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Duke fends off Eagles to advance

CHAPEL HILL — With less than a minute remaining Tuesday night against Boston College, the Duke women’s basketball team looked like it had a Sweet 16 trip to look forward to as the time ticked down in the Dean Smith Center.

But even after Monique Currie scored twice from the free-throw line to give Duke an eight-point lead, the Eagles fought back. Senior Clare Droesch hit four shots, including two three-pointers, starting with 1:07 left to bring her team within three.

The second-seeded Blue Devils (30-4) went 5-for-6 from the line as seventh-seeded Boston College desperately fouled them in the final 18 seconds.

“I definitely know that free throws can win and lose games,” Currie said. “You just have to be focused and knock them down.”

When it was all over, Alison Bales chest-bumped Laura Kurz as their team secured its eighth-straight Sweet 16 berth with a 70-65 win over the Eagles (20-10). Duke will play sixth-seeded Georgia Saturday at 2:30 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Currie’s 8-for-8 performance from the line capped her 21-point night. Although the junior led the team’s offense, she was not alone in the Duke attack. Bales had what head coach Gail Goestenkors called “a coming of age.”

Bales forced her way into the lane, using her size advantage over the Eagles to score 16 points, 10 of which came in the final 10 minutes of play.

“Down the stretch, she wanted the basketball,” said Goestenkors of the sophomore, who added five rebounds and six blocks. “She was calling for it, she was scoring inside for us with key buckets.”

With seven and a half minutes remaining, Bales went on a two-minute run when she scored seven points, the same number as the Eagles.

The center, who has averaged 7.5 points per game this season, helped make up for the loss of Jessica Foley. The junior missed her second game Tuesday because of tendonitis in her left foot.

Without its secondary ball handler, Foley, Duke turned the ball over eight times in the first half. But after halftime, the Blue Devils only coughed up the ball four times.

The turnovers prevented Duke from establishing any early momentum. Throughout the first nine and a half minutes, Boston College held the lead at three points and the teams were tied three times.

With 11:31 remaining in the game, freshman Wanisha Smith hit a three to give Duke a 16-14 edge. Boston College never regained the lead, although it did tie the Blue Devils twice more in the game. The teams were knotted at 24 before the Blue Devils went on a 15-6 run to build a 10-point lead, their largest on the night.

“I think we were ready for them, but we knew it was going to happen,” Mistie Williams said of the spurt. “They definitely weren’t ready to lay down and let us run over them. That’s the way the tournament is. Everybody brings their A-plus game.”

Boston College’s top game was enough to challenge Duke throughout the final minutes. Droesch, who led the Eagles with 23 points, had 19 in the second half. The senior’s shots came from all over the court, many on the baseline. Brooke Queenan, who recorded 17 points for BC, shot mostly from mid-range, an area normally defended by Foley.

Boston College’s feisty play was what Goestenkors expected from the team that will join the ACC next season.

“It was a battle,” Goestenkors said. “I thought we got excellent contributions from everyone at some point during the game, and we needed every little bit.”

NOTES:

With its 30th victory, Duke improves to 11-4 against ranked opponents this season. The Blue Devils have recorded 30 wins in each of the last five seasons.... Goestenkors expressed concern over the possibility of playing without Foley Saturday against Georgia but did not indicate whether the junior would play.... Freshman Chante Black had her third-straight game with double-digit rebounds.... Currie scored more than 20 points for the 13th time this season.... With seven blocked shots, six by Bales, Duke continues to improve on its NCAA-record 256 on the season.

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