No. 10 Duke Defeats No. 9 North Carolina in OT, 81-79
March 1, 2009
DURHAM, North Carolina (AP) - Abby Waner's final home game at Duke was looking like a disaster - mainly because she kept shooting, and missing.
Then the Blue Devils' sharpshooter came through with quite the farewell to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Waner shook off a miserable shooting night to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 45.8 seconds remaining in overtime and lead No. 10 Duke past No. 9 North Carolina 81-79 on Sunday night.
"I just told her throughout the game (that) I couldn't have her thinking about the (most recent) shot," point guard Jasmine Thomas said. "I needed her to stay with us, and she did. She definitely hit the shot we needed."
Thomas scored eight of her 19 points in the extra session, Karima Christmas had 18 points, Carrem Gay added 15 points and 12 rebounds and Bridgette Mitchell finished with 13 points for the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
They snapped a four-game losing streak to their most hated rivals in dramatic fashion, won for the fifth time in six games and clinched the No. 3 seed in this week's ACC tournament.
"Now we all fight for consistency on that race through the tournament," coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "That's the next piece. ... Tournaments (are) tough, that's a tough grind, and the way we had to grind it out tonight, in a lot of respects, is the way you have to grind it out to win that tournament."
Rashanda McCants had 24 points to lead the Tar Heels (25-5, 10-4). They shot 45 percent but slipped to the No. 4 seed in the league tournament because they couldn't overcome 33 turnovers.
And Waner - who had missed 14 of her previous 15 shots during her final game at Cameron - cashed in on the most important one: Joy Cheek stole Cetera DeGraffenreid's pass to the block and hustled upcourt.
"We were trying to pass it to the post. They knocked it away," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We had been scoring and making good decisions. It just wasn't a good decision."
Cheek then dished off to Waner in the left corner, and the senior swished a 3 to put Duke up 78-76.
"It was simply: ball, basket. You have to dumb it down sometimes," she said. "If you overthink it too much, you get inside your head. Sometimes it's better to let it all play out on the court instead of in your head."
Thomas hit two free throws on Duke's next possession and Christmas added a foul shot to make it a five-point game with 10.8 seconds left, before McCants hit a 3 with 1.7 seconds left that ultimately was too little, too late.
Italee Lucas had 16 points, and Jessica Breland added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
"We will use this game as motivation," Hatchell said. "Everything happens for a reason, and this may be a blessing in disguise. I hope so."
For a while, it looked as though their offense had gotten just hot enough late to carry them to another come-from-behind victory over Duke. They used a 19-8 run midway through the second half to take a 67-61 lead on Chay Shegog's free throw with 2:01 remaining - a spurt reminiscent of the one that carried them to a 75-60 victory last month in Chapel Hill.
"I think (the Blue Devils) just really wanted to snap back," McCallie said.
Gay hit a jumper, the Blue Devils forced a tie-up on the inbounds pass and Mitchell hit a layup in traffic to make it 67-65. McCants' slicing layup through the lane spun out with about 45 seconds left, Christmas grabbed the rebound and Duke rushed upcourt before calling timeout with 35.5 seconds left.
Thomas drove down the lane and banked in a runner with 20 seconds left. North Carolina called timeout with 11.2 seconds left and put the ball in DeGraffenreid's hands, and the diminutive point guard dribbled off a screen and sliced in for a layup that bounced off the rim as time expired in regulation.
"We had two pretty good looks, basically layups, at the end of regulation, and we missed those, and that gave them a lot of momentum going into the overtime," Hatchell said.
Waner wasn't the only Duke senior to struggle - at least, until late in overtime - in her last game at Cameron. Center Chante Black had seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, plus seven rebounds and four blocked shots before fouling out with 4:13 remaining.
Yet she helped the Blue Devils finish with a 54-42 rebounding advantage, and for the first time she played a part in a victory over the Tar Heels. Black sat out Duke's last two victories in the series - both in 2006-07 - because she was redshirting with a knee injury.
"We called it a board party, a rebound party," Gay said. "We just had fun and tried to pursue the ball when it was loose in the air."
Once again, turnovers were a huge problem for North Carolina, which had 25 in the first 25 minutes of the game while falling behind by 10. It had 29 giveaways in the teams' previous meeting.
Despite that carelessness, the Tar Heels tightened things up after halftime by holding the Blue Devils to one field goal during the opening 6 1/2 minutes of the second half. Lucas' 3-pointer in transition put them up 56-54 - their first lead since midway through the first half.
That came well after the Blue Devils seemed to have taken control by holding North Carolina without a field goal for about 5 1/2 minutes in the first half.