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Duke Whips Georgia Tech, 69-32
Player by Player
Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
The Nutshell
Previewing Duke at NC State
By Rob Clough
January 22, 2011

Quick Turnaround Takes Duke to Raleigh for Sunday TV Game

NC State -- Sunday, January 23th, 5:00 PM, Reynolds Coliseum, TV: FSN (National)

2010 Snapshot: 20-14, 7-7 ACC, NCAA First Round

Last Meeting: 3/7/10: Devils Claim ACC Nets, 70-60

Current Records: Duke 18-0 (4-0 ACC), NCSU 9-9 (1-3 ACC)

Current Rankings: Duke #3, NC State unranked
DWHoops File Photo by Orin Day
Kellie Harper's Wolfpack made a great ACC Tournament run last year, losing to Duke in the championship game.
Kellie Harper's Wolfpack made a great ACC Tournament run last year, losing to Duke in the championship game.

Significant Losses: Second-leading scorer and clutch shooter Nikitta Gartrell is the biggest loss. She averaged 12 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg and shot 35% from three. Rebounding specialist Lucy Ellison (5 ppg, 6 rpg), guard Sharnise Beal (3 ppg, 2 rpg) and reserve big Inga Muciniece (1 ppg, 1 rpg) have also graduated.

Who's Coming Back: The Wolfpack Women return two big-time players: ACC Rookie of the Year guard Marissa Kastanek (11 ppg, 4 rpg, 39% 3FG) and junior Bonae Holston (12 ppg, 6 rpg). Kastanek did it all for the Pack, while Holston provided toughness on the wing (and later, in the post). Also returning are senior guard Amber White (8 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg) and 6-3 senior forwards Tia Bell (7 ppg, 5 rpg) & Brittany Strachan (7 ppg, 3 rpg, 42% 3FG). Neither is a traditional big, but the Pack really missed Bell when she went out for the year with an injury after 21 games last year and have been feeling her absence this year, as seh's played in just 1 game. Other returning players include juniors Emily Tasler (3 ppg, 2 rpg), Kim Durham (13 games), and soph Kelsie Lliteras (3 games).

The Skinny: State is one of those teams that is just one player away from being a real contender. In their case, that player is a tough, space-eating rebounder/defender who can score the occasional basket. Not having that player means that tough-as-nails forward Bonae Holston is forced to spend too much of her time in the paint at both ends. That hasn't prevented her from having an outstanding season (15 ppg, 8 rpg), but it has made things more difficult for her.

The Pack under Kellie Harper are an uptempo, pressing/trapping team. The problem is that without a defensive stalwart guarding the basket at the back of the press, many teams have found it easy to score on NC State. Indeed, they're 11th in the ACC in scoring defense and last in FG% defense, allowing opponents to shoot an average of 40% against them. While State has played a decent schedule, it's not been a back-breaking one, as their strength of schedule is rated #99 by Dr. Jerry Palm's collegerpi.com site. They currently have just one win against a top-40 RPI team (Old Dominion, in a 2-point squeaker) and have two losses to teams outside the top 100 (Minnesota and Clemson; the latter was doubly bad as it was a home loss).

This team is quickly trying to get its many frosh up to speed while dealing with what may be another season-ending injury to Tia Bell. Currently, Harper is starting 3 guards and 2 forwards, with Holston and Durham's own Breezy Williams at forward (Williams is averaging 6 ppg and 3 rpg and has proven to be a heady defender). Kastanek is having a great soph year with 14 ppg, 3.5 rpg 2 apg and 1 spg, shooting an impressive 43% from three. Amber White has been one of the team's most important players in that she's playing a lot of point and has taken up the scoring slack from Gartrell, contributing 13 ppg, 4 rpg and 4 apg. The current fifth starter is frosh wing Devin Griffin, who's averaging 3 ppg and 4 rpg; I'm guessing she's starting to give the Pack an attacking presence.

Strachan is still bombing away to the tune of 7.5 ppg and 4 rpg, with 35% shooting from three. Tasler was averaging 2 ppg, 3 rpg and 2 apg but has missed the last five games. The rest of State's rotation players are frosh. 6-2 forward Kody Burke started 9 games and averaged 8.5 ppg and 6 rpg. 6-4 redshirt frosh Lakeesa Daniel is averaging 5 & 4. Guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman is putting up 3.5 ppg and 3 rpg. The pattern for State in many games has been a slow start, often going down by double digits, followed by a spirited comeback (drawing with a couple of points), concluded by running out of gas in the end.

Duke's first job is to neutralize Holston. Several different players will be assigned to her, including Krystal Thomas, Haley Peters and Karima Christmas, all of whom will give her very different looks. She needs to be kept away from the basket at all costs; if she wants to take a jumper, that's a shot Duke can concede. White needs to be turned into a jump shooter and Kastanek must be forced to put the ball on the deck and drive. White's an erratic shooter who can get to the foul line, while Kastanek is a rhythm shooter who nails shots when open. Duke also needs to be aware of Burke and must keep her off the boards, and should also be sure to never let Strachan get the ball when wide-open. She's not a threat to do much of anything but shoot the three.

If Duke slows down the pace selectively and bears down on NC State's big three on defense, then Duke should win by double digits. If State's scorers get hot, then this could be a very close game, one where the Reynolds crowd could have an impact. On offense, Duke would be well advised to attack the basket and feed the ball to Vernerey & K.Thomas. State doesn't have the personnel to stop them if they get good position. The Devils should avoid taking a lot of threes unless they're wide open, because State's defense is active and closes out on shooters with great speed. Duke and UNC always draw a lot of fans for State, and they would love to have a reason to cheer.

  • Holston on the boards

  • Kastanek getting open looks.


Duke Whips Georgia Tech, 69-32
Player by Player
Duke Escapes NC State, 65-64
The Nutshell

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