INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Both Duke women’s basketball signees -- Elizabeth Williams and Amber Henson -- each scored double-figure points in the WBCA All-America game over the weekend in Indianapolis, Ind., at the NCAA Final Four. Williams was named MVP of the Red Team, which fell, 83-73, to the White Team. A product of Virginia Beach, Va., Williams totaled a team-high 20 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and one assist in 29 minutes. She hit 8-of-19 field goals on the night. In two All-Star games in a week, Williams scored a McDonald’s All-America game record 23 points and posted 20 points at the WBCA contest. The 6-3 center was also named MVP of the McDonald’s game. A native of Tampa, Fla., Henson hit 5-of-12 field goals as she finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 20 minutes of action.
DURHAM - Make no mistake about it, the third ranked Blue Devils win over tenth rated Kentucky wasn't pretty to watch but the result was all roses for Coach McCallie's troops. Much like the Xavier game, Duke fought hard on defense and hung on to defeat another top ten club while playing one the the nations toughest early season schedules.
An early 8-0 first half run put the Blue Devils up 16-10 but the Wildcats put it back together and went on a run of their own to tie the game up but Duke pulled ahead again with a late first half run giving them a 31-22 lead. That momentum was lost when Kentucky came out and outscore the home team 8-2, putting them back in the game.
Kentucky tied the game at 44 apiece on a Maegan Conwright free throw with 3:51 to go, but Jasmine Thomas, who led Duke with 24, knocked down a jumper. But Kentucky's star Victoria Dunlap answered with two free throws on here own at the 3:13 mark.
Kentucky then took a late lead on a A'Dai Mathies lay in and the Cats were up 48-46 with under two minutes in the contest. That's when Duke reached deep and Jasmine Thomas hit nothing but net from around the free throw stripe tying the game up with 1:33 left.
The Blue Devils defense then forced a turnover and found Chelsea Gray for a runner on the baseline which put the Blue Devils up for good at 50-48. Kentucky had a chance to tie the game after Thomas hit one of two free throws, but the senior guard recovered and made a key block on Mathies who then gave her a bit of a shove in frustration.
After that play the Kentucky Coach Mathew Mitchell was hit with a technical foul and Duke held on for a 54-48 win and in the process go to 14-0 on the season while Kentucky falls to 11-2.
Duke was as always led by their senior All American Jasmine Thomas whose season high 24 points were also a game high. Thomas has a way of rising to the occasion in close ball games of late and here block may well have been the play of the game. Thomas had three blocks over the last six minutes of the game.
Chelsea Gray added 11 points for the Blue Devils as their only other double digit scorer. Gray had a team high 5 steals.
Kentucky was led by Keyla Snowden with 15 and Victoria Dunlap with 10. Dunlap is Kentucky's leading scorer and the Duke defense held here to her second lowest point total of the season, but the previous low of 7 points came when she went out with an injury.
In fact, as sluggish as the offenses were for both schools, the defense was stellar. Especially for the Blue Devils who held Kentucky to their lowest scoring output of the season, a team that averaged 80.6 ppg coming into the contest and was held 32 points shy of that average.
The Blue Devils were originally supposed to play this game on Monday night but ESPNU required them to shift the game to Tuesday. That means Duke has less than two days to prepare for rival Maryland and ACC play which begins Thursday evening. Tickets are still available for the game by visiting GoDuke or picking them up at the door on game night.
Sidebar - Duke held a 13-5 edge on 2nd chance points and a 22-2 edge off the bench. Kentucky outscored Duke in the paint 14-13 and 11-6 on fastbreak points. The 14-0 start is the best start for Coach P in her 19 years of coaching and she is now 48-4 in Cameron. Allison Vernerey had a season high ten rebounds but went just 1 of 10 from the field.
It's time for this week's Monday Musings piece where we think out loud and ponder the happenings around Duke Athletics. This week we talk Kyrie Irving, the December schedule, and recruiting on the Duke Basketball front, Cutcliffe being on the road, a big game for the women's hoops team and we bring you the Duke Cheerleader of the Week.
