Duke looks to even series with win

Updated: January 24, 2004, 9:57 AM ET
Associated Press

Tennessee ended Duke's season in the Final Four last spring.

The second-ranked Lady Vols will now represent one of the No. 1 Blue Devils' toughest tests of this campaign when the elite programs meet at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.

Tennessee topped Duke 66-56 in the national semifinals last April in Atlanta. But the Blue Devils (15-1) are in good position to get a measure of revenge as they will be playing before a sold-out crowd in one of college basketball's most raucous arenas.

Duke has won 15 straight since dropping its season opener to Texas on Nov. 16.

The Blue Devils were dominant in their most recent victory, routing Maryland 78-48 on Thursday. Senior forward Iciss Tillis had 21 points and eight rebounds in one of her best performances of the season.

Tillis, averaging 12.0 points, had not reached double figures in any of her previous six games. But she was 7-for-12 from the field and made all five of her free throws against Maryland.

"I was telling everyone, if there's anything else I can do, please tell me,'' Tillis said. "I was just praying as hard as I could to get out of it.''

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said Tillis seemed more comfortable on the court than she had in recent games.

"Iciss let the game come to her,'' Goestenkors said. "We have really been focusing on moving the ball the last couple of days. I think the more passes we make, the more comfortable everyone feels out there and she gets in the flow of the game.''

Senior guard Alana Beard, who averages a team-leading 19.0 points, scored just nine in 21 minutes Thursday. She had strained a groin muscle earlier in the week at practice.

While Goestenkors was pleased with the play of Tillis and the Duke frontcourt, she knows they will have a formidable challenge to face Saturday.

"I think (Tennessee's) post play is their strength as well,'' Goestenkors said. "They've also got great guards and great shooters, but everything runs through their post.

"They get the ball into their post a great deal and they are very aggressive. I think our post defense and offense will be a key.''

Like the Blue Devils, the Lady Vols' only loss came against Texas. Tennessee has won eight straight since falling to the Longhorns on Dec. 28.

Junior forward Shyra Ely scored 22 points to lead the Lady Vols to a 79-54 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday. Tennessee outrebounded Vanderbilt 41-28.

The Lady Vols are outrebounding opponents by an average of 6.7 per game, but coach Pat Summitt said that is not good enough.

"Last year we won rebounding in the country at plus 15. I'm really challenging this team,'' Summitt said. "This is one game they responded.''

Ely leads the Lady Vols with 14.1 points per game.

Tennessee has a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series with Duke, but all five previous meetings took place on neutral courts.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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