2010 Year in Review
Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48
Kentucky -- Tuesday, January 4, 7:00 PM, Cameron Indoor Stadium, ESPNU.
2010 Snapshot: 28-8, 11-5 SEC, NCAA Elite Eight.
Last Meeting:12/29/1995: Duke 73, Kentucky 54.
Current Records: Duke 13-0, Kentucky 11-1.
Current Rankings: Duke #3, Kentucky #10/11
Significant Losses: The Wildcats lost point guard Amber Smith, who averaged 9 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 38% from three. She was a perfect point guard in that she looked to set up her teammates first but could take over when required. Also departed from 2010 is starting wing Amani Franklin, who put up 7 ppg, 6 rpg and 26% from three. Important bench players who are gone include part-time starter Lydia Watkins (6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg as a utility slashing forward) and shooter Rebecca Gray, a former Tar Heel who averaged 5 ppg, 2 rpg and 35% from three.
Who's Coming Back: Kentucky returns its leading scorer in All-America forward Victoria Dunlap, who averaged 18 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 apg, 2 bpg, and 3 spg. Playing much bigger than her listed height of 6-1, Dunlap has been the key player in Kentucky's rise as a nationally prominent program. She is especially proficient at going to the foul line, getting there 7 times a game last season. Stopping her in the half court will be key for Duke. She has plenty of help returning, led by guard A'Dia Mathies. She averaged 13 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3 spg and 38% from three. Keyla Snowden came off the bench as the best of Kentucky's shooters, putting up 7 ppg and 39% from three. Wing Carly Morrow got 24 starts, averaging 5 ppg; she squeezed off a three every five minutes she was on the floor, connecting at a 28% rate. 6-2 forward Brittany Henderson provided some backup in the post as she was good for 3 ppg and 3 rpg.
The Skinny: There's no question that Dunlap has to be the first focus for any opponent. She's simply a relentless force at both ends; as dangerous as she is on offense, she's even more effective in Kentucky's pressure defense. Kentucky pressures the ball a lot like Duke does; they forced 23 turnovers a game last season and are up to an astounding 27 turnovers per game this year. They turn those turnovers into points quite proficiently; this year, they're averaging 80 ppg.
That's due in part to a highly productive freshman class. Combo guard Maegan Conwright has stepped in for Smith at point and is averaging 9 ppg, 3 rpg, and 2 apg. Guard Bernisha Pinkett is putting up 7 ppg, 2 rpg and 33% from three. 6-3 center Samantha Drake has provided 6 ppg, 5 rpg and 1.5 bpg. Guard Kastine Evans is generating 4 ppg and 3 rpg. Combined with the steady Mathies (averaging 14.5 ppg) and a red-hot Snowden (13 ppg, 49% 3FG) and one can see how the Wildcats can pressure their opponents relentlessly and tilt the scoreboard.
Kentucky can score in a lot of different ways. They take about 20 threes a game and hit 7 of them. They go to the line 28 times a game and make 20 of them. Despite their helter-skelter style, they only average 17 turnovers a game. When the threes aren't available and the fast break isn't there, they have a go-to low-post star in Dunlap, who can score against anyone. Not a lot of teams can match Kentucky's depth or aggressiveness.
Fortunately, Duke is one of those teams. It's instructive to look at Kentucky's best win (Notre Dame) and only loss (Louisville). In a 5-point win over the Irish, Kentucky was -16 on the boards and shot 39% to ND's 42%. However, they forced 17 Irish turnovers and only committed 12 themselves. More tellingly, the Wildcats went to the line 32 times. If they hadn't missed 11 foul shots, they would have had a more comfortable margin of victory. Dunlap was awesome in this game with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Against the Cardinals, the Wildcats won the rebounding battle but coughed the ball up 22 times and were a putrid 3-18 from three. Dunlap was great with 17 points and 23 rebounds, but she only went to the line 8 times. Louisville's freshman point guard sensation Shoni Schimmel carved up Kentucky's defense to the tune of 26 points and 8 assists.
Duke has one significant advantage in this game: size. Kentucky doesn't have anyone to match up with Krystal Thomas or Allison Vernerey. Even Haley Peters and Kathleen Scheer are bigger than most of the regulars on their team. Kentucky has yet to face a team with a defense like Duke's, which means it may be difficult to get the kind of easy baskets they're used to. That will likely put the game in Dunlap's hands. If Duke can keep her off the foul line and force her to take contested jump shots instead of making it all the way to the basket, the Devils will win by double digits. If Dunlap is able to get inside Duke's defense and/or get its posts in foul trouble, then this will be a close game. The fact that it's being played in Cameron is a huge plus for Duke, since Kentucky is far less lethal away from Lexington.
While defending Dunlap is an important key, the game on offense will ultimately come down to Duke's guard play and the point position in particular. Chelsea Gray has to shake off her recent poor performances and take the fight to Kentucky with aggressive play. She needs to value the ball while attacking Kentucky's pressure, looking to score rather than just passing out of traps. Jasmine Thomas needs to attack the basket and Karima Christmas needs to be Duke's x-factor, getting key offensive rebounds. Coach McCallie has been preaching playing aggressive defense without fouling, and Kentucky is quite a pop quiz for that subject. Duke simply can't afford to give them easy points with careless bumps or hand checks. If Duke has more free throw attempts than Kentucky, they will almost certainly win.
The biggest keys the the game will be discipline and communication. Duke is
bigger and more talented than Kentucky, but that won't matter if Duke's
defenders don't rotate over to one of Kentucky's many shooters. It won't
matter if a defender is a step slow defending baseline penetration and is
called for a foul. It won't matter if Duke doesn't make good connecting
passes. This is the week that Duke needs to start to prove that it's a
legitimate top five team and Final Four contender, and the Wildcats will help
to see just far along Duke is in that process.
2010 Year in Review
Devils Edge Out Kentucky, 54-48