Will maintaining motivation be a problem for Duke?
Duke just finished a stretch of games that included wins over Marquette, Kansas State, Oregon, Michigan State and Butler leaving us to question if the Blue Devils can keep up their intensity during the easiest stretch of the season. In December, players are hard at work in school and on the verge of the Holidays where many will go home for few days. It is not unusual for focus to drift but the thinking here is that Duke has too many players wanting to show their stuff and that should prevent too many let downs. Duke will take on Bradley and St. Louis this week followed by a nine day break before another home contest with Elon and the team will then take another nine day break before travelling just down the road to face UNC-Greensboro. Face it, Duke will win all of those contests easily and that will push their record to 12-0. The reason for my confidence is as mentioned that players on the bench will want to show their stuff. Duke will see to it that certain players get untracked and Krzyzewski's challenge will be to see his team improve before they enter ACC play in that 13 of their next 14 games will be against conference foes.
Kyrie Irving was never a secret but ...
If the ACC media was to vote today for Rookie of the Year, do you think UNC's Harrison Barnes would still outdistance Irving by a 46-9 vote? I saw the Irving train coming after following the New Jersey native on the AAU trail seeing him play a good 20 or so times. The youngster is capable of taking over games and he showed that in a game against Michigan State and bounced back with another 20 plus scoring effort versus Butler on Saturday. What you have yet to see is when he starts dishing dimes [assists] like they were going out of style and a few double-doubles are ahead. Irving is as advertised and I can happily say that comes as no surprise to me. And this just in -- Kyrie just won his third ACC Rookie of the Week honor of the young season.
The Duke staff will remain busy during the Holiday's
There are some on the staff who stay up until just before dawn breaks watching film on the opposition. I know this after being in close proximity of the situation for most of my life. I also know that they'll be out in force during several December high school basketball tournaments one of which is the State Farm City of Palms event in Fort Meyers, Florida. Check out this cast of characters which as BDN Premium members know that a lot of Duke's key targets are on hand. The Class of 2010 No. 1 includes, Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick; No. 2 Austin Rivers, Winter Park; No. 3 Adonis Thomas, Melrose; No. 8 James McAdoo, Norfolk Christian; No. 23 Shannon Scott, Milton; No. 27 Julian Royal, Milton; No. 58 Dai-Jon Parker, Milton; No. 75 Marshall Plumlee, Christ School; No. 87 . While the Class of 2012 adds No. 4 Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman; No. 5 Ricardo Gathers, Riverside Academy; No. 38 Xavier Johnson, Mater Dei; No. 45 Omar Calhoun, Christ the King; No. 47 Evan Nolte, Milton; No. 71 Rosco Allen, Bishop Gorman. You can discuss the various tournaments and find out more on recruiting information with BDN Premium members by joining and supporting Blue Devil Nation.
Football coaches on the recruiting trail as well
Duke Football is making its list and checking it twice in December but the recruiting efforts started in November where the staff was out the Monday following the last game. Duke Coach David Cutliffe will have his own players for the first time next season and he is looking to make some key offers in the foreseeable future. BDN will keep you up to date on the latest on the football front..
The Duke Women face Texas A & M on Wednesday
The Duke Women are flying a bit under the radar now and that's a shame for they deserve more coverage on the Duke front. Duke faces an early season test when they take on Texas A & M tonight in Cameron Indoor Stadium this Monday evening.
And speaking of under the radar
Duke handed out yet another commemorative to fans with Coach K's 800th win being saluted during the Michigan State game. His milestones are so many that it barely gives Duke fans a chance to catch their breath and reflect on his success as he continues to move towards being the winningest collegiate coach of all time.
Click here and follow Blue Devil Nation on Twitter for the best Duke coverage avialable. And be sure to check out Andrew Slaters interview with Kyrie Irving.
On freshman transition from high school to college. What is one thing you are emphasizing?
