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Sweet 16 Bound After 96-80 Win Over Vanderbilt
Friday 03/20/2012  -  Associated Press
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Courtesy: Associated Press
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Haley Peters sent a message Tuesday night: Do not leave the Duke sophomore forward wide open.

She does not like that.

Peters' career-high 25 points led five Blue Devils in double figures, and Duke turned in its best shooting performance of the season Tuesday night in routing Vanderbilt 96-80 to advance to the Fresno Regional semifinal.

``Every shot she took I've seen a million times, and she's shot it a million times in the gym,'' Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ``She's always in the gym. She works extra hard. She's one of those dream players in the sense of work ethic and talent and putting that together. You just can't leave her alone that's all I'll say. She takes offense at that.''

The second-seeded Blue Devils (26-5) trailed only once before a display that included nine straight made baskets in the first half. Duke advanced to its 14th regional semifinal in 15 seasons and will play St. John's, a 74-70 winner over Oklahoma on Saturday.

Tricia Liston tied her career-high with 23 points for Duke. Elizabeth Williams had 13, and Chelsea Gray had 12 points and her 12 assists to set a Duke record in the NCAA tournament.

``My teammates were doing an excellent job moving without the basketball so I mean it was kind of in the flow of our offense, and they were just getting to the open spots and knocking it down,'' Gray said. ``So I was really proud of how they were moving around without the ball.''

Advancing to Fresno was a big goal once the bracket was announced to take Gray back close to her Stockton, Calif., home. McCallie said the Blue Devils already have a chant and can't wait to visit In-N-Out Burger. Gray said she's already asked for tickets.

Not even Memorial Gym, the Southeastern Conference's oldest gym with no air conditioning, gave seventh-seeded Vanderbilt (23-10) any help on a night the temperature reached 90 by halftime.

The only thing hotter was Duke's shooting.

``We had the deer in the headlight look, which I just didn't think we would have at home,'' Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said.

Christina Foggie had 26 points for Vanderbilt. Jasmine Lister had 16, Stephanie Holzer scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Elan Brown 13. The Commodores struggled with communication, which led to poor defense.

``We just let them do whatever they wanted,'' Brown said.

Duke got beat badly as the No. 1 seed in 2009 when the Blue Devils had to play an early NCAA tournament game on the road at Michigan State in the second round. This team is coming off an opening loss at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, a defeat that snapped a 17-game winning streak in that event.

``We were hurt pretty bad by that no doubt about that,'' McCallie said of the loss to N.C. State. ``And I think the big key was everyone taking ownership for it. I don't think you just learn something just because you lose. People have to step up and speak about it, and we've had some very, very good leadership coming in all different directions.''

Vanderbilt was 14-1 here at Memorial Gym in the NCAA tournament with the lone loss coming the last time the Commodores hosted in 2006 to then No. 1 seed North Carolina. This time, the Commodores were trying to reach the regional semifinals for the first time since 2009, and they had the SEC's top scorer in Foggie in addition to the nation's sixth-best shooting team in the nation, averaging 46.4 percent.

The Blue Devils routed Samford by 35 in the first round. They didn't reach that against Vanderbilt, the 19th-winningest program in NCAA history making its 25th appearance in this tournament.

It just felt that bad as the Duke band chanted ``Overrated'' in the final minutes.

Duke is the nation's fourth-best shooting team, averaging 47.1 percent. The Blue Devils finished with a season-high 65.6 percent (42 of 64) and also outrebounded Vanderbilt 30-29 despite few misses. They also had 11 steals in forcing Vanderbilt into 18 turnovers that Duke turned into a 28-14 scoring advantage.

Add to that a season-high 7-of-11 shooting beyond the arc for Duke. With their size, the Blue Devils also dominated in the paint 46-30 with so many easy layups and short jumpers.

The Commodores' lone lead came at 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Foggie with 14:49 left in the first half, and Gray answered back with a 3 to put Duke ahead to stay.

Peters hit seven of her first eight shots in scoring 15 of Duke's first 27 points. She credited Williams for drawing double-teams in the paint and teammates for getting her the ball. McCallie had a different take considering how open Peters found herself at times.

Once Liston scored on a layup, the Blue Devils connected on 13 of 17 shots. They came out of a timeout with Gray hitting a jumper for the ninth straight good basket. Gray's bucket made it 31-20 with 9:48 left, and Duke led by as much as 26 on back-to-back 3s by Gray and Liston late in the half. Only a pair of 3s by Brown trimmed the lead to 56-32 by halftime.

Vanderbilt got within 65-46 on a 3 by Foggie with 13:26 left. Peters scored, and Vanderbilt only managed to whittle down the score in the final three minutes as Duke coasted to the win.


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