Hitting six straight free throws over the final 45 seconds, the Duke women’s basketball team overcame an eight-point second half deficit to topple UNC 66-61 in the ACC semifinals Saturday.
The Tar Heels had their chances, but fell to 24-9 overall and 10-6 in conference as Diamond DeShields had a potential game-tying three-pointer spin out of the basket with just under 10 seconds remaining.
Oderah Chidom scored just six points for the Blue Devils (27-5, 12-4), but four came on clutch free throws in the final 18 seconds. Duke outlasted the Tar Heels for their first win in three attempts this season to avoid a sweep and move on for their third attempt at knocking off a perfect Notre Dame squad.
The Irish improved to 31-0 and 16-0 in the ACC with an 83-48 pounding of NC State in the other semifinal.
DeShields was a force in pouring in 25 points with six rebounds and two assists but she also picked up a costly technical foul for screaming in an opposing player’s face after draining one of her five three-pointers.
Duke raced out to an 8-0 lead in the opening two minutes as Tricia Liston completed a three-point play and nailed a jumper for five of her team-high 17 points.
An Allisha Gray (14 points) trey helped bring the Tar Heels within 8-5 before Liston continued her sizzling start with a three-pointer for an 11-5 Duke advantage. The teams battled throughout the opening half for a 31-31 draw at intermission on Stephanie Mavunga’s putback with 1.2 seconds remaining.
The Tar Heels took over early in the second half, using a 12-4 run to forge a 43-35 lead just over three minutes in.
Duke gathered itself as Elizabeth Williams connected on a pair of jumpers and Richa Jackson followed with a basket as Duke moved within 43-42. The battle continued as DeShields later hit a trey to give the Tar Heels a four point lead at 59-55, but again Duke answered with a Liston three pointer.
The Blue Devils took their first lead of the second half on Ka’lia Johnson’s pair of freebies with 45 seconds left and Duke held on from there for the win.
Duke won despite committing seven more turnovers (17 to 10) than the Tar Heels, thanks to better shooting (43.1 percent to 33.8 percent), nine more made free throws made (17 to 8) and a rebounding advantage (44-37).