"Just really keeping them attacking all the time on defense and on offense. I think they understand attacking on offense better than they understand attacking on defense. So we are really trying to get that aggressiveness up. It's really important that they make aggressive mistakes versus passive ones. You know aggressive mistakes are ones that you can coach and live with. Passive mistakes don't get you very far and don't allow you to develop. So that is the biggest thing I can say for our young players is to just to be really getting after it on both sides of the ball and to be understanding of value of both sides of the ball. In high school, often there is not that value simply because kids dominate with offense. But these young folk know that they are going to be going against junior and seniors, I mean that is pretty much what is going to happen. So it's important to be thinking like a junior or senior a little bit and trying to push yourself to take those steps."
On team chemistry
"I think as a coach you can try and help it with the combinations and the different things you do but in reality I think that it occurs during game play and experiences together to. You have to let the team have experiences together, but I think we can help it along as coaches, different subbing patterns that we do at various times. It's kind of an exciting part of developing a team because you, essentially you do start all over again. No matter what you did the year before, we had some really great experiences last year. Those are terrific memories but you have to create new ones and your back to creating them all over again."
On the skills of the freshmen:
"We hope they are going to be extremely aggressive, help us with our offensive rebounding. We also hope they are going to help us spread the floor a little bit with their shooting ability to -- so [that will] give us more spacing relative to what they can do offensively. And we also hope that they enjoy playing together and finding what I call our shot -- you know the best shot for our group at the moment. We are learning that as you can see from the Blue/White. I mean we have rims in our eyes and springs in our arms and make no mistake about it, 40 three's going up so I think we had to get that out of our system, which is I think I will just shoot at any time. That mentality, we've got to have a little bit of a plan behind what we do and we have to work together to create what I consider our shot and we haven't done that yet."
On the offensive priority:
"The priority is to play great basketball which is move the basketball -- play inside out sure, get it into the paint. Paint shots are very important, as a matter of fact, championships are pretty much won on paint shots. Perimeter shots are very important to, so as I call it an equal opportunity, everybody on the floor, I think we've got five people in five different spots that can create and the judgment piece and the maturity piece is what will be needed as where the ball should be."
On the post player's condition:
"We are in great in three ways and not in great shape in one way. Haley Peters and Kathleen Scheer are really providing us with some quickness, some shooting ability and Krystal [Thomas] is rock solid. After Ali [Allison Vernerey] hit her head in practice you know -- a couple of things; a hit to the nose and the next day [she] smacked her head pretty good on the ground. We are taking it really slow with her. So I would say that we are not full. We are not full but we have three folks with Karima [Christmas] as well dabbling in a floor spot also."
Senior Krystal Thomas
How do you think you've evolved this season? Can you talk about your growth?
I've definitely made it a point to be in the best condition that I can. I'm just really making sure that I run as much as I can. I've also gotten a lot stronger, which always helps. So that, even when I'm out there, I'm not out there getting pushed around -- I can fight back. Also, just working on my face up game, being able to pass better, as well as hit the open outside jumper.
What is this team's identity? What do you guys do best?
Right now I am not exactly sure, come back and ask me in a few weeks. Right now we are just so balanced, so versatile, that it is hard to tell what is going to be our strength. Last year we were a very defensive minded team and that is something we definitely want to carry over to this year. We also want to add to that, we also want to add the offensive component so that teams can't label us as a one dimensional team. So that we can attack in many different ways.
What is your comfort level with Allison [Vernerey]?
It's definitely grown a lot. The beauty of playing with Allison is that she is very easy to flow with. We complement each other very well because we are very opposite. She can get down there; run the floor with the guards, whereas I am much more the power, more physical post. I can play on the perimeter; she can play on the outside. We can complement each other. It works really well to have two bigs offensively and defensively in the lane.
Freshman Haley Peters
What skills do you think the freshman class brings to the offensive scheme this year?
I think we have a balanced class, in terms of offense. We definitely have some good shooters and an attacking mindset. We have two great point guards who can handle the ball and are great passers. As I said, it's a great balance I think.
How do you see yourself working with Krystal and Allison, when she's healthy?
