Duke avenges loss to Florida State, advances to title game

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Joanne P. McCallie wants to see her Duke team play with the same intensity no matter what the scoreboard says. So far, that's been a tougher challenge for the Blue Devils (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) than any opponent in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Jasmine Thomas scored 14 points to help Duke beat Florida State (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) 75-57 in Saturday's semifinals, giving Duke its second dominating performance here in as many days.

Carrem Gay added 13 points for the third-seeded Blue Devils (26-4), who easily avenged a regular-season loss to the Seminoles and reached Sunday's championship game for the second straight year. They will face No. 4 Maryland, the top seed, as they look for their first title since a run of five straight from 2000-04.

"We have a very direct and focused goal," senior Abby Waner said. "We've seen our talent and know how good we can be, so therefore no outside expectations are any greater than ours. And there's no better time for us to come together than now."

Indeed. Duke beat rival North Carolina in overtime last weekend to end the regular season. Then, in Friday's quarterfinals, the Blue Devils jumped to leads of 17-2, 27-6 and 40-15 in the first half of a 76-53 win against No. 24 Virginia.

The first half Saturday didn't look much different, with Duke's defense shutting down the Seminoles early while its offense operated with easy efficiency to take a 40-18 halftime lead.

The Seminoles (25-7) won the first meeting 82-75 in overtime on Jan. 29, rallying from a six-point deficit in the final 48 seconds of regulation. On Saturday, they used a spurt coming out of halftime to get within nine points, but that flurry served only to jolt the Blue Devils out of one of the few times their intensity has waned in this tournament.

"The team stopped [the rally] by refocusing," McCallie said. "I know it sounds a little trite and simplistic, but that's the reality. These bigger leads at this time of year is not a very usual thing, so you've got to keep attacking regardless of the score. I think it's important to have a no-scoreboard mentality when you play basketball.

"But you've got to work for it. You've got to compete at every moment and just enjoy it. That's the opportunity we have [Sunday]."

Tanae Davis-Cain had 14 points for the second-seeded Seminoles, who have lost 28 of the past 31 meetings in the series. Florida State had earned a share of the ACC's regular-season title for the first time in school history and easily beat Boston College in Friday's quarterfinals.

But Florida State shot just 34 percent against the Blue Devils, who had no such trouble on the way to shooting at least 50 percent in consecutive ACC tournament games for just the second time in school history.

"When we missed shots in the first half -- and we got great looks -- it dictated what we did on the defensive end," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "You cannot win big basketball games when your mentality isn't strong enough to be who you are. This was a game where we just didn't defend well, and Duke shot the lights out. ... That would give me a whole lot of confidence, and we didn't do a whole lot to shut that down."

Four Duke players reached double figures, while Waner continued her recent outside shooting surge. She overcame a 1-for-15 shooting performance to make the go-ahead 3 with 45.8 seconds left in overtime to beat the Tar Heels last week. She followed that by hitting 4 of 6 shots from behind the arc against the Cavaliers, then went 3-for-4 on 3s against the Seminoles to finish with nine points.

Waner came into the tournament shooting just 28 percent from 3-point range, but her outside shooting has helped open things up for all-ACC first-team pick Chante Black inside. Duke hit 7 of 12 3-pointers and scored 14 second-chance points to go with 20 points off 15 turnovers.

Black had seven during the decisive 18-2 spurt, which ended with Bridgette Mitchell's stickback for a 30-11 lead with 7:05 left in the first half. Then, after Waner found Thomas cutting backdoor for an easy layup, Gay knocked down a jumper followed by a layup in the final minute for the 40-18 lead.

Florida State opened the half with a 16-3 run to get within 43-34, but Duke scored on three straight possessions -- including a 3 from Waner -- to push the lead to 50-34 on Gay's stickback with 14 minutes left.

The Seminoles got no closer than 13 points.