Gritty Blue Devils fight to win over N.C. State, remain unbeaten
There wasn’t much to like about Duke’s offense against N.C. State Thursday night at Reynolds Coliseum.
But in the final six minutes, with a tough ACC women’s basketball game on the line, the Blue Devils gutted out enough plays to escape unbeaten.
Chelsea Gray made all eight of her free throws over the final eight minutes to score a game-high 20 points and Haley Peters added 18 as the No. 3 Blue Devils topped N.C. State 67-57.
“This is not the way we’ve been playing when we played better,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It’s a great lesson for us and a chance to move on.”
Duke (12-0, 2-0 in the ACC) won despite shooting just 39.3 percent, its second-lowest field goal shooting percentage of the season, and logging a season-low 11 assists. Those statistics were a big reason why N.C. State (8-6, 0-2) trailed 45-44 with 7:54 to play.
That’s when Duke displayed aggressiveness on the offensive end that allowed it to finally pull away from the scrappy Wolfpack.
Gray hit two free throws and, after an N.C. State turnover, she missed a jump shot that Duke’s Tricia Liston rebounded to keep the possession alive.
Elizabeth Williams was fouled and hit the first of two free throws. When she missed the second, Peters grabbed the rebound under the basket and scored on a reverse layup for a 50-44 Duke lead with 6:35 to play.
“I was very proud of Haley, a terrific game for her,” McCallie said. “She battled all night long. They have some very big bodies and Haley was just tough and aggressive rebounding and making a lot of things happen.”
Kody Burke, who led N.C. State with 15 points, scored a conventional three-point play on the other end with a basket and free throw.
But Peters restored Duke’s six-point lead at 53-47 by nailing a 3-pointer at the top of the key and celebrating with a couple of fist pumps.
It was Peters’ lone 3-pointer of the game and a rarity for Duke, which hit only 2 of 14 3-pointers in the game.
A Peters steal on the N.C. State end led to two Gray free throws and Duke had its largest lead of the second half, 55-47, with 5:21 to play.
Williams completed a 12-3 Duke run with two free throws at 3:18 to give the Blue Devils a 57-47 lead.
“I think we started to play our game offensively,” Peters said of the game-deciding run. “That was a stretch where we started to have some assists, the things that we needed to do for 40 minutes.”
The Blue Devils made 16 of 20 free throws in the second half, including 6 of 8 in the 40 seconds. Duke those final free tosses after N.C. State had scored seven consecutive points to slice the Blue Devils lead to 61-57 with 47 seconds to play.
“I thought we did some good things defensively we had some breakdowns in the second half that hurt us,” N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said. “The biggest thing that hurt us was they got some offensive rebounds in the second half. That put a pin in our bubble.”
Even though the Wolfpack have missed the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, they’ve been tough on Duke. Two years ago at Reynolds, Duke rallied from a 20-point, second-half deficit to win 65-64.
Last March, N.C. State upset top-seeded Duke 75-73 in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
“It was a revenge type of game,” Gray said. “We wanted to make a statement.”
While the game as a whole wasn’t what McCallie liked, the Blue Devils did find a way to win.
Duke did turn in another solid defensive game. N.C. State shot 32.1 percent and committed 13 turnovers. The Wolfpack stayed close on the strength of six 3-pointers, including two each from post players Burke and Kiana Evans.
“It was a great defensive basketball game for us,” McCallie said. “If you take away the 12 points they made on threes by people who don’t normally shoot them, it was an incredible defensive performance by Duke so we’re very happy about that.”
No. 3 Duke 67, N.C. State 57
Percentages: FG .393, FT .739. 3-Point Goals: 2-14, .143 (Jones 1-4, Peters 1-4, Gray 0-1, Wells 0-2, Liston 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 7 (Vernerey 2, Peters 2, Williams 2, Jones). Turnovers: 14 (Jones 4, Liston 3, Peters 2, Vernerey 2, Gray, Jackson). Steals: 10 (Johnson 3, Gray 2, Peters 2, Williams, Vernerey, Jones). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .321, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Evans 2-2, Burke 2-3, Kastanek 2-6, Brown 0-1, Barrett 0-1, Goodwin-Coleman 0-2, Eli 0-2). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 4 (Burke 2, Brown, Kastanek). Turnovers: 13 (Barrett 3, Kastanek 3, Burke 2, Goodwin-Coleman 2, Evans, Daniel, Williams). Steals: 8 (Kastanek 2, Daniel 2, Eli, Barrett, Gatling, Goodwin-Coleman). Technical Fouls: None.
A—2,779. Officials—Susan Blauch, Joe Cunningham, Angel Stanton.