I've grown a lot just in practice, playing against them, because they are so physical and strong. I think that I can add a little bit of outside shooting, but KT [Krystal Thomas] can really shoot the ball from outside now. I've just been learning from them every practice, what they do and the moves that they use.
Freshman Tricia Liston
Coach P said that all of the freshmen bring something different, what do you bring?
I think the ability to score and shoot outside.
Have you always been an outside shooter? Who taught you? How young did you start?
My dad taught me. I started as soon as I could hold a basketball because my three older sisters played and I was always tagging along and my dad always coached them.
Were you always a pure shooter?
Right at a young age I got the form down and that is usually the hardest thing for a young kid to learn, not using two hands. Once I got the form down I loved the game so much that it just kind of came when I was little.
You had option, why did you choose Duke?
It was competitive in the classroom and with athletics. Every year you hear about Duke Women's basketball, Duke men's basketball and the atmosphere here is centered on basketball. Everyone here is a huge basketball fan, which I have been since I was a kid -- both watching and playing. Also, just being on a team that has the potential to do really great things and win a lot of basketball games.
When was the first time you can remember paying attention to Duke women's basketball?
As a kid, every girl who plays basketball here is about Duke, UConn and Tennessee so it started off more as a dream to me, as a dream school.
Did your parents influence your decision?
They pretty much left it up to me. They knew that what made me happy, made them happy. Also, since I'm the last one, they are going to get to travel and see all of my games.
Shooting is your first skill; defensively did you have to do some work?
I definitely have had to do some work and I still have to continue to work.
What is the biggest difference?
The speed and also every girl that you are defending can potentially score. In high school, you can be guarding somebody that you can't expect to put the ball in the basket even once.
Senior Karima Christmas
You have a difficult non conference schedule this year right off the bat. How will you prepare for that and the tournament in April?
I think really just playing your game. Not trying to change and do something different. A lot of players when they first come in try to do too much. It's just do what you know how to do and do it to the best of your abilities. Anything that you do, and contribute is going to help us out in the long run.
What have you noticed about Krystal Thomas during workouts this year?
I think her conditioning, especially after being out as a result of her surgery. Just being conditioned is enabling her to stay out on the floor for more minutes. I can note it from last year to this year, how much more conditioned she is, how much longer she can stay out there and be a threat.
Have you seen her (Thomas) work at it? Passing drills and extra practices...
She's definitely stayed after practice and put in extra reps -- did extra agilities just to try and get back a little extra.
What does it mean to have her be able to stay in there for more minutes?
It's about depth. Her and Allison will probably rotate in and out for each other. But her ability being able to stay out there more will allow them to play together more, giving us more subs to come in for them. Since they can stay in longer it won't be a big deal to play them for long stretches of time together.
Freshman Chelsea Gray
On what she did this summer to prepare herself mentally and physically for college ball?
"Mentally, I just knew that I had to come knowing I'm going to be surrounded by great people. I just had to come in here knowing that I had to work hard non-stop. I just knew coming here that I had to adjust to everything -- the speed, the tempo, everybody. I had to come working hard every day. In the summer, we came here as a collective group and did some things with our conditioning coach that really helped a lot."
Junior Shay Selby
On recovering from injury:
"It still gives me a little bit of a problem when I do certain things, but it's mostly back to normal. The brace helped me back a lot, especially on defense and quickness. It was hard to move, cut, stuff like that."
"It's alright...getting up there. It's hard coming off an injury and then being hurt for a while. But right now, I'm healthy and I just need to focus on doing everything right."
On the non-conference schedule:
"I think our schedule is pretty good this year. We have a lot of teams we played last year and unfortunately lost to. So, hopefully we'll have a payback year and we can put everything together and make it all the way to the top. "
On growth of freshmen on team:
"I think they've grown a lot so far. Once we get into games and they have to deal with pressure situations, I think it will be good for them."
