Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Duke says "Who's #1?"

Half of the hype showed up yesterday afternoon when #1 seed Tennessee took on #2 seed Duke in NCAA Women's Basketball. One team executed with precision and dominance at both ends of the floor. The number one team in the nation was definitely present, but it clearly wasn't Tennessee. It wasn't Duke's depth that took the #1 seed down, though...it was just their experience.

In what was the biggest game of the year for both teams thus far, on the biggest stage, Duke's whole lineup stepped up and executed like champions. They picked Tennessee apart on offense with excellent passing, off the ball movement and stunning jumpers with defenders in their faces. Their defense was brutal, punishing Tennessee for every minor error and aggressively disrupting any hope of offensive flow.

Pat Summit urged her players to play as a team and bemoaned their lack of defense saying that they could go ahead and embarrass themselves. The Lady Vols responded with some sad one on one basketball, no off the ball movement and little to no defense. Candace Parker looked good in the post and put up good numbers, but too often she tried to do everything and came up short. She took the ball the length of the court three times. With the first two she was called for charging, and when she finally got an assist of a pass to a cutter, the game was by far out of reach. Candace finished the game with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. She led the team in points, rebounds and assists, but her 7 turnovers led the team as well. The former leading scorer for the Vols, Shanna Zolman, was held scoreless in 28 minutes.

Duke on the other hand was led by the brilliant work of point guard Lindsey Harding, who contributed much more than her 15 points, 4 assists and 8 steals. She read the Tennessee defense on almost every play and called a play to attack that defense. Her assist numbers weren't that high because while every play started with her, the score usually came off the third or fourth pass of the play.

Pat Summit has been vocal about her team's deficiencies, and Duke exposed all of them last night. This embarassing loss may be the fuel to get her players to listen to her and strengthen their efforts heading into the tournament. I imagine that it is hard to believe how poorly you are playing when you are beating teams by 20+ points each night. Last night should make them regret not listening to their 900 win coach sooner.

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