GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Duke women's basketball season came to a close with a shocking 53-52 loss to Rutgers in the Sweet 16 here at the Greensboro Coliseum Saturday. Despite not being down for 19 and a half minutes in the second half, the Blue Devils season concludes with an impressive 32-2 record.
Duke led the entire second half until Epiphanny Prince hit a shot with :20 left to put Rutgers up for good at 53-52. Duke called timeout with 14 seconds left and drew up a play but the ball was poked away from the Blue Devils and Rutgers came up with a big steal with just 5.6 seconds left.
Abby Waner fouled with just 5.6 seconds left but it was just the fourth team foul of the half. Duke almost forced a five-second violation before Rutgers called timeout. Duke, having to go for a steal instead of a foul, did just that when Lindsey Harding stole the inbounds pass that was thrown past half court. Harding then raced toward the goal and was fouled with .1 seconds left, but missed both free throws for the final score.
"They just didn't fall," Harding said. "It felt good coming off. Everything felt good. It didn't really go down."
"My heart just breaks for her right now," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I just don't want this to be her lasting memory, because she has meant so much to our program."
The Scarlet Knights early in a slow-paced first half and it wasn't until over 11 minutes in that Duke took its first lead at 11-10. With Rutgers up 12-11, Duke outscored them 10-4 the rest of the half to take a 21-16 advantage into the break.
After a quick jumper 13 seconds in to bring Rutgers within three, Duke quickly pushed the lead to 10 points, the biggest of the game at 28-18 less than two minutes into the second half. With Duke up 34-26 with 14:40 left, that's when Rutgers began to chip away at the lead, outscoring the Blue Devils 21-11 to tie the game at 39 all with just over eight minutes left.
Duke pushed the lead back to four points at 45-41, 50-46 and 52-48 before a three-pointer by Rutger's Matee Ajavon with just 47 seconds left set up the last minute heroics.
Both of Duke's losses took place on the court at the Coliseum, but the Blue Devils still finished off one of the most successful seasons in NCAA history, including compiling a perfect 29-0 regular season and final No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
"One game does not define a season or the type of season that they have had," Goestenkors said. "I don't think anybody in the country anticipated that we would have such a remarkable year."
"We had an amazing season," Carrem Gay added. "Everybody played their hardest. It just didn't come out in our favor."
Alison Bales concludes her career with a 21-point, 4-block effort and added four rebounds, three assist and a steal. Gay reached double figures with 10 points and added six rebounds. Harding's career comes to a close with five points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal in 38 minutes. Waner finished with five points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal and Wanish Smith finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists. Joy Cheek and Brittany Mitch each scored two points off the bench for Duke.