Coach Wes Moore didn’t like that his No. 23 N.C. State Wolfpack squandered all of a 14-point halftime lead.
Coach Joanne P. McCallie walked away disappointed that her No. 12 Duke Blue Devils, after a furious rally, failed to finish off an epic comeback win.
Moore, at least, got to smile after an unsightly day of offense as his Wolfpack shut down Duke in the final two minutes to secure a 55-52 ACC women’s basketball win Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum.
“As they say,” Moore cracked, “it was an ugly baby, but it’s our baby.”
Neither team managed to make 40 percent of its shots. The Wolfpack shot well in the first quarter, helping it take a 35-21 halftime lead, but shot just 28 percent in the second half as Duke adjusted its defense and climbed back to take a fourth-quarter lead.
It looked like Duke had taken 53-51 lead with 2:41 to play when Rebecca Greenwell came off a screen to hit an open jumper. But an officials review declared the shot a 2-pointer leaving Duke with a 52-51 lead.
When Chelsea Nelson scored inside to give N.C. State a 53-52 lead with 2:10 to play, the game saw its ninth lead change of the fourth quarter.
It turned out to be the last even though Duke had three chances to take the lead.
Duke freshman Leaonna Odom missed a shot inside on the first chance with 1:43 to play. With 55 seconds left, Oderah Chidom and Odom both missed chances inside.
“Odom’s ball was in on the tip in (of Chidom’s miss),” McCallie said. “That was in and out of the cylinder. I loved Oderah’s take there, and I loved that her post buddy was backing her up.”
Duke’s last chance came after a timeout with 23 seconds left. The Blue Devils worked the ball around, unable to penetrate N.C. State’s half-court defense. Finally, Brown launched a 3-pointer with five seconds left that fell short.
McCallie said the team was just looking for an aggressive play on that final sequence.
“I think they were just denying us on the wings,” Greenwell said. “Lexie took a good shot. She can make that any day in practice. It just didn’t go in at that time. But I thought it was a good take.”
N.C. State’s Dominique Wilson, who led all scorers with 16 points, hit two free throws with four seconds left, and Duke was unable take a final shot to tie.
“We played a very good team, and I think we are very disappointed that we didn’t finish our work,” McCallie said. “I loved how the team looked for each other in the second half. But this one will sting, this will sting for a while.”
Nelson added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolfpack, which shot just 39.2 percent for the game and made only 7 of 25 shots (28 percent) in the second half.
Trailing 35-21 at halftime, Duke adjusted its zone defense to utilize traps at the top and the move flummoxed N.C. State. The Wolfpack turned the ball over eight times and made just 3 of 11 shots in the third quarter.
Though suffering through their own four-minute scoring drought in the quarter, the Blue Devils were able to get the ball inside more than in the first half. Six different Duke players scored in the quarter as Duke cut N.C. State’s lead to 43-38 after three.
That set the stage for the thrilling, back-and-forth final quarter.
Duke scored the first seven points of the quarter, with Brown tallying five of those points with a 3-pointer and two free throws, to give Duke a 45-43 lead with 7:55 to play. It was Duke’s first lead since the game’s first six minutes.
From there, the lead volleyed back and forth, with a tie at 45 mixed in.
N.C. State had control of the game at halftime, holding a 35-21 lead. The Wolfpack made 9 of its first 14 shots of the game, including five 3-pointers, to lead 24-15 after the first quarter.
N.C. State senior guard Ashley Williams, a Green Hope High graduate from Cary, scored all nine of her points in the first half, hitting three 3-pointers as the Wolfpack took a double-digit lead.
Though she and the Wolfpack missed all 12 of their 3-pointers in the second half, she relished N.C. State’s third consecutive women’s basketball win over Duke.
“It’s huge,” Williams said. “I was not a Duke fan growing up. So it’s huge to beat them.”
The Wolfpack beat its third ranked opponent in league play, having already toppled No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Florida State.