Duke's Chelsea Gray (12) steals the ball from Marist's Elise Caron (5) late in the second half. TRAVIS LONG - email@example.com
updated 11:20 p.m.
DURHAM -- The Duke women’s basketball team showed its experience and resolve on Monday night.
Surging from behind over ranked teams on four occasions earlier in the season, the Blue Devils rallied late in the second half for a riveting 71-66 victory over Marist in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Having played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the No. 2-seeded Devils (31-3) pulled from a collection of six late-game victories, once again appearing calm over the game’s tense conclusion. They gathered themselves and flatly denied another ranked opponent in the game’s waning minutes.
“We’ve been in many, many close games,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’re very comfortable with it. I don’t know what people are thinking, but at this time, it’s not about blowouts and leads. Anything can happen in a game.”
And it did.
The 10th-seeded Red Foxes made life miserable for the Devils as they led for much of the game and drained 10 of 27 3-point attempts. Yet it was a determined effort by the Devils – a school-record 17-0 this season at home – that has them moving on to face DePaul on Sunday in the Philadelphia Regional semifinals.
Marist entered the contest on a 27-game winning streak – longest in the nation – and never flinched at Duke’s height, size or reputation. They carried a five-point lead into halftime and looked like an upset winner until the game’s final 10 minutes.
Then Duke started whittling away at Marist and cutting its 11-point lead to five.
Duke freshman Chelsea Gray scored 13 points in the second half and made key baskets down the stretch to hand her team the hard-fought win.
Gray made a 3-pointer with 2:49 remaining to pull the Devils within a point of Marist. She then made a steal on the perimeter and raced down court for a layup attempt, where she was fouled.
Gray stepped coolly to the line and buried both free throws to give the Devils a 61-60 lead – a first since they led 8-7. After Duke senior Karima Christmas forced a turnover, Gray pulled in a pass in the lane and glassed a layup to put the Devils up by four points at 1:39.
“The steals got me going,” Gray said. “That gave me momentum and then I knocked down a three and that got me excited from there and ready to go.”
Gray scored eight of her 13 in the final 2:49 of the game, scoring eight of Duke’s final 15 points. She finished with three steals.
“I think Chelsea’s tough,” Duke senior Jasmine Thomas said. “She’s capable of making big plays; we’ve seen it all year long and ... she is comfortable in any situation.”
Marist guard Elise Caron hit a 3-pointer with 39.3 seconds remaining to pull her team within two points. But the Devils held on, making 5 of 6 free throw attempts and denying the Red Foxes the upset.
“When you have been in this situation before, I think we are looser as a team where some teams may get tighter down the stretch,” Duke senior Krystal Thomas said. “I think that kind of excites us and we know we have to get the stop to win.”
Jasmine Thomas pulled her team together – scoring nine consecutive during one stretch in the first half – and led the way with 17 points. Krystal Thomas added 10 points and eight rebounds, while Christmas chipped in 11 points and four steals.
The Red Foxes shot 48 percent from the field and were led by a remarkable 25-point, 12-rebound performance by junior guard Corielle Yarde.
Marist opened the first half true to itself and started attacking Duke. Yarde drove hard to the basket for a layup to open the game. She soon followed with a 3-pointer and the Red Foxes were comfortable taking the game to the Devils despite the multiple defenses they faced – 2-3 zones and full-court presses.
Marist played without leading guard Erica Allenspach for much the game after she injured her knee early in the first half.
"We definitely got tired," Marist sophomore Kate Oliver said. "But Duke just didn't let up."