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Even after win, questions remain

The women's basketball team showed it still has many questions in its win over Penn State Friday, but the squad is starting to provide some answers.

The Blue Devils bounced back from their Wednesday loss to No. 10 Notre Dame by using superior post play and aggressive man-to-man defense to offset the damage done by ineffective zone defense and a poor first-half rebounding effort.

Wynter Whitley and Mistie Williams stepped up when the Penn State defense was able to frustrate Monique Currie, who shot 5-for-15. Williams dominated inside, scoring 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Whitley came alive in the second half, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring seven straight points during one key Blue Devil run.

Penn State's defense had no answer for Duke's inside game as the Blue Devils dominated points in the paint 40-16. The Nittany Lions were further hurt when one of their best interior defenders, forward Ashli Schwab, sat down after picking up her fourth foul with 11 minutes remaining in the second half. Duke immediately went on a 15-3 run during which the Blue Devils continuously pounded the ball inside.

"I don't think there was a post player on our team that could handle their post offensively," Penn State head coach Rene Portland said. "Their post game was so much stronger than ours was."

Despite Duke's interior advantage, the Blue Devils were outrebounded in the first half 21-9. Penn State had seven offensive rebounds and nine second-chance points in the first half alone. The Blue Devils did narrow the rebounding differential in the second half but were still outrebounded for the game 38-30.

Duke came out in the second half playing a 2-3 zone--most likely in an attempt to improve its rebounding. The zone, however, was counterproductive. The Blue Devils gave up many open looks and Penn State capitalized, scoring 13 points in the first five minutes. Duke then switched to a man-to-man defense, which energized the team and limited the Nittany Lions' opportunities. The Blue Devils held Penn State to 17 points in the last 15 minutes of the game while scoring 35.

Duke continued to miss the leadership and ball handling of junior point guard Lindsey Harding. Freshman Wanisha Smith has shown the skills and instincts to become a premier floor general, but continues to make rookie mistakes. She had seven turnovers and only three assists, but she did come up with two important baskets late in the game to secure the victory.

Harding's return would also relieve some pressure from Currie. Without the perimeter threat of Harding, defenses have been able to key in on the preseason All-American. Currie has continuously encountered physical defense and double teams, and the effects are noticeable. Currie has looked impressive at times but is shooting only 36 percent on the year, compared to her 48 percent average last season.

Duke will travel to the Bahamas for two games this weekend and will face No. 1 Tennessee when they return. The Blue Devils must improve their rebounding to have success against a difficult upcoming schedule, but the aggressive defense and dominant post play shown against Penn State display the potential of a developing team.


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