Haley Peters didn't worry about her bad start to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Instead, she turned in a big performance that helped send sixth-ranked Duke back to the championship game.GREENSBORO, N.C. --
Peters had 17 points, 13 rebounds and the go-ahead basket with 4:06 left to help the Blue Devils beat No. 23 Florida State 72-66 in Saturday's semifinals.
The top-seeded Blue Devils (29-2) never trailed but had a tough fight all day with the fourth-seeded Seminoles (22-9). In the end, Duke extended its winning streak -- four years and counting -- against FSU while returning to the title game for the 11th time in 14 seasons.
Peters, a 6-foot-3 junior averaging about 12 points, had just five points and three rebounds in 30 minutes during Friday's quarterfinal game against North Carolina State. She finished 8 for 14 from the floor with six offensive rebounds in 36 minutes against FSU, part of Duke's domination on the glass.
"What happened in the past wasn't really on my mind at all because I know what I can do on the floor and I know the shots I can make and what I can do for my team," Peters said. "So I'm not really concerned about things that have happened in the past."
Tricia Liston also scored 17 while freshman point guard Alexis Jones finished with 12 points and seven assists in her bigger role since the season-ending knee injury to co-league player of the year Chelsea Gray last month.
The teams were tied with about 5 minutes left before Peters' stickback started Duke's go-ahead push. It was just the second time Duke had won a game by fewer than 10 points all year.
"I just liked how we battled," said Duke sixth-year coach Joanne P. McCallie, who has guided the Blue Devils to five ACC finals. "We started very aggressively, we went through the game probably some hiccups along the way, but I thought our poise was outstanding and I thought our execution down the stretch was very, very good."
The Blue Devils have won seven straight meetings against the Seminoles, who haven't beaten Duke since January 2009.
Chelsea Davis scored 17 points to lead Florida State, while Alexa Deluzio and Natasha Howard each added 13. But Leonor Rodriguez, who came in averaging a team-high 15.4 points, finished with five on 1-for-14 shooting.
The Seminoles were in the semifinals for only the third time in program history. All three runs have ended with losses to Duke.
FSU trailed all day, including 9-0 at the start, before fighting back to tie the game at 55 on two free throws by Morgan Toles with 5:18 left. That set up a tight run to the finish -- Liston and Deluzio even traded 3s on the ensuing possessions -- but Duke kept coming up with the tough baskets to maintain its grasp on the game.
After Peters' putback, Jones found Richa Jackson for a layup with a zip pass to the baseline. She followed that with a tough shot in the lane over Davis and then scored her own layup off a turnover.
Liston followed with two free throws for a 68-60 lead with 45.7 seconds left that all but sealed it.
Florida State missed seven straight shots during that flurry, four coming from Rodriguez.
"They hit shots and we didn't," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "I thought we had great looks, I thought they created great looks and sometimes that happens against a good team like Duke. You've got to have the luck of the bounce as well as everything else. It was just one of those games."
The Blue Devils shot 46 percent but did their best work on the glass, particularly in the first half. Duke finished with a 43-32 rebounding advantage and 17 second-chance points.
That at least offset the 17 turnovers that the Seminoles converted into 17 points, too.
Florida State shot 38 percent and 6 for 17 from 3-point range.
Liston hit three 3-pointers to set the program's single-season record with 69. She hit six 3s and scored 26 points in the quarterfinals, and is shooting 48 percent from behind the arc on the season.
In addition, Duke center Elizabeth Williams finished with three blocks, her 64th straight game with at least one block to tie the ACC record.
- Stats (HTML)