RALEIGH — With 46 seconds remaining, the top-ranked women’s basketball team found itself down a single point to No. 25 N.C. State. Duke designed a play to get the ball to its star player, Monique Currie, and after successfully putting the ball in her hands and setting up a double screen near the baseline, the junior still faced two Wolfpack defenders.
With time running out, Currie put the shot up and drew a foul while still managing to kiss the jumper off the glass. The Blue Devils mobbed the co-captain, who remained on the floor, and hoisted her to her feet so she could complete the three-point play that would eventually lead to Duke’s 52-49 victory at Reynolds Coliseum Sunday.
“Currie made an incredible shot,” N.C. State head coach Kay Yow said. “It was a tough loss, to play that hard—play that well on one end of the court—and lose it at the end on a shot like that.”
But Currie’s late-game heroics would not have been necessary had Duke (20-2, 6-1 in the ACC) not blown a 12-point lead to N.C. State (15-5, 4-3).
With the Wolfpack playing for a share of first place in the ACC, the Blue Devils controlled play in the second half and the game appeared over.
Duke held its opponent scoreless for more than five minutes and was able to build up its 12-point lead. The Blue Devils had all the momentum, but Jessica Foley fouled out after stealing the ball and promptly committing an offensive foul with 7:18 left.
Duke, already undermanned with eight players, was down to just seven. Freshman Laura Kurz and senior Wynter Whitley were the only options to replace Foley, and head coach Gail Goestenkors decided to go with experience.
“Wynter has been in these situations before,” Goestenkors said. “She’s a team senior, she’s tough, she makes those scrappy plays.”
Whitley’s presence was not enough to halt the Wolfpack’s charge. N.C. State’s 19-6 run gave the team its only second-half lead, but Currie quickly responded with her game-winning three-point play.
During their run, the Wolfpack forced six Duke turnovers, were perfect from the line and shot better than 50 percent from the field.
The first half of play Sunday featured none of the excitement of the second. The two team’s combined for only 15 points in the opening 10 minutes as both teams struggled from the floor.
Duke center Alison Bales, who has emerged as an inside threat this season, played poorly in the opening minutes, turning the ball over and missing two close-range shots in the first four minutes of the game. Goestenkors immediately removed her and sat her on the bench for the next 10 minutes.
“I didn’t think she was playing tough, and I let her know that,” Goestenkors said. “I thought she came back much more aggressive.”
Bales’ inspired play led to one of the highlights for Duke on the afternoon. With the score knotted at 46, Mistie Williams turned the ball over, leading to a Wolfpack fast-break and what appeared to be their first second-half lead. But Bales leapt from under the basket and swatted Kendra Bell’s layup out of bounds.
After a week when Duke won 2-of-3 games against top-25 ACC teams, the team holds a one-and-a-half game lead in the conference as it heads into an easier stretch.
Wanisha Smith failed to score for the second time in three games.... Chante Black scored four points with eight rebounds in limited action.
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