CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Duke basketball players are very tall. They are usually much taller than their opponents. æ
Although this observation may not seem terribly novel, it was the deciding factor Thursday night against Miami.æ
For the fourth straight game the Blue Devils turned the ball over more than 20 times. Seven of those turnovers came during the first seven minutes of the game--a miserable stretch when the Hurricanes jumped out to a 16-10 lead. æ
In the first half Duke was repeatedly beaten to its own basket in transition and surrendered several easy layups. Once they had finally built up a commanding, 16-point second-half lead, the Blue Devils almost let Miami back into the game. The Hurricanes managed to cut the deficit to six points with 3:23 left to play.æ
But none of that mattered because of the simple fact that Duke is a very tall team. While Miami was able to effectively contain the 6-foot-3 Mistie Williams, it had a tougher time matching up against the Blue Devils" other forwards. 6-foot-5 Chante Black, 6-foot-7 Alison Bales, 6-foot-2 Wynter Whitley and 6-foot Monique Currie all held significant height advantages over their defenders.æ
Duke dominated its opponents down low. Currie and Black combined to pour in 27 points, and the Blue Devils out-rebounded their competition by a 16-board margin, their highest total in ACC play.æ
'The big key we were worried about was their high-low game,' Miami head coach Ferne Labati said. 'We felt that we really had to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor, and we really had to do a great job on Currie. Currie is so good off the dribble.'æ
In a mere 17 minutes of playing time, Black was able to victimize the Hurricane defense with 12 points. The freshman also helped her team"s effort with eight rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass.æ
'Chante came in and gave us a couple of really good rebounds and a couple of scores inside that we really needed,' head coach Gail Goestenkors said. 'That loosened things up on the outside as well.'æ
For most of the contest, Miami had no true answer for Duke"s inside game. The Blue Devils shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half, and it was only when the Hurricanes switched to a zone defense that the Duke offense began to stall.æ
'I think that us going late in the game to the 1-3-1 with the pressure of [Albrey] Grimsley and Fallon Phanord up top, that pressure just gave them a different look and they rushed a little bit with their shots,' Labati said.æ
Miami clogged the middle and slowed the Blue Devil attack to a pace that allowed the Hurricanes to close the gap to six.æ
'I think Ferne"s just doing a tremendous job,' Goestenkors said. 'I think when they went to the 1-3-1 that caused some problems. That"s something we"ll have to work on in the future.'æ
But in crunch time Duke was still able to feed the ball down low. Black, Currie and Williams were all able to score points in the final minutes of the game and seal the victory for the Blue Devils.æ
'We usually get good looks, it"s all about finishing,' Black said. 'That"s one of our focuses--I don"t think we did a great job [tonight].'æ
Another helpful byproduct of Duke"s size advantage was the number of open looks it created for Jessica Foley. The junior caught fire in the second half as Miami focused on shutting down the interior.æ
Foley thrived in the Blue Devils" high-low attack and shot 3-for-5 from behind the arc in the second stanza.æ
'[Passing] out of the penetration, they have great three-point shooters, especially Foley,' Labati said. 'Foley is one of the best, she can compare with anybody in the nation and just really sticks it to you.'
CORAL GABLES, Fla. , Following two close wins over Maryland and N.C. State, both of whom No. 4 Duke edged out by a margin of three points, the Blue Devils finally tallied a decisive victory against Miami at the Convocation Center Thursday, defeating the Hurricanes 72-63. ñI give Miami a lot of credit,î head coach Gail Goestenkors said. ñThere were a couple of times when I thought we had them down and out, but they kept fighting.î
After getting off to a shaky start, Duke (21-2, 7-1 in the ACC) tied the game with 4:06 remaining in the first half. With the Blue Devils down 23-21, freshman Chante Black snagged a defensive rebound and dumped the ball off to point guard Wanisha Smith.
Smith drove down into Miami territory and hit senior Wynter Whitley with a quick pass. Whitley sunk the ensuing layup to tie the game at 23. Duke distanced itself from Miami (10-11, 2-6) for the first time in the game, putting together a 12-0 spurt and pushing the score to 33-23 at the break.
ñI think it was important for us to go on a run there at the end,î Goestenkors said. ñJust to establish ourselves more and become a little more steady.î
Prior to the Blue Devil surge, the Hurricanes had jumped out to an early lead, spurred by Tamara James. The Miami junior, who had been averaging 22.4 points per game, scored eight points in the first 10 minutes, including two three-point shots. But after taking a timeout, Duke took the floor recommitted to containing James.
ñWe were switching on screens some, trying to have a post player on her when she was posting up down low and a guard when she was outside,î Goestenkors said of James. The Blue Devils never relinquished the advantage in the second half, but the Hurricanes continued to battle, cutting the lead to as little as six at one point. The strength of MiamiIs game was its ability to force turnovers in transition. The team had 11 steals throughout the game.
ñI didnIt feel like they were forcing us to turn the ball over, we were just not making good decisions with the basketball,î Goestenkors said. ñWhen we didnIt turn the ball over, we were scoring most of the time,so I felt like if we could take care of the ball, we would be fine.î
Duke maintained its edge with strong perimeter shooting. The Blue Devils completed 55.6 percent of their shots from beyond the arc in the second half. Junior Jessica Foley hit three buckets from three-point range and finished the game with a team-leading 17 points.
ñJess is an excellent three-point shooter for us, and it seemed like all of her threes were really big,î Goestenkors said.
Inside the paint, the Blue Devils capitalized on their advantage over an undersized Hurricane frontcourt. Duke out-rebounded Miami 46-30 and blocked several critical shots, including a Mistie Williams stuff of a shot by James with less than a minute to go in the first half. The block allowed the Blue Devils to maintain momentum going into the break.
Black also played an important part in the victory. The center scored 12 points off the bench and grabbed eight rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
Duke continued to struggle with its free-throw shooting, sinking only 50 percent of shots from the foul line.
ñI think I shot better from the three-point line than I did from the free-throw line,î Foley joked.