Comparing this year's team to last year's:
"We have more offensive threats with the freshmen coming in. A lot of them look to score and distribute the ball. I think that it will be to our benefit. Like last year, we struggled shooting and handling zones. Having more threats from the perimeter will help us tremendously."
Senior Jasmine Thomas
On the upcoming season and this year's team:
"I'm excited. Definitely losing B [Bridgette Mitchell], KJ [Keturah Jackson] and Joy [Cheek], you lose rebounding, you lose defense, and you lose scoring. It's good that we have five freshmen that can come in and fill all of the things that we lost. It's a very weird feeling to not have them around, but I'm also very confident in what we have on this team. We have a bunch of scorers, we're quick and strong, and we have the ability to defend just like we did last year."
On Chloe's [Wells] development under her guidance:
"I see a lot of myself in Chloe as far as how aggressive she is and how she can attack. She shoots well which is something I admire about her and she can also set people up. I'd like to take her under my wing if she'd let me."
On her expectations for this year (personal goals):
"My personal goal is just to be the best that I can. Whatever that takes me to -- whether it's another ACC Championship, a NCAA Championship, or All-America - that's fine. But I can't focus on that because just because I get that doesn't mean I'm the best I can be. I don't think I'll ever get there, but that's my goal - to keep trying."
Freshman Chloe Wells
On adjusting to college ball:
"I'm having a lot of fun. It's a growing period for me. I'm the smallest and the weakest so far, but I'm getting in the weight room. I think the biggest difference is the pace of the game, but I feel like I'm learning that now."
On how she was prepared to make this mental transition:
"Playing with my dad, he always had us play up. Most of the girls I'm going to play against are juniors and seniors and I've already played up against different people, so I know that I need to bring it."
On what she has learned from Jasmine [Thomas]:
"Her work ethic - whether we are on the court or off the court, she is always going hard. She's always first. I admire that about her, especially on defense. She's just relentless, and that's something I'm trying to do now. And on offense, when she's not looking for her shot, she's looking to create for others."
One thing that Coach P harps on?
"I have to talk. I've got to lead."
For more coverage visit GoDuke.com
Good Morning Blue Devil Nation! It's a rainy day here in the Triangle but that will not stop another edition of Monday Musings.
Basketball is here
When Duke has struggled in football there has been an on going blurb that hoops starts quicker in Durham than anywhere in the country. Well, when you are the reigning national champion and have a long tradition of kicking butt on the hardwood, return Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler and add Kyrie Irving to the mix, the football team could be 4-0 and the excitement would still be there.
Countdown to Craziness
You can get tickets to this cherished event by hitting up the Duke Box Office on October 6th and I expect tickets will go quickly. The event itself is on October 15th and if it is anything like last years and we here it is, it'll knock your royal blue socks off. I've been around the program for a very long time but I can honestly say that this is as relaxed you'll ever see the coaches and players. It's a night to celebrate all things Duke but this year, you'll see the new national championship banner making it even better than last seasons event. Extreme intimacy permeates Cameron Indoor Stadium and you'll be flush with royal blue leaving the event stoked for what should be another great season.
Duke will be in home with point guard Quinn Cook tonight and they've made their rounds of late. We've listed attendees for CTC and talk of recruiting non stop on BDN Premium, so why not join our dedicated members and chat about the latest happenings.
Excitement surrounds the Women's team as well
We'll preview the Duke Women shortly and their is a ton of excitement surrounding the best recruiting class since Alana Beard and company. This years team will be a mix of young and old and that should make for some exciting moments. BDN supports the women and will even cover their recruiting in the future, a first among sites.
Football needs some breaks
Duke Football simply needs a few things to go their way on the field against Maryland this weekend where they open as 7.5 underdogs. The Terps match up very well with this years team, so to win, Duke will have to cut down on those five turnovers against Army. The Duke defense is rebuilding and the offense needs to take care of the ball and if the team can just get a couple of breaks their way, they can ride those and good things will start to happen.
