5:00 PM ET, January 23, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Seemingly everything had gone wrong for third-ranked Duke, from the repeated misses in the lane to the way rival North Carolina State just kept making shot after shot to increase its lead.And yet, these Blue Devils keep proving they can shake off slow starts -- even one so bad that it put them in a 20-point hole.Freshman Chelsea Gray hit a driving layup with 12 seconds left to cap Duke's rally and beat N.C. State 65-64 on Sunday, keeping the Blue Devils as the nation's last unbeaten team.Jasmine Thomas scored 14 points to lead the Blue Devils (19-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed by 18 at halftime and 42-22 less than a minute into the second half. But a veteran team that got within a game of the Final Four last season responded by turning up its defensive full-court pressure to spark a memorable comeback that stands as the program's best in seven years."Honestly, it's an unbelievable feat," said senior Krystal Thomas, who had a key basket late and came down with the final rebound just before the horn. "It felt like we were making a run a lot of times throughout the second half, and every time we looked up, we were still down 16, 14, 13."Then there was one point we got it to 10 and [Jasmine Thomas] said, 'We're down 10! We're down 10! Let's go!' I think we just keyed off that. We knew from that point on, we were winning no matter what."It is believed to be the first time the Blue Devils have rallied from a 20-point deficit for a victory since winning 68-67 at Connecticut on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Jessica Foley in January 2004. Duke hadn't trailed by more than four at halftime this season, and its largest deficit of the year came when it fell behind 22-7 in the opening 9 minutes at Charlotte before rallying for a 61-55 win on Nov. 27.The Blue Devils certainly topped themselves with this one."How many teams do you know that are down 20 and come back and win?" Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "That's something this team really needs to internalize because that's a very special thing. That is not a usual thing."Gray's driving layup against Amber White gave the Blue Devils the lead for good, though the Wolfpack (9-10, 1-4) had two good looks at the end to steal back the win. First, Marissa Kastanek missed a straightaway 3-pointer, then Bonae Holston hit the front of the rim on a rushed midrange stickback attempt that landed in Krystal Thomas' hands just before the horn.Thomas and Gray each added 13 points for Duke, which overcame a horrendous start and a frustrating day at the free throw line (12 for 23) by shooting 56 percent after the break. The Blue Devils also forced the Wolfpack (9-10, 1-4) into 14 second-half turnovers.Kastanek and Kody Burke each had 14 points to lead N.C. State, which shot 52 percent in the first half but just 32 percent (8 for 25) after halftime to watch what would have been a huge win for second-year coach Kellie Harper slip painfully away."I'm brokenhearted, I'd say that," Harper said as she fought back tears. "Our kids proved that they can play with that team. We didn't quite prove we can beat them yet, and I hate that because our kids fought hard, our kids played hard. We had a great first half. We just have to learn how to finish."The Wolfpack led 59-44 on Holston's turnaround jumper with 8:45 left, but that ended up being N.C. State's final field goal. Meanwhile, Duke finally built some momentum with a 17-2 run to tie it, then went ahead for the first time after halftime when Thomas scored over Holston to make it 63-62 with 1:56 left.Kastanek answered with two free throws with 29.4 seconds left to put N.C. State back in front, but Gray answered with the biggest basket of the game.It was quite a reversal from the way the Blue Devils started. Duke went 9 minutes without a field goal as the Wolfpack built confidence and momentum before closing the first half by scoring six straight points for a 40-22 lead at the break. N.C. State took its largest lead on Burke's jumper in the lane with 19:09 left."I think we know as Duke, everyone's going to come after us hard every game, no matter if we're undefeated or if we've lost every game," Jasmine Thomas said." It's really just about fighting and working on not getting in this position again ever."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||25-64 (.391)||22-52 (.423)|
|3P Made-Attempted||3-14 (.214)||6-19 (.316)|
|FT Made-Attempted||12-23 (.522)||14-20 (.700)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||19 (0/0)|