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Duke Plods Past Badgers, 59-51
Player Stats
 
Devils Top A&M (Jimmy V), 61-58
The Nutshell
Previewing Texas A&M at Duke (Jimmy V)
By Rob Clough
December 4, 2010

Devils Finally Home, Facing Top 10 Foe in Jimmy V Classic


Texas A&M -- Monday, December 6, 7:00 PM, Cameron Indoor Stadium (ESPN2)

2010 Snapshot: 26-8, 10-6 Big XII, Big XII Tournament Champion, NCAA 2nd Round

Last Meeting: 11/15/2009 (College Station) Aggies Harvest Devils, 95-77

Current Records: Duke 8-0, Texas A&M 6-0

Current Rankings: Duke #5, Texas A&M #7

Significant Losses: The Aggies lost only two players, but one of them is a big loss: do-it-all guard Tanisha Smith. Smith averaged 15 ppg, 3.5 apg, 5 rpg, 2 spg and 36% from three. Smith was the team's most versatile player, capable of spotting up for threes, getting to the foul line, pressuring the ball and getting assists. Also gone is shotblocker Damitria Adams (3 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 bpg), who shut down Duke's penetration last year with her defense.

Who's Coming Back: Duke will have to find a way to contend with 6-1 space-eater Danielle Adams. The gifted widebody averaged 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1 apg and 28% from three. This inside-outside player absolutely shredded Duke from long range last year, scoring 24 points. Also returning is guard Tyra White, who averaged 11 ppg, 4 rpg and 38% from three. At forward will be Adaora Elonu, who put up 9 ppg, 5 rpg and 1 spg. The Aggies featured two point guards named Sydney: Colson and Carter. Colson was instrumental in ripping Duke's press to pieces last year with 17 points and 10 assists; for the season, she averaged 7 ppg, 2 rpg, 4 apg and 38% 3FG. Carter averaged 8 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg, 1 spg and 35% shooting from long range. Two bit players who will be more relevant this season are forward Kelsey Assarian (3 ppg) and guard Maryann Baker (2 ppg).

The Skinny: Of all the programs that Duke has played at least three times, Texas A&M is the only one to be undefeated against the Devils. Even more distressing is the fact that all three of the losses have been by double digits. In recent years, Gary Blair's teams have been extremely physical but with an added element of grace and skill. The Aggies shot 57% in their win against Duke last year, one that saw Duke pull within 3 in the second half, only to see A&M drop in consecutive threes to stop Duke's run cold. The Devils had two chief problems in this game: their press was badly disorganized and helped lead to 20+ fast break points for A&M; their zone was not well connected and left the Aggies with a number of open shots from long range.

Meanwhile, the shorter Aggies packed it in inside, daring Duke to take quick shots. Duke complied, and even though they scored 77 points (with 26 by Jasmine Thomas), they were not efficient points. A&M's aggressiveness against Duke's press resulted in a few turnovers, but it proved to be worth the risk because they scored so many easy points of their own. Adams is a matchup nightmare: too quick for most centers and too strong for most power forwards. Adams may well choose to camp outside in this game to avoid getting blocked by Krystal Thomas, so it will be up to Haley Peters & Kathleen Scheer to keep a hand in her face and never lose her when the ball moves around. This is also a chance for Allison Vernerey to prove herself if Duke goes zone, because she's quick enough to move from the center-back of the zone to the corners if opponents swing the ball around.

The good news for Duke is that they now have a set of point guards that can match what A&M has to offer. Look for Chloe Wells to pressure the ball to pick up steals, Jasmine Thomas to be physical, Shay Selby to try to take them off the dribble and Chelsea Gray to shoot over them while trying to read what they're doing. Neither Colson nor Carter make many mistakes. Elonu is a solid utility player who quietly finishes passes and grabs rebounds. 6-5 frosh Karla Gilbert is being brought along slowly, but she will give A&M another dimension, especially the offensive end.

Texas A&M has as good a starting five as anyone in the country. To date, they've crushed all opposition, including neutral-court games against Arizona and Michigan. To win this game, Duke's going to have to make it a grinding, half-court affair. As much as Duke would love to run, this group isn't quite ready to keep up with Texas A&M. Duke will need to keep the ball moving efficiently and look to connect passes to shots as much as possible. If at least 50% (and ideally, 60%) of Duke's field goals come from assists, then Duke will likely win because it meant that Duke got the tempo it wanted. The Devils have to value the ball and rely mostly on tough man-to-man defense, mixing in zone only as an occasional alternative. Texas A&M is not shooting it all that well from long range (it's their devastating break that accounts for much of their 80 ppg). That's why slowing down the game and taking away A&M's secondary break in particular is so important for Duke.

The Devils have played a tougher schedule than the Aggies with five true road games to none for the Aggies. Duke has just won two ugly slog-fests on the road, which should also be a big help. While defense will be a key in this game, A&M can't be beaten by scoring in the 50s. Duke will need to score at least 70 points if they're going to win, and the ideal scenario would involve at least four players in double figures. A&M baited Jasmine Thomas into taking a lot of bad shots last year. This season, Duke needs Karima Christmas and Krystal Thomas to step up against the Aggies, as well as a couple of younger players. Duke will now be playing opponents where they no longer possess an advantage in sheer talent and depth. Efficiency and effort will be the key to Duke's success over the next couple of weeks.

   
  • Adams with a double-double.

 






Duke Plods Past Badgers, 59-51
Player Stats
 
Devils Top A&M (Jimmy V), 61-58
The Nutshell

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