Duke women into Elite Eight with 53-45 win over Nebraska

CorrespondentMarch 31, 2013 

— The Duke women’s basketball team won an ugly game on Sunday and is in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row.

But whether the Blue Devils can muster enough offense to win when they take on top-seeded Notre Dame on Tuesday for a bid to the Final Four remains to be seen.

Second-seeded Duke (33-2) clanged shot after shot off the rim, yet held off Nebraska with a gusty defensive performance to claim a 53-45 victory in the semifinals of the Norfolk Regional Sunday at the Old Dominion University’s Constant Center.

Notre Dame (34-1), meanwhile, hardly broke a sweat in dispatching Kansas, 93-63, with a nearly flawless performance in Sunday’s first game.

Duke made just 21 of 64 shots (35 percent), including just 4 of 16 three-point shots. The Blue Devils won because Nebraska was even colder – the Cornhuskers made just 20 of 66 shots.

With little inside scoring, the Cornhuskers (25-9) live and die with their jump shooting, and their shooting eye eluded them. Lindsey Moore and Jordan Hooper, Nebraska’s most consistent outside shooters, combined to make 1 of 15 three pointers.

“We were getting great looks,” Moore said. “For whatever reason, they just wouldn’t go down.”

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie acknowledged the game wasn’t a gem.

“We don’t want to be pretty, we just want to advance,” she said. “We want to find a way to keep going.”

Duke won because of an aggressive zone defense that denied Nebraska inside shots, and dared the Cornhuskers to beat them from long range.

“Tonight, we played great defense,” McCallie said. “It wasn’t just a good defensive performance, it was great.”

Tricia Liston led Duke with 17 points and Alexis Jones added 14. Duke center Elizabeth Williams, who went to high school about ten miles from Old Dominion’s campus in Virginia Beach, had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocked shots in a homecoming game of sorts.

Lindsey Moore led Nebraska with 11 points.

Duke trailed most of a sloppy first half, in which the Blue Devils scored on just two of their first 11 possessions and didn’t break into double figures for nearly 13 minutes.

Nebraska surged to a 7-point lead, 18-11, with 5:46 left in the first half when the Blue Devils cranked up their offense and reeled off 12 unanswered points to take the lead for good

Jones had 7 of her 9 first-half points in that stretch.

Duke built the lead to ten early in the second half an appeared in control until Moore made a jumper to trim the lead to 6 with 3:30 left.

Duke’s Haley Peters then put the game out of reach with a fadeaway hook shot with 1:40 left that rebuilt the lead to ten, 48-38.

“We’ve had our shooting woes,” Williams said. “That showed today. But the fact that our defense has gotten better each game has been important for us.”

Nebraska coach Connie Yori said it was a game her team could have won.

“We held them to 53 points when they’re averaging 75,” she said. “We did a lot of things right defensively. We lost it on the other end.”

McCallie said her team has overcome much, including the loss of point guard Chelsea Gray, who blew out her knee about six weeks ago.

“We lost an All-American point guard,” she said. “I’m sure she had something to do with our fluidity on offense.”

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