UConn women oust Duke from NCAA tournament

Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie will take a two-month medical leave of absence beginning Monday, the school announced.
Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie will take a two-month medical leave of absence beginning Monday, the school announced. AP

The Duke women's basketball team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Connecticut 72-59 on Saturday in the round of 16 in Albany, N.Y.

The top-seeded Huskies (35-0) held Blue Devils seniors Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell to 16 total points, less than half of their season averages. Sophomore Leaonna Odom, who came into the game averaging 9.3 points per game, led the Blue Devils (24-9) with 22 points and eight rebounds.

"You know, my teammates gave me the ball in perfect position, and luckily I was able to score, so it could be a beginning, and I'm looking forward to next year," said Odom, who scored 20-plus points in three NCAA tournament games.

UConn had four players in double figures, led by Napheesa Collier with 16 points.

The Blue Devils fell behind by 22 points early in the second half but could get no closer than 11 the rest of the game.

“You’ve got to be prepared for the whole 40 minutes,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “UConn is good at responding to that. You’ve got to keep going and have immediacy and smarts. … We did in circumstances, but we couldn’t get it across the board. They have too much experience not to, especially with Gabby and Nurse, they have too much experience.”

The Huskies advanced to their 14th consecutive Elite Eight.

"I thought we did a good job on Lexie (Brown) and Rebecca (Greenwell)," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said to ESPN's Holly Rowe after the game. "You can't take everything away from a good team."

The Blue Devils did not quit after a bad end to the first half. They went on an 11-2 run to cut the UConn lead to 44-31 midway through the third quarter.

Odom scored six points during the run, giving her 16 at the time.

However, the Blue Devils would go scoreless over the final 4:51 of the quarter as UConn built its lead back to 51-31.

Former Duke player and current UConn center Azura Stevens, who was a standout at Cary High School, scored the final four points of the quarter and also blocked a shot for the Huskies. She wound up with eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

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Duke had four turnovers and shot 1-for-7 from the field over the first five minutes of the second quarter as UConn went on a 12-2 run to take a 32-16 lead at the half.

The Blue Devils scored the next four points to cut the lead to 32-20.

The Huskies then got back-to-back 3-pointers from Kia Nurse (10 points) and Katie Lou Samuelson (15 points) and a buzzer-beating shot from Gabby Williams, capping off an 8-0 run to give them a 40-20 halftime lead.

The Blue Devils, who were outscored 20-6 in the quarter, were led by Odom's 10 points. Leading scorer Lexie Brown had five.

Duke finished the half shooting 30 percent from the field and committed eight turnovers.

Williams and Nurse led the Huskies with 10 points apiece.

Duke could not have gotten off to a worst start as UConn scored the first seven points in the first minute of the game.

UConn's Nurse hit a 3-pointer on the Huskies' first possession. The Blue Devils' Odom missed a shot on their first possession.

After UConn's Collier scored a basket and was fouled, the Huskies rebounded the missed free throw and then Williams scored to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead and prompted a Duke timeout just 1:02 into the game.

"I felt good about coming out of the first time-out," McCallie said. "I thought we did settle down. I thought we did play, which was great. But that was for a quarter, and it needs to continue."

Duke settled down after the first timeout. Odom scored quickly out of the timeout to get the Blue Devils on the board.

UConn had some difficulties with Duke's defense later in the quarter, missing five straight shots.

Behind Odom, who had six first-quarter points, and Brown, who had five, the Blue Devils cut the lead to 16-12. Duke could've gotten closer but missed three short-range shots.

The Huskies led 20-14 at the end of the quarter.

McCallie talked with Rowe again before the second quarter.

"I just want my players to play," McCallie said. "We're a good team. Early on, it was a lot of hype. I don't like hype."