrate the lane against their trees.

The Cardinal rarely lose at home, and they will certainly be motivated to beat Duke. Duke has a clear edge in backcourt quickness and they will need to exploit that. In other words, Duke will need 20+ points from Jasmine Thomas once again, and they must be efficient points. Karima Christmas has to use her power to go by Pohlen and get their posts in foul trouble. Shay Selby could do some damage if her shot is on. Beyond that, the Devils will need to keep up unrelenting pressure on the ball. I'm not talking about a full court press--Stanford shredded that last year--but tough man-to-man where Duke's guards are constantly attacking the dribbles of Pohlen & Hones in an effort to turn them over. Trapping Hones or any of their guard subs would be fine, but the 6-0 Pohlen would have no trouble seeing over double-teams.

Two key defensive matchups will be Joy Cheek vs Ogwumike and Bridgette Mitchell vs Pedersen. Joy only gives up an inch to Ogwumike and has to use her size to force her out of rebounding position. Mitchell gives up 3 inches to Pedersen and needs to use her quickness to force Pedersen into taking contested jumpers. Look for Allison Vernerey to quickly get thrown into the mix; this will be one of her toughest challenges of the season. If she can help Krystal Thomas battle Appel to a relative standstill (much like Jantel Lavender in the Ohio State game), then I like Duke's chances. If Appel dominates and their shooters get any good looks, Duke will lose by double digits.

  • The Cardinal outrebounding
    Duke by double digits

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Duke Escapes USC (Again), 78-72
Photo Gallery
Devils In Detail - December 2009

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