CORAL GABLES, Fla. – For Stefanie Yderstrom and Pepper Wilson, it was a grand finale.
For Katie Meier, it was an unforgettable first.
Yderstrom and Wilson each scored 16 points in their final home regular-season games, Krystal Saunders added 15 and Miami gave its NCAA tournament resume a serious boost by upsetting No. 5 Duke 69-65 on Thursday night, the first time in 11 meetings between the programs where the Hurricanes emerged victorious.
"You just pray for moments like this," said Meier, the Miami coach who had never beaten Duke - where she once was a standout player. "You pray for rewards like this for kids who have given you so much. They have totally transformed this program. They've represented Miami in a way that I've dreamt of. All of them took a risk coming here. All of us had not beaten Duke. That's the first time we had. And now's a really good time to do it."
Morgan Stroman added 11 for the Hurricanes (19-9, 10-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who beat then-No. 6 Penn State by the same 69-65 score at home in November and knew they needed another big win to enhance their NCAA hopes.
They got it, thanks largely to a pair of seniors who came up big in the season's biggest game to date. Wilson and Yderstrom combined to score 22 of their 32 points in the second half, and teamed up for the basket that sealed the win with 20 seconds left. Yderstrom found Wilson with a perfect bounce pass off a pick-and-roll, and an easy layup had the Hurricanes poised for celebration.
Moments later, it was over. Meier thrust her arms in the air, and her team gathered at center court for postgame hugs.
"Miami played a great game," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "They played physical. They outplayed us. They outphysicaled us. They outhustled us. They probably played their best game of the season, I would suspect."
Elizabeth Williams and Haley Peters each scored 17 for the Blue Devils (26-2, 16-1), who already have locked up the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. Alexis Jones added 13 for Duke, including a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left to get her team within 67-65.
But the Blue Devils wouldn't score again.
"Right now, I'm just in awe," Wilson said. "It's like one of the greatest feelings I've ever had."
Which could not be more of a contrast from what happened the last time Miami and Duke got together.
Miami was tied with Duke 29-all at halftime of the teams' first meeting this season back on Jan. 31 - a game that turned into an 82-43 romp for the Blue Devils.
No collapse this time, though. Not even close, despite shooting just 33 percent in the second half and 34 percent for the game, compared to 47 percent by Duke. The difference was points off turnovers and second-chance opportunities, two areas where Miami combined to outscore Duke 31-18.
It was the third game for Duke since the Blue Devils lost starting point guard Chelsea Gray to a season-ending knee injury.
"We've been in a new season since Chelsea's injury and trying to grow and learn how we're playing together, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Peters said. "Our focus was not where it needed to be. I thought we played very young. We weren't where we should have been."
Yderstrom and Wilson, however, were everywhere, especially in the final minutes.
The second half was theirs.
Yderstrom set up Saunders for a 3-pointer with 13:18 left to put Miami up 49-43. And after Duke got within four later in the half, Yderstrom started calling her own number. A pair of free throws and a quick 3-pointer gave Yderstrom - whose mother traveled from their native Sweden for senior night - five points in 25 seconds, pushing Miami's edge to 58-49 and sending many of those on the Hurricanes' bench leaping for joy.
Barely three minutes later, the momentum was all Duke's.
Tricia Liston, who didn't score in the first half, had four quick points and Jones followed with three more, getting the Blue Devils within 58-56 with 6:01 left. But after Saunders blocked Peters' shot in the lane - despite a 7-inch height differential - Yderstrom scored from close range, snapping a Miami drought that lasted more than four minutes and making it a two-possession game once again.
And the lead stuck the rest of the way.
Wilson scored Miami's next six points to extend the lead to 66-60, and the Hurricanes got some help on the last of those buckets. Jones dribbled the ball off McGuire's foot for a turnover, and Wilson made the Blue Devils pay by banking one in with 1:51 remaining.
"We knew we had nothing to lose," Stroman said. "Might as well go out with a bang."
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