DURHAM, N.C. -- Another top-10 opponent, another tight game for Duke. That's when Jasmine Thomas is at her best -- even if it was a teammate's turn to hit the go-ahead shot.
Thomas overcame a rough shooting night and scored 24 points, and the third-ranked Blue Devils used a late surge to stay unbeaten with a 54-48 win over Kentucky (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) on Tuesday night.
Freshman Chelsea Gray added 11 points and put Duke ahead for good by scoring off a defender's fingers with 39.9 seconds left. Thomas finished 8 of 24 from the field but sealed the win by blocking two shots in the final 2 minutes and hitting four free throws in the final 14.7 seconds.
"I just try to be aggressive and really contest shots," Thomas said of her shot-blocking knack. "If they put it out there, my hand is up, so I try to get a hand on it if I can."
The Blue Devils (14-0) closed the game with an 8-0 run and used a 52-36 rebounding advantage to overcome both 17 turnovers and 26.5 percent shooting to keep themselves among the four undefeated teams in Division I and extend their winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 16.
"We have got to be able to do all things to be a special team: rebound, play [defense], score and attack," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Keyla Snowden scored 15 points and Victoria Dunlap added 10 for the Wildcats (11-2), who were held to a season-low point total, matched a season high with 22 turnovers and had their six-game winning streak snapped.
This was the latest in a string of early-season nonconference top-10 tests at home for the Blue Devils, who beat then-No. 7 Texas A&M by three points last month before topping then-No. 4 Xavier by one -- both behind dramatic performances from Thomas.
Once again, she came up with most of her team's timely plays.
"Just to keep attacking. I know my pull-up [jump shot] is good for me, but I was just trying to get as far into the paint as I could, and if I had to settle for the pull-up, to take it," Thomas said. "But defense was really what I was thinking about. ... Down the stretch, when every basket was so important, just getting stops."
She blocked Snowden's layup with less than 2 minutes left, hit a jumper from the free throw line to tie it at 48 with 1:30 left and pressured Snowden into a turnover with about a minute remaining to set up Gray's winner. Gray drove the left baseline and said she was passing to teammate Allison Vernerey but Kentucky's Samantha Drake got a hand on the ball and inadvertently tipped it through to put Duke up 50-48.
"That last shot, I just really don't know where it came from," Gray said.
After the Blue Devils forced a stop on Kentucky's next trip downcourt, Thomas hit a free throw to make it a three-point game and then swatted Snowden's tying 3 with about 9 seconds left and added 3 of 4 free throws the rest of the way.
"She is more than impressive, even. Wow, 24 points," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "She just absolutely dominated us. ... We let her get up 24 shots. That's a bad job on our part."
A'dia Mathies had 10 rebounds while Dunlap, the Southeastern Conference player of the year last season, was held to half her scoring average. They helped Kentucky rally from a nine-point halftime deficit by holding Duke without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes.
The Wildcats forced 12 straight misses before freshman Tricia Liston hit a 3 with just over 12 minutes left for the Blue Devils' first basket of the half. Duke missed 18 of its first 19 shots in the half.
That came after Kentucky had a couple of serious droughts of its own. The Wildcats were held to one field goal in an early 7-minute stretch, then went without a basket for the final 8½ minutes of the half -- both eternities for a team that averages more than 80 points.
"We learned that we need to put a complete game together," Snowden said. "We can't take breaks. ... We've got to come to play every minute that we're out there."
The Blue Devils led 31-22 at the break after closing the half on a 13-2 run keyed by Thomas. She hit three baskets in a 90-second span to bounce back from a 1-for-10 shooting start. That finished off an ugly opening 20 minutes in which the teams combined for 29 turnovers.
Both teams face quick turnarounds before their conference openers. The Blue Devils play host to No. 14 Maryland on Thursday night in the renewal of one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's fiercest rivalries, while the Wildcats visit Arkansas the same night.