NORFOLK, Va. – Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie is growing weary of people expecting the Blue Devils to roll over teams in the NCAA tournament.
"We don't want to be pretty, we want to advance," McCallie said after the Blue Devils struggled offensively but used a solid defensive effort for a 53-45 victory over Nebraska in the Norfolk Regional of the women's NCAA tournament on Sunday.
"We want to advance. We want to find a way to keep going," McCallie said.
Duke will play top-seeded Notre Dame on Tuesday night for a berth in the Final Four.
Tricia Liston had 17 points and eight rebounds and Alexis Jones had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Blue Devils shook off another slow start by using a 12-0 run to take the lead by halftime and then hang on with their defense.
"Somebody mentioned that we haven't played a great game yet,'" McCallie said. "It's about time we do. I'm kind of looking forward to that. We've had to gut some things out, handle some things differently."
The Cornhuskers (25-9), in the round of 16 for just the second time in school history, shot 30.3 percent and hit just 3 of 24 3-point tries.
Nebraska arrived averaging 6.4 3-pointers and made eight last week in stunning Texas A&M on its home floor.
Duke also trailed Oklahoma State by 13 at halftime last week on its home floor before rallying.
"It can be frustrating at times," Liston said of the offensive struggles, which have been made worse by the loss of All-American Chelsea Gray to a dislocated kneecap 10 games ago. "That's where our defense can come in."
Duke's Elizabeth Williams, a native of Virginia Beach, finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks, but missed 10 of her 15 shots as Duke made just 21 of 64 shots, 32.8 percent, and 4 of 16 3-pointers.
Lindsey Moore led the Cornhuskers with 11 points, but on 5 of 18 shooting. Nebraska's leading scorer, Jordan Hooper, who averages 18.2 points, left with an ankle injury with 8 minutes left and scored just six points, missing 11 of her 14 shots.
"Obviously we struggled," said Moore, a part of both round of 16 teams in Nebraska history. "I think we're a better shooting team than we showed. ... We just had to keep shooting them and hope they would start dropping for us."
Moore said Duke also confused the Cornhuskers by continually switching defensive looks.
"I hope it was confusing because we're trying to be confusing," McCallie said.
Hooper hit a foul-line jumper 30 seconds into the second half, sparking an 8-4 run that got them within 27-26, but Duke responded with a 13-4 run. Liston started it with a 3-pointer, and Haley Peters and Richa Jackson each scored four in the run.
Moore's basket in the lane got the Cornhuskers within 44-38 with 3:53 to play, but Jones and Peters converted Nebraska turnovers with inside baskets.
After Katie Simon scored for Nebraska, two free throws each by Liston and Jones extended the lead to 51-40 with 1:04 left.
Duke made just four of its first 20 shots and trailed Nebraska 18-11 before turning it around. The Blue Devils outscored the Cornhuskers 12-0 in the last 5:46 of the half, with Jones scoring seven.