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Late rally helps Duke avoid first four-game losing streak since '94

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Carrem Gay stepped to the free-throw line with a victory against Rutgers in her hands, refusing to let herself think about the last time a Duke player faced that situation.

Unlike last March, the Blue Devils came through in the clutch.

"It's a free throw -- it doesn't matter who shot them before," Gay said.

Her free throw with 30 seconds left put Duke (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) ahead to stay in its 49-44 victory over Rutgers (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) on Thursday night that snapped its longest losing streak in a decade.

Abby Waner and Keturah Jackson both made two late foul shots for the Blue Devils (6-3), who avoided their first four-game slide since 1994.

After Essence Carson of Rutgers tied it at 44 with 1:04 remaining, the Blue Devils hustled downcourt and ran down the shot clock. Jasmine Thomas forced up a long 3-pointer that missed badly, but Gay was there to collect the rebound and was fouled by Matee Ajavon. She hit the first of two free throws to put Duke up by one.

"When we needed to rebound, quite frankly, we didn't," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

Ajavon's running shot in the lane was tipped by Chante Black. Ajavon then committed her fifth foul and Stringer was charged with a technical foul. Waner and Jackson iced it by each converting two attempts from the line in the final 11 seconds.

"We've been carrying those three losses, and we kind of needed this to get the ball rolling," Waner said.

Black and Gay both scored 11 points to lead Duke, which earned a measure of revenge against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights upset the Blue Devils last March in the Greensboro Regional semifinals when star guard Lindsey Harding missed two free throws in the final seconds.

Duke -- which beat Rutgers by 40 points during the 2006-07 regular season -- was held to fewer than 15 points for the first time since 2000 yet claimed its 19th straight home victory and 24th consecutive nonconference win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Epiphanny Prince had 15 points and Kia Vaughn added 11 rebounds for Rutgers (5-2), which had its five-game winning streak halted in its first visit to Cameron and was hounded by McCallie's matchup zone defense into a season-worst 27.6 percent shooting.

"When they went zone, it was like we started settling for jump shots," Prince said. "We weren't penetrating through the gaps and relying on our outside shots."

The Scarlet Knights took a four-point lead with 4:19 remaining after a bizarre free-throw attempt that silenced the crowd. Duke apparently thought Vaughn was shooting two free throws when she missed the front end of a 1-and-1 -- leaving Heather Zurich to scoop up the rebound and make an uncontested layup.

Rutgers managed just two points the rest of the way.

"That was just focus, and if we were to have lost by two points, that would have been very, very frustrating," Waner said. "It's little things like that that we have to focus on."

Those kinds of easy baskets were hard to come by for both teams during an often-tedious first half in which both teams had their lowest point totals of the season.

Rutgers led 19-17 at the break despite a miserable shooting performance by both clubs. Slow-starting Duke missed nine consecutive shots early in falling behind by nine, while the Scarlet Knights matched them in futility, missing 17 of 18 shots late.

"This was very disjointed and without a harmony," Stringer said. "Like a pretty song, it needs to be pretty. It's poetic. It flows. It did not flow, and I'm not happy."