Buzzer-beater hands Duke third straight defeat

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - After the Blue Devils erased a 15-point first-half deficit against Penn State Sunday night to tie the game with 8.9 seconds left, Karima Christmas had a chance to give No. 11 Duke a one-point lead at the foul line.

Instead, the freshman missed the free throw, and the Lady Lions' Janessa Wolff scored off a feed from Brianne O'Rourke with less than a second to play to lead Penn State to an 86-84 victory over the Blue Devils at the Bryce-Jordan Center. It was Duke's third consecutive defeat- and the team's first three-game losing streak in more than 10 years.

On the last play, O'Rourke brought the ball up the court, drew a double-team and fed a pass to the freshman Wolff, who put the ball into the basket to give unranked Penn State (6-2) its biggest victory of the season.

"Bad defense, horrific defense," Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said of the final play.

The Blue Devils (5-3) threw the ball downcourt and were able to get one last shot off, but Christmas' jumper from the free-throw line failed to hit the rim, giving Duke its first loss in its last 77 games against unranked opponents.

It was fitting that the team squandered its best chance at victory at the foul line. In a game in which the Blue Devils had more points off the bench, in the paint, on the break and from behind the arc than the Lady Lions, Penn State's margin of victory came almost exclusively from the charity stripe. They attempted 30 free throws to Duke's 10 and made an astounding 28 to just seven for the Blue Devils.

"We're going to have to go to the free throw line a whole lot more," McCallie said. "For them to go 30 times and for us to go 10 times-we're going to have to do something about that."

Even with the discrepancy in foul shots, the game was competitive, featuring six ties and six lead changes, five of which occurred in the final five minutes of play. Penn State took what appeared to be a commanding five-point lead, 82-77, with just 36 seconds remaining, but a difficult 3-pointer by junior Abby Waner cut the lead to two.

Two Lady Lion free throws later, Waner threw a no-look pass to Christmas for an easy bucket at the rim. On the ensuing inbound, a steal by center Chante Black set up another layup for Christmas, who tied the score at 84 and was fouled, but could not convert the three-point play.

Duke was able to make the game close in the second half after going into the break down 41-30. The team shot under 42 percent in the first half, including just 28.6 percent on threes. The Blue Devils also committed 12 fouls and 11 turnovers in the opening period, giving the potent Penn State offense more opportunities to score.

Duke came out more aggressively in the second session. On the first play of the period, Waner stole the ball and scored a fastbreak layup. In the next three minutes, the Blue Devils pulled to within six on a quick run capped by a Waner 3-pointer. The junior guard finished the game with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and tied a career-high with six threes.

Duke continued to apply pressure throughout the half and attributed its ability to get back in the game to its defensive intensity.

Unfortunately, the Blue Devils lacked that intensity on the game's final play, ending their five-game road swing on a low note.

"It has been a tough road stretch," Waner said. "But that's adversity, so hopefully it will make us stronger."


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