W. Basketball squeaks by Tigers

For the thirteenth time in school history, the women's basketball team won the Duke Classic, defeating No. 25 Auburn (4-2) 66-57 in Sunday's final.

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils (4-1), who had won their previous three games by an average of 59.3 points, had considerably more trouble in their first-ever meeting with the Tigers.

"I'm happy to come away with a win," Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "Auburn is an exceptional team and I thought they did a great job. We knew they were a very athletic, very physical team. We were expecting a tremendous battle, and that's exactly what we got." Duke was led by All American and tournament MVP Alana Beard's 27 points, 17 of which came in the first half. The senior forward played all 40 minutes of the game and notched her third straight 20-plus scoring performance.

"Alana taught us a lesson today," Auburn head coach Joe Ciampi said.

"How to play the game by being out there, defending, giving an assist, driving it, going on the backside and catching the lob pass, breaking us down, flashing through to the high post, catching and shooting, her control--she's as good as they get."

Beard was joined on the five-member all-tournament team by guard Monique Currie and forward Iciss Tillis, who each reached double figures in scoring and rebounding against the Tigers. The trio earned the honor during a crucial second-half run that allowed the Blue Devils to put the game out of reach.

With the score tied at 53-53 with 7:55 left to play, Auburn guard Tanesheia Thompson capped a furious Tiger rally by hitting a floating jump shot to put her team ahead by two points.

Currie and Beard responded with a 9-0 run of their own, highlighted by a Beard fast-break lay-up off of her own defensive steal that allowed the Blue Devils to regain the lead, 57-55. The senior?s drive was assisted by sophomore point guard Lindsey Harding, who led the team with five feeds on the day.

"I just think I settled the team down, and I think that Monique did an awesome job of attacking," Beard said of the duo's effort to halt Auburn's comeback bid. "As a team we settled down, ran our motion [offense], made great cuts and started making the right passes."

Duke secured its fourth victory of the season with the help of Tillis, who was forced to sit out much of the second half after collecting her fourth foul at the 15:10 mark. The All-American forward struggled with her shot for much of the game, finishing just three-of-13 from the field, and but she playing well down the stretch, grabbing three defensive rebounds and going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 2:53.

"She wasn't hitting her shot today, and we're all going to go through those times," Goestenkors said. "We just talked to her about the fact that she needed to rebound for us. Somehow you need to find a way to contribute, and I thought she got some huge defensive rebounds for us down the stretch and we needed all of them."

The final nine-point margin of victory was one greater that the Blue Devils' edge at halftime, as they went into the locker room with a 39-31 advantage. The Tigers tied to score at 22-22 with 5:35 remaining in the first half, but Currie, Beard and Tillis combined to score 17 points to close out the period.

Auburn was led by forward Le'Coe Willingham's 19 points and nine rebounds, although she did commit five of her team's 25 turnovers, which Duke converted into 26 points on the offensive end. The Blue Devils reached Sunday's final with a 119-53 drubbing of Stephen F. Austin (0-4) Saturday. Duke had seven players score in double figures, led by Tillis' 23 points.

Saturday's game featured the first playing time of the year for 6-foot-7 freshman Alison Bales, who is recovering from a knee injury. Bales finished with five points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in only 11 minutes of action.

All of the proceeds from the Duke Classic will go to the Durham Ronald McDonald House, which helps families with sick children at the Duke Medical Center.

"I think it's important that we supported the Ronald McDonald House," Beard said. "Anytime we can play for something like that and have your name associated with the Ronald McDonald House, it's an honor."


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