DURHAM — The Duke women's basketball team showed its experience and resolve on Monday night.
After surging from behind against ranked teams on four occasions earlier in the season, the Blue Devils rallied late in the second half for a riveting 71-66 victory over Marist in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Having played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the No. 2-seeded Devils (31-3) pulled from a collection of six late-game victories, again appearing calm over a game's tense conclusion. They gathered themselves and flatly denied another ranked opponent in the waning minutes.
"We've been in many, many close games," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We're very comfortable with it. I don't know what people are thinking, but at this time, it's not about blowouts and leads. Anything can happen in a game."
And it did.
The 10th-seeded Red Foxes made life miserable for the Devils, leading for much of the game and draining 10 of 27 3-point attempts.
Yet it was a determined effort by the Devils - a school-record 17-0 this season at home - that has them moving on to face DePaul on Sunday in the Philadelphia Regional semifinals.
Marist entered the contest on a 27-game winning streak - longest in the nation - and never flinched at Duke's height, size or reputation. Marist carried a five-point lead into halftime and looked like an upset winner until the game's final 10 minutes.
Then Duke started whittling away at Marist and cutting its 11-point lead to five.
Duke freshman Chelsea Gray scored 13 points in the second half and made key baskets down the stretch to hand her team the hard-fought win.
Gray made a 3-pointer with two minutes, 49 seconds remaining to pull the Devils to within a point. She then made a steal on the perimeter and raced downcourt for a layup attempt but was fouled.
Gray stepped coolly to the line and buried both free throws to give the Devils a 61-60 lead - their first since they led 8-7. After Duke senior Karima Christmas forced a turnover, Gray pulled in a pass in the lane and made a layup to put the Devils up by four points at 1:39.
"The steals got me going," Gray said. "That gave me momentum, and then I knocked down a 3, and that got me excited from there and ready to go."
Gray scored eight of her 13 in the final 2:49, scoring eight of Duke's final 15 points. She finished with three steals.
"I think Chelsea's tough," Duke senior Jasmine Thomas said. "She's capable of making big plays; we've seen it all year long and ... she is comfortable in any situation."
Marist guard Elise Caron hit a 3-pointer with 39.3 seconds remaining to pull her team within two points.
But the Devils held on, making five of six free throws and denying the Red Foxes the upset.
"When you have been in this situation before, I think we are looser as a team where some teams may get tighter down the stretch," Duke senior Krystal Thomas said. "I think that kind of excites us, and we know we have to get the stop to win."
Jasmine Thomas pulled her team together - scoring nine consecutive points during one stretch in the first half - and led Duke with 17 points. Krystal Thomas added 10 points and eight rebounds, and Christmas chipped in 11 points and four steals.
The Red Foxes shot 48 percent from the field and were led by a 25-point, 12-rebound performance by junior guard Corielle Yarde.
Marist opened the first half true to itself and started attacking Duke.
Yarde drove hard to the basket for a layup to open the game.
She soon followed with a 3-pointer, and the Red Foxes were comfortable taking the game to the Devils despite the multiple defenses they faced - 2-3 zones and full-court presses.
Marist played without leading guard Erica Allenspach for much the game after she injured a knee early in the first half.
"We definitely got tired," Marist sophomore Kate Oliver said. "But Duke just didn't let up."
Duke 71, Marist 66
Marist (31-3): Gang 1-4 0-0 2, Oliver 6-12 1-2 14, Caron 2-6 0-0 6, Yarde 9-17 3-3 25, Allenspach 1-3 0-0 2, Ockenden 2-4 0-0 6, O'Connor 1-2 0-0 2, Laterza 2-3 0-0 4, Best 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 26-54 4-5 66.
Duke (31-3): Christmas 4-9 3-6 11, Vernerey 0-4 0-3 0, K. Thomas 4-7 2-2 10, Selby 2-5 0-1 4, J. Thomas 7-22 0-1 17, Wells 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 4-7 3-4 13, Jackson 1-1 0-0 2, Scheer 1-2 0-0 2, Liston 0-1 0-2 0, Peters 4-5 4-4 12. Totals 27-63 12-23 71.
Halftime--Marist 31-26. 3-point goals--Marist 10-27 (Yarde 4-8, Ockenden 2-4, Caron 2-4, Best 1-2, Oliver 1-5, Allenspach 0-1, O'Connor 0-1, Gang 0-2), Duke 5-17 (J. Thomas 3-6, Gray 2-3, Liston 0-1, Scheer 0-1, Peters 0-1, Selby 0-2, Christmas 0-3). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Marist 28 (Yarde 12), Duke 43 (K. Thomas 8). Assists--Marist 20 (Caron 5), Duke 14 (J. Thomas 4). Total fouls--Marist 19, Duke 10. A--3,644.
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