HARTFORD, Conn. -- With 3:53 remaining in the second half against top-ranked UConn Saturday, the women's basketball team finally decided to show up.
Thankfully, those 233 seconds were all that the Blue Devils needed.
Coming out of the under-four-minute TV timeout down 14 points, Duke (11-1) went on a 18-3 tear, capped by a last-second three-point shot by Jessica Foley. The 68-67 final score was Duke's first and only lead of the night.
"I was in a position to take the last shot and I felt that I was open to take it, but then I see...Strother right there, coming after me," Foley said. "I have been in a lot of last second shots before, but nothing can compare to this."
The loss to Duke snaps UConn's (9-1) 69-game home winning streak and breaks the Huskies' 36-game winning streak in the Hartford Civic Center.
The game was an otherwise forgettable performance for the Blue Devils, who scored just 18 points in the first half and found themselves down 20 on two occasions.
Alana Beard contributed most to the anemic offensive play, scoring only one point in the first half on 0-7 shooting from the field. She came alive in the second half, however, scoring 20 of her game-high 21 points, including 11 in the last four minutes.
"Alana is just such a great leader for us and her shots weren't falling and unfortunately that will happen to everybody at any given time," Duke Coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I was just glad for her that she stuck with it and she knows that her shots were going to fall eventually.
Duke's 21.9 percent first-half shooting continued through most of the second half, with the Blue Devils finding no answers to the Huskies' defense. With an 8-0 run, they brought the game to within 9 on a jumper by Beard at the 5:23 mark, but the Huskies responded with a 5-0 run of their own.
In a down-by-double-figures situation Goestenkors said the team prepares for every practice, Duke instituted a swarming full-court press with about four minutes remaining, and possession after possession stopped UConn before it could cross half court.
In the last 3:53, Duke forced six turnovers, including four steals.
"It was just one of those unexplainable things really, other than it was a total breakdown by us, and an inability to handle the ball, and handle the craziness of the last five or six minutes," said UConn Coach Geno Auriema. "Players who, up to this point were pretty good decision makers and do some good things all of the sudden, whatever the worse decision they could make in that particular instance they made it. So, I guess we're human, huh? We've spent a lot of time making great decisions, and today wasn't one of those days."
UConn star guard Diana Taurasi also struggled through most of the game, though she broke a 65-65 tie with a jumper with 4.7 seconds remaining.
With Duke out of timeouts, Lindsey Harding drove the ball all the way up the court and passed up a lay-up to find Foley waiting squared up, ready to take a three on the right side.
UConn's Ann Strother was able to put a hand in Foley's face, but the ball went in as the buzzer sounded, and the Blue Devils swarmed the court as a stunned Connecticut crowd and team looked on in disbelief.
"It's really tough [to swallow]," Tuarasi said. "Whenever you're up 20 and then all of a sudden you just give it away... they made a big shot to win it, and it's tough. It's definitely stunning. Whenever you lose a game like that, you don't really know where to start."
The loss spurred a flip-flop in the Associated Press top 25 poll, as Duke took over the top spot from UConn, and the Huskies assumed the Blue Devils' previous No. 4 ranking. By Auriema's own admission, Duke's win also exposed some serious kinks in the armor--including depth and guard play--of what had become the premiere team in college basketball in recent years.
For the Blue Devils, some players said it was the biggest win in their Duke careers.
"I feel very fortunate from having this win, especially after the way that we played in the first half," Beard said. "I think we could have played a lot better, and I really don't understand why we wait so long to play good basketball. We will need to move on and make sure that we don't celebrate too much."
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