GREENSBORO COLISEUM This is the kind of matchup that more frequently occurs in the championship game of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, or at least in the semifinals.
Not this year.
Defending conference champion Maryland is the No. 9 seed and has already eliminated preseason conference favorite UNC in women’s basketball’s version of a “Group of Death.”
Today’s opponent is top-seeded No. 9 Duke, which has played in the last two finals and looks for its first title in six seasons and the first under Joanne P. McCallie.
Duke won both regular-season meetings – 58-57 in College Park on Jan. 24 and 71-59 at Cameron on Feb. 21, and that old adage about how tough it is to beat the same team three times in a season is at work.
It does prove to be tough, but Duke survives in the final minute to advance 66-64 and set up a semifinal meeting with Georgia Tech on Saturday.
As the final score shows, it wasn’t easy from the outset.
As was the case against the Tar Heels a day earlier, the Terps come out hot.
Maryland’s biggest lead is 11, at 24-13 on a jumper from Anjale Barrett with 13:24 left in the first half.
Duke responds to the adversity with a 10-2 run, tying it at 26-26 on a Bridgette Mitchell layup with 6:21 left in the half.
The Blue Devils take their biggest lead of the period at 37-31 on a pair of free throws from Joy Cheek (pictured) at the 1:42 mark.
Duke’s biggest lead of the game is nine, at 46-37 on a pair of Krystal Thomas free throws with 16:43 to go.
But the Terps don’t fold up. Maryland comes back to take a 64-63 lead on a pair of Lori Bjork free throws at the 2:29 mark before Duke recovers to put it away.
Mitchell hits a pair of free throws at 2:19 for the lead, then makes it 66-63 on Cheek’s layup at 1:38.
Jasmine Thomas gets a chance to add to the pad with two free-throw attempts after a technical on the Maryland bench at 1:01, but misses both.
Dara Taylor hits the second of two free throws with 37 seconds left. Duke works the 30-second clock and Cheek misses a jumper at the end of it.
Maryland’s Jackie Nared rebounds and gets off about a 30-foot 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but it’s wide left by about two feet.
Jasmine Thomas leads all scorers with 21 points including five 3-pointers, followed by Cheek with 14 and Karima Christmas 11 for the Blue Devils.
Lynetta Kizer puts in 16 for the Terps, followed by Barrett with 15, Bjork with 14 and Nared 10.
Duke shoots 47.1 percent from the floor to Maryland’s 37.7. The Terps outrebound Duke 29-28 and commit 19 turnovers to the Blue Devils’ 20.
They said it:
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “Well it was a great basketball game, and very interesting game. I just loved the second half, the seven-minute stretch where our team focused and did a great job defensively. I love the attack of Jas and Joy and Karima; they were very aggressive and looking to attack which is always good. Rebound-wise, I think we could have been more dominant. It was a very physical game, and that was a battle. And getting after the ball was something that we certainly needed to do there. … I liked our attack and finish and composure down the stretch and some of the key plays made down the stretch. And Joy made key plays, and Jasmine did.”
Maryland coach Brenda Frese: “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. You know like I told them, I mean we battled, we competed for 40 minutes and we were right there. And then you talk about a play, a call, a possession, but we left everything out there. And I think that is the thing I am most proud of is to see this young team battle like they have in the last two days. We showed them we can play with anyone in the country and good things will happen for this team when we compete like we did today.”
Jasmine Thomas: “It feels good to come in here and grind this win out and move on. Like we have been doing all season. We have to take what we didn’t do well in this game and transfer it to the next game in the NCAA tournament. We have teams that we are familiar with. It’s not about executing and doing Xs and Os, it’s who wants it more. That is what we have to prove this year, that we want it more.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke survived a tough first opponent and remains the favorite to cut down the nets on Sunday. And that Maryland gets to sweat out the NCAA selection committee’s decisions.
Stars of the game
1. Jasmine Thomas.
Play of the game
Cheek’s layup with 1:38 left to put Duke up 66-63.
Maryland leads 37-36.
Duke: Won 1.
Maryland: Lost 1.
Duke vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, 1 p.m.