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Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
Player by Player
Duke Mauls Pitt Panthers, 93-55
The Nutshell
Previewing Duke at Pittsburgh
By Rob Clough
November 22, 2010

Big East Foe Starts Duke's Four Game Road Trip

University of Pittsburgh -- Wednesday, November 24, 7:00 PM, Petersen Events Center

2010 Snapshot: 16-15, 5-11 Big East, WNIT First Round

Last Meeting: 12/8/07 (Maggie Dixon Classic, Madison Square Garden, NYC) Duke Nips Pitt, 51-49.

Current Records: Duke 4-0; Pitt 2-1

DWHoops File Photo by Orin Day
Pitt Head Coach Agnus Berenato.
Pitt Head Coach Agnus Berenato.

Significant Losses: The Panthers lost center Pepper Wilson to transfer, after she averaged 7 ppg and 4 rpg last year. Also departing is sibilantly-named guard Sophronia Sallard, who averaged 6 ppg and 3 rpg in twelve games for the Panthers.

Who's Coming Back: Pitt returns five seniors, four of whom started at least 20 games. Leading the way is wing Taneisha Harrison, who averaged 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg and 33% shooting from long range. The other returning leading scorer is guard Jania Sims, who put up 13 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4 apg and 40% from three. The team's third double-digit scorer is Shayla Scott, a 6-1 forward who averaged 10 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg and 30% from three. In the post is 6-3 Chelsea Cole, who posted 9 ppg, 11 rpg and 1 bpg. Stepping into the other guard slot is Brittaney Thomas, who last year averaged 9 ppg, 2 rpg and 29% shooting from three.

The Skinny: Pitt had a down year after a good run in the Big East, but they present an experienced group that will have no fear of Duke after going through their brutal conference wars. Pitt played NCAA teams like Georgetown tough at home last season in addition to being tossed around by the likes of UConn, so they're no strangers to high-level basketball. As a team, their biggest strength is balance. All five starters can score, and the four guard/wings can all shoot the three. Sims is probably the most dangerous player on the team because of her role as a playmaker and ability to get to the foul line. However, she averaged 4 turnovers a game last year to go with her 4 assists; Duke will need to pressure her.

Pitt's Chelsea Cole blocks Chante Black in the closing seconds of Duke's 2007 victory over the Panthers. Joy Cheek stuck back the rebound to win the game.
Cole is an elite offensive rebounder, grabbing 4 of them a game. She's not one to generate her own offense, but a key for Duke will be blocking her out without fouling her. Cole was a presence against Duke three years ago, the last time the Devils played Pitt. That was in the Maggie Dixon Classic held in Madison Square Garden, a game where Duke won thanks to a Joy Cheek tip-in, 51-49. Cole can certainly block shots, so players like Kathleen Scheer and Krystal Thomas have to come strong at her. Karima Christmas is a player who could also have a significant role against her in terms of getting her in foul trouble. Cole's backup is 6-5 redshirt frosh Leeza Burdgess, a player who's very much a work in progress. If Duke can get Cole out of the game early, they will cruise.

For that matter, Pitt's starting five fouled out a combined 11 times last year. Opponents got to the foul line more often than did the Panthers, collected more steals and accumulated fewer turnovers. Pitt is balanced and has a number of scoring threats, but they weren't a great long range shooting team last year, averaging just 32.5% from downtown. Harrison is most definitely a chucker who will pass the ball, but the Devils need to be aware that she will shoot from three at least five times against them. As a result, they will have to keep a close eye on her at all times.

Thomas has been Pitt's best player so far this year as they've knocked off Youngstown State & Radford but fell to Minnesota on the road. Thomas is averaging 17 ppg and had 24 in the loss to the Gophers. Harrison's actually fourth in scoring at 11 ppg (and just 31% from three), while Scott is also struggling from three at 20%. Four of Pitt's starters got into foul trouble against Minnesota, forcing coach Agnus Berenato (always a colorful favorite from her Georgia Tech days) to dip into her bench a bit more than she would have liked. The first guard off the bench will be Ashlee Anderson, who played pretty well in the win over Radford.

This is a game where Duke needs to be patient. I expect a decent-sized crowd to show up and support their team, and the Devils have to weather whatever Pitt throws at them in the early going. Duke has been going for home-run passes and devastating scoring runs the past couple of games, and that's sometimes led to confidence-boosting runs for opponents instead. Duke needs to apply pressure on the Panthers by getting to the line early and often. Any foul trouble for Pitt will mean retreating into a more passive zone to protect its players. Duke will need to be patient when that happens and resist the urge to fire away off the dribble. Instead, Duke needs to find the holes in the zone and make smart passes to open shooters who have spotted up. Making that extra pass in this game will be crucial against a veteran bunch playing at home.

Even if Duke falls behind early, they simply have to use its depth, keep pressuring the ball intelligently, make clever use of its matchup zone against a team that isn't great at shooting and above all else, concentrate on rebounding. This is yet another game against a solid WNIT team from last year that's looking to move up into the NCAA tournament this year and has a realistic chance of doing so. Duke has much more raw talent and depth, and the youngsters simply need to follow the cues their leaders set.

  • Cole owning the offensive boards.

Blue Devils Topple Hilltoppers, 82-55
Player by Player
Duke Mauls Pitt Panthers, 93-55
The Nutshell

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