It took all 40 minutes of the championship game to pull it off, but Duke wound up playing the role of rude host to a tee by winning this weekend's Duke Women's Basketball Classic.
The Blue Devils (6-1) almost proved a bit too hospitable by allowing Michigan (6-2) to come back from a 12-point halftime deficit in the tournament's title game. But a final shot by the Wolverines' Ann Lemire rimmed out, and Duke held on to win, 64-63.
Michigan made its biggest run several minutes into the second half. After a three-pointer by Duke's Nicole Erickson made the score 48-38, the Wolverines took advantage of an extended drought by Duke's shooters to go on a 10-0 run and tie the score at 48.
Freshman Georgia Schweitzer responded by scoring six straight points to give the Blue Devils some breathing room at 54-48 with 5:33 left in the game. Schweitzer finished a diverse all-around game with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"[Schweitzer] plays with a lot of poise-she doesn't play like a freshman," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "She came in, and even in the first half she hit two buckets right away. She's still learning defensively, but we've got a lot of confidence in her and she's done a good job for us."
The Wolverines rallied again in the final minutes of the game behind several timely baskets by Anne Thorius and Stacey Thomas. A basket by Pollyanna Johns, who led all players with 20 points and 11 rebounds, cut Duke's lead to a single point with 47.8 seconds remaining.
Erickson's three-point attempt on Duke's final possession was off the mark, leaving less than 15 seconds for a final chance for Michigan. Lemire drove and pulled up from just inside the foul line, but her jumper hit the back of the rim and bounced out to seal the win for Duke.
Erickson led the way for the Blue Devils with 16 points and six assists. Payton Black and Peppi Browne chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Lauren Rice grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go along with her 10 points.
Black did the majority of her damage in the first half, when she scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Johns matched Black's scoring, but the Duke defense held the Wolverines to just 34.5 percent shooting as a team.
The second half was a different story. Michigan's 13-of-22 second half shooting-including 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc-was a big reason why the Wolverines were able to make the game's final minutes exciting.
"I was very pleased with our defense in the first half," Goestenkors said. "In the second half, I felt like they started taking the ball to us and attacking us, and I didn't feel like we responded very well. They got to the free throw line quite a bit, and [got] a lot of three-point plays, which is something we try not to do. So I was not happy at all in the second half with our defensive effort."
Duke had no such problem in its first-round game on Saturday night, building a 50-21 halftime lead and running by Ohio University, 99-59. A heroic effort by Ohio's Marlene Stollings, who led all scorers with 19 points and scored 15 of her team's 21 points in the first half, was not enough to keep up with Duke's depth.
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Goestenkors played 12 players for the entire game and all 12 found the basket at least once. Black led Duke with 16 points, Rice tallied 11 points and nine rebounds and freshman Rochelle Parent contributed 10 points off the bench.
The Blue Devils have a week off before taking to the road next Saturday to start their Atlantic Coast Conference season at Clemson. With the narrow escape against Michigan under their belts, Goestenkors feels the players are ready for their conference foes.
"Michigan's picked fourth in the Big Ten," Goestenkors said. "I know that they have aspirations of finishing higher than that and I think that they will. So this is a quality opponent, and similar to some of our ACC teams in that they're athletic, they're strong, they keep coming at you. So I think this is great preparation for us."
Notes: Erickson was named the tournament's MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Black, Johns, Stollings and Florida A&M's Aquenda Clark. When asked about the award, Erickson was humble. "I'm just glad we won. That's all I care about," she said... Goestenkors achieved a career milestone during the Ohio game by notching her 100th coaching victory. The win came against a familiar foe in Ohio coach Marsha Reall, who coached Goestenkors during her playing days at Saginaw Valley State.