DURHAM, N.C. -- Seven-seed DePaul's near wire-to-wire 74-65 upset win over hosting two-seed Duke on Monday night in the second round of the Durham subregional was built upon a simple principle: Three is greater than two.
Despite the bigger Blue Devils (28-7) outrebounding the Blue Demons (29-6), 43-32, and outscoring them in the paint 40-16, DePaul shot an incredible 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) from three-point range. Their approach on offense was simple: Use quick guards Brittany Hrynko and Chanise Jenkins to drive into the lane, force Duke's zone to compensate by moving a player over, and then kick the ball out to a now-open player on the wing or in the corner. This worked to the tune of 14-33 from beyond the arc, giving DePaul enough of a cushion to survive a number of Duke comeback attempts.
Defensively, the Blue Demons used a box-and-one on Duke's leading scorer Tricia Liston. Hrynko face-guarded Liston while the remainder of the Blue Demons deployed a sagging zone that collapsed on the Duke post players whenever they got the ball inside. Duke was slow to combat this using their three-post offense that has been so successful over the course of the season. And they coughed up the ball 13 times in the first half as a result of both sloppy play on their own part and selectively judicious full-court pressure from the Blue Demons.
|DePaul's Centrese McGee (23) and Jasmine Penny (31) foil an Elizabeth Williams drive as Duke's Tricia Liston is ignored in the background. (Photo by Orin Day/dwhoops.com/ACCWBBDigest.com)|
Duke led only once, for all of 12 seconds, before DePaul quieted the Blue Devils home crowd with yet another open three.
The Blue Demons are truly a team greater than the sum of its parts. Forward Jasmine Penny had to battle Duke star post Elizabeth Williams all game. When Duke stayed home on DePaul's shooters and forced their guards inside, Williams was there with one of her seven blocks.
But Duke could simply never commit to this style of play for very long, as coach Joanne P. McCallie curiously instead tried combating DePaul's three-guard offense with three guards of her own. All this did was lead to Duke turnovers and an overdependence on dribbling. If McCallie had used the combo of Williams, emerging and wiry frosh post Oderah Chidom and 6-3 forward Haley Peters on the wing, using physical post Kendall McCravey-Cooper as relief, Duke would have had a better chance of overwhelming the Blue Demons inside. It would have also made things easier for Duke's beleaguered guard rotation, already down two starting point guards coming into the tournamnet. Instead, Duke's guards got run ragged, and McCallie gave up her size advantage in trying to match up with DePaul using a defensive scheme that was doomed from the start.
Monday night's upset marked the first time Duke has lost as early as the second round of the tournament since 2010, and the first time the Blue Devils have lost when hosting at home since 1995. A season that began with Duke as the No. 2 team in the country was crippled by injury and attrition, though the Blue Devils fought hard with whatever players they had left at all times. When the remaining roster played to its strengths and kept the tempo slower, Duke looked great. In a game like this, where DePaul dictated tempo from the very beginning, Duke looked awkward and in a hurry. Winning basketball games doesn't always mean dominating a particular statistical category; rather, it means finding ways to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, and to do the opposite to your opponent. DePaul was smaller and less talented overall than Duke, but the Blue Demons' team worked well together and knew just how to maximize their abilities.
On this night, Duke did not.
The Blue Demons now advance, heading to Lincoln to meet the winner of Tuesday night's Texas A&M v. James Madison contest in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, March 29. (Game time remains to be determined). When DePaul arrives in Lincoln, the hosts won't be playing, however: Nebraska fell to BYU in Los Angeles in the night's other Lincoln Regional bracket buster.
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