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Women roll to ACC final with Carolina

GREENSBORO — Smarting from a regular season-ending loss to North Carolina, the Blue Devils entered the ACC Tournament in an unfamiliar position.

Despite having won 15 consecutive tournament games and having never lost in the Greensboro Coliseum, second-seeded Duke began play this weekend looking up at UNC for the time since 1997. But after a record-setting first two rounds, Duke’s women will come face-to-face with their arch nemeses in tonight’s final.

The No. 6 Blue Devils hit an all-time tournament scoring high Saturday and blew past Wake Forest, 107-50.

Then Sunday, Duke did it with defense, holding No. 25 Maryland to just 11 points in the first half—another tournament record—en route to a commanding 74-44 victory.

“I think our defense set the tone for the game,” head coach Gail Goestenkors said. “Our defense in particular in the first half was some of the best defense we’ve played all year.”

That might have been the understatement of a season blemished by a sweep at the hands of the Tar Heels. At one point Sunday, Duke held Maryland without a field goal for more than 13 minutes. The Blue Devils used superior size inside—three of Duke’s eight players are taller than Maryland center Crystal Langhorne—to stonewall virtually every Terps foray into the paint.

“I didn’t think it could get much worse than when we played Duke at home offensively [in a 60-49 loss], but it did tonight,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “It’s a hard team to prepare for when you have 6-foot-5 [Chante Black] and 6-7 [Alison Bales] in the middle. We adjust our shots around it, which really throws us off a lot.”

The results were nothing short of stunning. At the end of the first half, Maryland had been outscored 20-0 in the paint, was shooting just 13.6 percent from the floor and had more turnovers than points. At the end of the game, Maryland had just three assists compared to 20 turnovers.

In fact, things were going so badly for the Terrapins in the first half that Black had converted more field goals (five) than the entire Maryland team (three).

“I felt like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong today,” said guard Anesia Smith, who led the Terps with 12 points. “We were frustrated. We did our best to keep our composure and try to work through the tough times, but there are days like this where you can’t hit baskets.”

In addition, the Maryland two-pronged attack of Langhorne and guard Shay Doron never found any kind of rhythm during the opening stanza. The duo, which entered the game averaging more than 35 points combined, finished with just 17 for the game.

“They are two incredible players,” Goestenkors said. “I thought our team all understood very well where those two were at all times, and I thought they did a great job helping one another out.”

Meanwhile, Duke used a balanced offensive attack to pick apart Maryland’s aggressive man-to-man defense. Five Blue Devils scored in double figures, led by Black’s 14-point, 13-rebound effort. The all-around effort convinced Goestenkors that Duke’s offense is not just centered around ACC Player of the Year Monique Currie.

“For a while we were beginning to rely on her, and I think we really made a conscious effort to move the ball around,” Goestenkors said. “And I think other people are stepping up right now, which is really important come tournament time.”

But as impressive as Duke’s win over Maryland was, its tournament-opening victory over Wake Forest was more one-sided in nearly every facet.

In addition to setting a tournament record with 107 points, Duke’s 57-point final margin tied for the second most lopsided outcome in tournament history.

“That’s the best 40 minutes of basketball I’ve ever seen any team play on any level,” Wake Forest head coach Mike Petersen said. “You’ve got to give tremendous credit to Duke to how well they played, for how hard they played and how efficient they were.”

Efficient, indeed. Duke tore up the Demon Deacons’ zone defenses by putting on a shooting clinic, hitting more than 68 percent of its shots and more than 58 percent from beyond the arc.

Duke’s success on the perimeter allowed Bales, Black and forward Mistie Williams to have a field day inside as the Blue Devils raced to a 62-26 first-half advantage.

The second half of the game was essentially garbage time, allowing seven of eight Duke players to score in double figures. The only exception was junior Jessica Foley, who finished with nine points.


Monday’s matchup against North Carolina will mark the fifth time in the past six years that Duke and UNC have met for the ACC championship. Duke won all four previous contests.... The Blue Devils showed excellent ball movement against both Wake Forest and Maryland, tallying 42 assists in the two games.... Duke benefited from balanced scoring against Wake Forest, too—despite the 107-point effort, no Duke player scored more than 17 points....


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