Tricia Liston and Duke weren't going to let North Carolina State knock them out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament again.GREENSBORO, N.C. --
Liston scored 10 of her 26 points during the timely run that helped the sixth-ranked Blue Devils rally past pesky N.C. State 79-65 on Friday in a quarterfinal.
"Tournament time is always a fun time, but it's one game and you're out," Liston said. "We really needed to keep that in our mind."
Freshman Alexis Jones added 17 points for top-seeded Duke (28-2), which shot just under 44 percent and made a season-high 12 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils avenged a bitter loss to N.C. State in last year's quarterfinal round. That defeat snapped a string of 17 straight semifinal appearances for Duke, which has won this tournament seven times. Next up is No. 23 Florida State (22-8), the tournament's fourth seed, in a semifinal Saturday.
Marissa Kastanek scored 18 points for the eighth-seeded Wolfpack (16-16), and her layup with 7 minutes left put them in prime position to claim a second straight postseason victory over their rivals.
"After she hit that, our next mentality was, `Let's get a stop now,'" Liston said. "And then, after we started getting stops, we started getting rebounds, and then coming down (the court) and executing on offense. ... The problem was, in that time when they went up, we weren't getting any stops, and so once we buckled down on defense, we were getting good chances on offense."
Duke then outscored N.C. State 24-5 during the next 6-plus minutes, with Liston doing most of the damage.
"The No. 1 thing on the scouting report for Tricia Liston is to not allow 3s," N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said. "I think everybody in the gym knows that. It's not rocket science."
Liston's 3-pointer with 6:15 left put the Blue Devils ahead to stay at 58-57, and she added another 3 and went 4 of 4 from the free throw line during the run. Her foul shot with 45.3 seconds left put Duke up 77-62.
Meanwhile, N.C. State missed 10 of 12 shots during the Blue Devils' run.
"They got some open looks and made them," Harper said. "And we didn't."
Elizabeth Williams and Richa Jackson each scored 13 points and Liston added 11 rebounds - 10 on the defensive glass - for Duke, which outrebounded the Wolfpack by 12.
The Blue Devils improved to 4-1 without Chelsea Gray, the ACC's co-player of the year who will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated kneecap suffered Feb. 17.
Markeisha Gatling scored 16 points and Myisha Goodwin-Coleman added 12 on four 3-pointers for the Wolfpack, who - for the first time in four seasons under Harper - exited the ACC tournament without beating at least one higher-seeded team.
"We have really shown this year that we can play at a very elite level," Harper said. "We've proven it several times. We have not been able to sustain that throughout the season, so that's why you're looking at a .500 record for us."
N.C. State - which always seems to give Duke fits - stunned the Blue Devils at this stage of last year's tournament, claiming a 75-73 victory over top-seeded Duke exactly 53 weeks earlier. That victory stirred memories of the feel-good Kay Yow-led Wolfpack team that in 2007 gave an unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Duke squad its first loss in the ACC semifinals.
And the Blue Devils' 67-57 win on Jan. 3 wound up being one of their closest games all season.
So when Duke took a 42-33 lead at the end of the first half, chances were pretty good that it wouldn't hold up - and it didn't.
After allowing the Blue Devils to shoot 50 percent in the first half, N.C. State clamped down on defense and gave up just three field goals in the first 13 minutes of the half while rallying to regain the lead.
Gatling's basket with 11 1/2 minutes left put N.C. State up 51-50, and Goodwin-Coleman's 3-pointer on the next possession gave the Wolfpack their short-lived four-point lead.
"You have to enjoy these games. These are challenging games," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "These are games that prepare you for the NCAA tournament. ... You want to be the very best in the last 8 minutes of the game and dictate as much as possible. That's what we'll take from this."