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Devils Bludgeon Blodgett's Bears, 98-31
Player by Player
 
Hartford Upsets Hapless Devils, 53-51
The Nutshell
DWHoops Minus 10: 1999, Part 1
By Rob Clough
November 20, 2008

We begin our look back at the 1999 Duke Blue Devils


Editor's Note: This article begins our weekly "DWHoops Minus 10" feature, in which we will periodically look back at the 1999 season and team. We will also be looking back to 1984 with a "DWHoops Minus 25" series starting in early December.

Throughout this season, DWHoops will be taking a weekly look back at what was happening in the Duke women's basketball program a decade ago. While ten years is a nice round number, it's no coincidence that we're starting with a trip down memory lane with the year and the team that put Duke on the national map. The 1999 team was the first Duke squad to make it to a Final Four, losing to #1 Purdue in the title game. Along the way, Duke overcame early-season adversity, dominated the ACC and upset three-time defending national champion Tennessee.

Let's set the scene before we dive in week by week. In the previous season, the 1998 team had its own share of significant breakthroughs. That was the first Duke squad to win an ACC regular season title, the first to make it past the second round of the NCAA tournament - but an upset at the hands of Arkansas denied those Devils the Final Four. It was the team that featured the debuts of Purdue transfers Michele Van Gorp and Nicole Erickson, two cornerstones of that '99 squad. 1998 featured the debuts of frosh Georgia Schweitzer (an all-rookie team selection) and Rochelle Parent. Though that season ended in bitter disappointment, everyone knew Duke would be ready to compete at a higher level in 1999, because they only lost little-used redshirt senior Shaeeta Brown (who would later help to further the program off the court).

To that end, coach Gail Goestenkors upgraded her schedule in a big way. Gorp and other players wanted to play the best, and the best is what they got, a schedule befitting a team ranked #4 in the country. The season began on November 13, 1998 in San Jose. Duke played at an event called the Four in the Fall Classic, held in the same venue that the Final Four was to be held in April. The team's theme in 1999 was "Join the Journey"--with the hope being the trip would begin and end in San Jose.

Of course, reality often has a way of crashing into hopes and dreams. Early in the season, Duke was dealing with a number of injuries. While none of them were season ending, players like Erickson and starting point guard Hilary Howard were either hobbled or in bad shape. Several other players hadn't had the benefit of much conditioning time. As a result, Duke's lineup of veterans got blown off the court by a young UConn team that was ranked #3. With talented frosh such as Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Tamika Williams, UConn pressed Duke into a number of errors and shredded their defense to the tune of 104 points. UConn's Svetlana Abrosimova was especially effective. The only bright spots for Duke were the play of hustling forward Peppi Browne, versatile forward Lauren Rice and frosh guard Krista Gingrich.

The good news for Duke was that they had to play another top 25 team the very next day. On November 14th, Duke dominated the Stanford Cardinal in the second half as Gorp had a breakout game with 28 points. Backup center Payton Black also played well against Stanford, posting 15 points. Black had been a starter early in her career but mostly came off the bench as a senior. Schweitzer also had a nice game off the bench, helping to relieve Duke's struggling backcourt.

The Devils were then stunned in their home opener against Virginia Tech, which was then a member of the Big East. It was a close game all the way, with the Hokies' Tere Williams hitting a number of tough jumpers. Duke had all sorts of chances to take control of the game but shot 13-27 from the foul line. Gorp was 2-10 from the stripe, which was baffling considering her fine shooting stroke. The Devils had one last shot to win but couldn't convert at halfcourt. Duke's dream season was off to a nightmarish start, and things wouldn't get any easier.



Devils Bludgeon Blodgett's Bears, 98-31
Player by Player
 
Hartford Upsets Hapless Devils, 53-51
The Nutshell

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