Mar. 26, 2013 @ 11:16 PM

The Duke Blue Devils found themselves in an unfamiliar spot Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium, trailing by 15 points in the second half.

So they used a familiar pattern to climb back in the game before sinking nine straight free throws to eliminate Oklahoma State 68-59 and earn a trip to the Norfolk Regional, where the Blue Devils will face Nebraska on Sunday.

Elizabeth Williams worked inside for 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Haley Peters put up 15 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils (32-2).

But the key to the comeback was Chloe Wells’ play off the bench, posting 13 points and making defensive stops during Duke’s second-half rally.

“Chloe was a game-changing performance in all ways,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She worked so hard on defense. I think at one point she stalled them, and they stopped moving. ...

“I really thought Chloe was the engine to making it go.”

After trailing 34-21 at intermission, Duke got off to a shaky start to the second half. Brittney Martin expanded the Cowgirls’ lead just 12 seconds in, then Williams committed her sixth turnover of the night and Tricia Liston’s 3-point attempt rimmed out.

But Peters’ 3-pointer with 18:54 left sparked a 12-0 run to trim the margin to 38-33 at the 15:19 mark.

OSU built the lead to nine points twice, the latter on a jumper by Kendra Suttles with 9:42 left.

After a three-point play by Wells, Williams, Ka’lia Johnson, and Jones each made only one of two free throws to pull within 51-46 with 6:38 on the clock.

Liston missed a shot but made the follow-up on an offensive rebound and completed a three-point play when she was fouled, then sank a 3-pointer to give Duke its first lead since a 4-2 margin three minutes into the game.

The Cowgirls regained the lead briefly, but Peters’ drive inside with 4:03 left put the Blue Devils ahead to stay 54-53.

“Haley was just all over the place — rebounding, defending, hit probably the game-winning shot,” McCallie said.

Williams then blocked a shot by Liz Donohoe, who led OSU with 14 points, and Peters saved an possession when she tapped the ball back to Liston after a missed shot. Williams scored inside for 56-53 Duke lead, and the Blue Devils sealed the win with four free throws by Jones and two each from Liston and Williams in the final minute.

“I thought Elizabeth fought back,” McCallie said of her sophomore post player, who blocked three shots and came up with a steal. “She was frustrated early but just came back really, really strong and probably played the best basketball at the most critical moments of the game.”

Duke struggled from the start, as the Blue Devils had three turnovers in the first 1:12 of the game and went into halftime with 10. Williams, who had six points in the first half, nearly matched that number with five turnovers.

“I think we pressed a little bit and wanted things too much sometimes ... and would forget to play together,” McCallie said of the first half. “Second half, very different story. Everybody was on the same page, everybody was going the same direction and I thought it was just a fascinating thing to observe and watch and be a part of because Oklahoma State is an excellent team.”

Meanwhile, the Cowgirls were picking apart Duke’s defense, with Young repeatedly driving inside on her way to eight first-half points. Bias had nine points at intermission, including a long 3-pointer that she banked in with 6.3 seconds left for the Cowgirls’ biggest lead at 34-21.

“I thought our fight wasn’t that great in the first half,” Peters said. “We went away from things that we normally do very well and didn’t play together as well as we could.

“We had defeated looks every now and they, which I thought was strange because that isn’t something we’ve done throughout the majority of the season.”

It was only the fourth time the Blue Devils trailed at halftime and largely was the result of the turnovers plus shooting only 30 percent while Oklahoma State converted 46.7.

In the second half, Duke shot 42.9 percent from the field and OSU just 32 percent.

“We made some mistakes taking care of the basketball, made some mistakes defensively,” Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said. “Good teams make you pay for that.

“Duke played extremely well in the second half. I don’t think it is necessarily anything we did wrong; we just ran out of gas.”

    FG FT
Donohoe 39 4-10 3-3 1-7 2 0 14
Young 39 6-14 0-0 1-8 0 2 12
Suttles 38 4-9 0-0 3-7 2 2 9
Bias 40 3-11 4-4 1-5 6 5 11
Martin 32 5-9 2-2 2-5 4 4 13
Anderson 10 0-1 0-0 1-2 2 1 0
Jones 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 200 22-55 9-9 9-35 16 14 59

Percentages: FG .400, FT 1.000.

3-Point Goals: 6-23, .261 (Donohoe 3-8, Martin 1-3, Suttles 1-5, Bias 1-6, Young 0-1).

Team Rebounds: 1.

Blocked Shots: 1 (Young).

Turnovers: 21 (Donohoe 6, Bias 5, Martin 4, Suttles 4, Young 2).

Steals: 12 (Young 3, Martin 3, Donohoe 3, Bias 2, Suttles).

Technical Fouls: None.

    FG FT
DUKE                                          Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Jackson 21 0-4 1-2 2-2 2 2 1
Peters 34 7-13 0-0 5-13 0 2 15
Williams 34 6-15 4-6 3-12 0 1 16
Jones 35 2-6 5-6 1-3 7 3 9
Liston 36 4-15 3-3 3-5 1 1 13
Wells 25 5-12 1-1 0-0 2 2 13
Johnson 3 0-0 1-2 0-0 0 0 1
Vernerey 12 0-0 0-0 1-2 1 0 0
Totals 200 24-65 15-20 16-40 13 11 68

Percentages: FG .369, FT .750.

3-Point Goals: 5-21, .238 (Wells 2-7, Liston 2-8, Peters 1-3, Jackson 0-1, Jones 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 3.

Blocked Shots: 4 (Williams 3, Vernerey).

Turnovers: 13 (Williams 7, Jones 3, Jackson, Wells, Peters).

Steals: 12 (Liston 4, Peters 4, Johnson, Williams, Jackson, Wells).

Technical Fouls: None.

Oklahoma St. 34 25—59
Duke 21 47—68


Officials—Beverly Roberts, Maj Forsberg, Rod Creech.