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Sharp shooting propels N.C. State past Duke women's basketball

Wolfpack guard Miah Spencer scored a game-high 23 points as N.C. State took down No. 10 Duke Sunday in Raleigh.
Wolfpack guard Miah Spencer scored a game-high 23 points as N.C. State took down No. 10 Duke Sunday in Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C.—After falling to the Fighting Irish in a game for the top spot in the ACC Monday night, the Blue Devils could not dig out of another double-digit hole Sunday.

Guards Miah Spencer and Dominique Wilson combined for 41 points and seven 3-pointers as unranked N.C. State upset No. 10 Duke 72-59 at Reynolds Coliseum. Despite an impressive performance from Elizabeth Williams—the senior had 19 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and an assist—the Blue Devils dropped their second straight road contest and lost more ground in the conference standings.

"The game was very simple—they shot 48 percent from the three point line, 33 percent from inside the arc and we didn't do much to stop that," Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We played in spurts and that is certainly not good enough in our league."

Duke (20-7, 11-3 in the ACC) started out the game sluggish as N.C. State (15-12, 6-8) jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first minute. The Blue Devils rallied quickly, though, and strong finishes in the post from Williams and redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell moved them ahead of the Wolfpack 9-8.

It seemed that Duke might run away with the game from there, as it extended its lead to five with a 6-0 run nine minutes into the half, but N.C. State retaliated with a run of its own to cut the Blue Devils’ lead to just one point. After a three-minute scoring drought for both teams, the Wolfpack took the lead with 6:27 left in the half.

"We honestly just didn't finish shots," Williams said. "We missed I can't even tell you how many layups in the first half. We got a lot of the looks that we wanted but we just didn't finish them."

N.C. State retained its lead from then until the close of the half. Sharp shooting up and down the Wolfpack rotation extended the lead in the last five minutes and a 3-pointer by Spencer at the buzzer sent the home team into the locker room leading 31-25.

The Blue Devils started the second half with better intensity, regaining the lead within the first four minutes. But once again, N.C. State responded swiftly, knocking down three unanswered 3-pointers and forcing McCallie to call a timeout. The Wolfpack made 12 treys on the afternoon as the Blue Devils went just 3-of-18.

"We're a paint team," McCallie said. "We're not going to just start shooting great from three-point range. That's not what we do."

Out of the break, a Williams turnover led to another Wolfpack triple—one of Wilson's four on the afternoon—to push the N.C. State lead to 46-35 with 13:33 to play.

Duke then went on a much needed run, holding the Wolfpack without a basket for almost five minutes in the middle of the half. During that stretch, Williams led a 7-0 run with four points as the Blue Devils managed to slice the deficit to four by the ten-minute mark.

"I don't like the way our team played at all," McCallie said. "I am not happy with the team right now. I wish they could walk home to be honest with you. [That being said], I think we can play. I think we can play with anybody. It's just frustrating to not have more of a visionary team to see what we can do."

The teams traded baskets from that point on, but N.C. State once again managed to pull away as the Blue Devils struggled with some of the issues that have plagued them all season—turnovers and foul trouble. Senior Ka’lia Johnson fouled out of the game with 3:26 left in the contest, and Williams, Greenwell, and freshman Azura Stevens—forced to foul late to extend the game—finished the contest with four fouls each.

Duke finished the game with 18 turnovers compared to the Wolfpack’s seven, leading to 28 N.C. State points.

"Twenty-eight points off turnovers might be a world record," McCallie said. "The turnovers were very poor—N.C. State didn't really go after us in a way that you could turn the ball over. Those turnovers were 18 of the worst turnovers I have ever seen."

The Wolfpack connected on 22-of-26 free throws—including all 10 in the final minute—to complete the upset.

Williams—a three-time All American who recently earned her 400th career block—added another benchmark on to her already impressive list of accolades. The Virginia Beach, Va., native notched her 1,000th career rebound five minutes into the second half. Her focus, however, was not on her own performance, but on how her team needs to improve.

"Mentally we just have to be tougher," Williams said. "Down the stretch we weren't tough and I don't think we embraced the challenge when they went on runs. We didn't respond like we should have. This is definitely a mind game for everyone."

With the loss, Duke has only two more games to get back on track before starting tournament play. The Blue Devils will finish their road stretch at Georgia Tech Thursday before hosting rival North Carolina March 1.


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