NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Losing in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament seems to have lit a fire under the Duke Blue Devils.
Haley Peters’ career-high 25 points led five Blue Devils in double figures, and Duke turned in its best shooting performance of the season Tuesday night in routing Vanderbilt 96-80 to advance to the Fresno Regional semifinal.
The second-seeded Blue Devils (26-5) trailed only once before a display that included nine consecutive made baskets in the first half. Duke advanced to its 14th regional semifinal in 15 seasons.
Tricia Liston had 23 points for Duke. Elizabeth Williams had 13, and Chelsea Gray and Shay Selby each had 10.
Not even Memorial Gym, the Southeastern Conference’s oldest gym with no air conditioning, gave seventh-seeded Vanderbilt (23-10) any help on a night the temperature reached 90 by halftime.
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The only thing hotter was Duke’s shooting.
Christina Foggie had 26 points for Vanderbilt. Jasmine Lister had 16, Stephanie Holzer scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Elan Brown 13.
Duke got beat badly as the No. 1 seed in 2009 when the Blue Devils had to play an early NCAA tournament game on the road at Michigan State in the second round. This team is coming off an opening loss at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, a defeat that snapped a 17-game winning streak in that event.
Vanderbilt was 14-1 here at Memorial Gym in the NCAA tournament with the lone loss coming the last time the Commodores hosted in 2006 to then No. 1 seed North Carolina. This time, the Commodores were trying to reach the regional semifinals for the first time since 2009, and they had the SEC’s top scorer in Foggie in addition to the nation’s sixth-best shooting team in the nation, averaging 46.4 percent.
The Blue Devils routed Samford by 35 in the first round. They didn’t reach that against Vanderbilt, the 19th-winningest program in NCAA history making its 25th appearance in this tournament.
It just felt that bad as the Duke band chanted “Overrated” in the final minutes.
Duke is the nation’s fourth-best shooting team, averaging 47.1 percent. The Blue Devils finished with a season-high 65.6 percent (42 of 64) and also outrebounded Vanderbilt 30-29 despite few misses. They also had 11 steals in forcing Vanderbilt into 18 turnovers that Duke turned into a 28-14 scoring advantage.
With their size, the Blue Devils also dominated in the paint 46-30 with so many easy layups and short jumpers.
The Commodores’ lone lead came at 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Foggie with 14:49 left in the first half, and Gray answered back with a 3 to put Duke ahead to stay.
Peters hit seven of her first eight shots in scoring 15 of Duke’s first 27 points. Once Liston scored on a layup, the Blue Devils connected on 13 of 17 shots. They came out of a timeout with Gray hitting a jumper for the ninth consecutive good basket. Gray’s bucket made it 31-20 with 9:48 left, and Duke led by as much as 26 on back-to-back 3s by Gray and Liston late in the half. Only a pair of 3s by Brown trimmed the lead to 56-32 by halftime.
Vanderbilt got within 65-46 on a 3 by Foggie with 13:26 left. Peters scored, and Vanderbilt only managed to whittle down the score in the final three minutes as Duke coasted to the win.