Some folks are calling it the "JV" game of the night, but make no mistake, when the Sooners and Blue Devils hook up tonight at 8:30 p.m. in the first of two national semi-finals San Antonio, it is going to be a war.
These teams have quite a lot in common as far as their road through the tournament goes. Neither team has really been tested so far, with Oklahoma's most impressive victory being its 94-60 beatdown of Colorado in the Elite 8, while Duke's best win was a 62-46 decision over Texas in the Sweet 16. If you get right down to it, this game should be each team's first true test.
Duke, who stands at 31-3 after an undefeated run through the ACC tournament and conference play, is led by two outstanding sophomores, guard Alana Beard and center Iciss Tillis. Beard has been the heartbeat for the Blue Devils this season, averaging five assists, six rebounds and three steals per game. Oh, by the way, she can score too. Beard has already eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone, becoming the quickest Blue Devil to do so.
An interesting storyline in this game is Iciss Tillis. If the name rings a bell, don't be alarmed, because odds are you have heard her name around here before. Tillis is a 2000 graduate of Tulsa Cascia Hall. She was one of the top players in the country coming out of high school, and she was a player that OU head coach Sherri Coale wanted badly. Tillis will no doubt want to prove to herself, and to America as a whole, that she made the right choice in heading to Duke.
Oklahoma will realize immediately that one of their strengths is also a close ally of the Blue Devils in that both teams have an uncanny ability to pass the ball. It is paramount that OU not only guards the players very closely, but that they keep a watchful eye on the passing lanes in an effort to slow the Blue Devils down.
The story of this game lies in the power of the Triumvirate. If Caufield, Dales and Hill come out sluggish, then Oklahoma stands a serious chance of falling in a deep hole early on. The "Big 3" must be on their games early to calm everyone else's nerves. If I were a betting man, I would say that the Sooners continue the blitz they started at the end of the Colorado game. Duke will make a game of it late, but the Sooners will advance to SundayÃs championship game.
OU, Duke set to collide in San Antonio
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