Well there has been little hype surrounding the New Jersey native these days. Yeah, right. It's the fact that Irving is a smoking point guard that has fans excited for he is the best they've had at the position since another Jersey native. Still though, I think one should temper their expectations for there is a learning curve no matter how talented you are and Krzyzewski alluded to that in a recent press conference.
Pre Season Magazines
Duke is everybody's number one with the exception of TSN who tabs Michigan State, a team that visits Cameron in December. Don't be so harsh on Mike DeCourcey thought for he is just trying to be different and this has been their practice in the past when their is a consensus favorite. There was a time when preview magazines were a big deal and fans would wait their arrival but times have changed thanks to the Internet. I like a traditional hard copy on occasion but they increasingly come out so late that there is no news we do not know about in them. Blue Ribbon is a great preview but I am not going to plunk down the bucks to read it when the season starts a week after it hits the stands. The same goes for those glossy overpriced yearbooks where there is little information fanatical fans do not already know. I see them more as collectibles these days and if I want to read a preview, I want to do it before Countdown for Craziness and not after. I highly recommend the championship commemorative put out by Duke Planet though. It's well worth the money and serves as a reminder to a magical season. The rest is on line and articles of Duke Basketball are a dime a thousand these day, up a lot since they were a dime a dozen.
Jasmine Thomas went behind her back during a steal and layup, then lofted a perfect alley-oop pass to a teammate. Everything was coming easy for her and for Duke - just as it seemingly always does during NCAA tournament games at home.
Thomas scored 11 of her 13 points during the decisive first half of the Blue Devils' 72-37 rout of Hampton on Saturday in the first round of the Memphis Regional.
Keturah Jackson's 13 points were a career high and Karima Christmas also scored 13 for No. 2 seed Duke (28-5), which dominated nearly every stat category, outscored Hampton 35-6 during the final 15:45 of the first half and cruised into a second-round matchup with No. 7 seed LSU on Monday night.
"Everyone was engaged," Jackson said. "Everyone contributed. And we were all in tune."
Choicetta McMillian had nine points to lead the 15th-seeded Pirates (20-12). The outmanned Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions had a season-low point total, were held to fewer than 40 points for the first time since November 2005 and had their six-game winning streak snapped with their most lopsided loss of the year.
The Blue Devils led 40-14 at halftime and were never threatened after that in extending their dominance at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where their only loss since 2008 came earlier this season to top-ranked Connecticut. They've won 13 straight NCAA tournament games here, and the average margin of victory in the first 12 was 27.
Duke shot nearly 46 percent, held a 47-31 rebounding advantage and forced 16 turnovers in winning its fourth straight and 10th in 11 games.
"They were very aggressive. I thought they were going to be aggressive, but they were, like, really aggressive," Hampton forward Quanneisha Perry said. "Once we broke it, I guess we tried to relax. But with their press, you can't really relax. You have to be strong with the ball, take care of the ball and look for the right passes, and we didn't do that at all."
It took the Blue Devils a few minutes to get rolling, but not because they were rusty after being off for two weeks following their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title since 2004.
"I think we started out going too fast and rushing some things on offense," Thomas said. "We just settled down and got into the flow of the game."
Once that happened, they started playing like a No. 2 seed - and this one was no contest.
Duke took the lead for good on Allison Vernerey's layup 5 minutes in, Christmas pushed it into double figures to stay with roughly 9½ minutes left and Thomas stretched it into the 20s for good with her highlight-reel steal and layup just inside the 4-minute mark.
That had them well on their way into the second round yet again; the Blue Devils have won at least one game in each of their 16 appearances in the NCAAs.
The undersized Pirates gave themselves a few snapshot moments at one of college basketball's most famous arenas, spending roughly 3 early minutes in the lead. But after Laura Lewis' runner off the glass put them up 8-5 with 16 minutes left, they missed 18 of the 20 shots that followed while turning it over 10 times during the rest of the half.
"You have to take baby steps, and I think this is one of them," coach David Six said. "I think now we know what it's like. I think there were times during the game that we belonged on the floor. I don't think for one second that we were intimidated. We didn't execute well, but we weren't intimidated."