by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke plays its toughest conference opponent at home all season tonight, and there is plenty on the line this time.
Miami is coached by Duke alumna Katie Meier, who has built the Hurricanes into a national power in her seven seasons at the helm.
The one thing she hasn’t done is beat her alma mater. And Duke has won 29 straight ACC contests at home.
The winner will also have an inside track for the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as it would seem to belong to the best ACC team — No. 6 Maryland is also in the mix - as long as Notre Dame doesn’t win the Big East Tournament.
It is of course Senior Night for Duke, and so point guard Shay Selby and forward Kathleen Scheer will get the start in their final home game.
Duke holds off a late Miami rally, winning 74-64 in front of a noisy 6,584.
Duke gets into the driver’s seat after the first five minutes. The Hurricanes take a 7-2 lead on Stefanie Yderstrom’s 3-pointer from the right side at 17:44, but the Blue Devils respond with a 22-5 run ending on Selby’s layup from Chelsea Gray at 10:11.
Duke’s biggest lead of the first half is 38-25 on an Elizabeth Williams layup with :48 left.
The Blue Devils shoot 54.5 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes to Miami’s 38.7, and force 13 turnovers to five of their own. Williams leads Duke with 13 points at the break while Yderstrom has 11 for Miami.
And it looks as if the Blue Devils might have it locked up with 5:41 left when Haley Peters’ layup makes it 67-53.
Not exactly, because the Hurricanes keep coming.
Miami scores 11 straight points and cuts it to 67-64 on a pair of Sylvia Bullock free throws with 1:52 to go. But Gray takes over, hitting a driving layup to make it 69-64 at 1:13 and then adding a pair of free throws with 46 ticks left to make it 71-64 and essentially seal the outcome.
Williams leads Duke with 19 points and nine rebounds, followed by Gray with 12 points and nine assists. Peters chips in 12 points and Allison Vernerey 10.
Johnson paces Miami with 18 points, followed by Riquna Williams with 17 and Yderstrom 16.
Duke shoots 54.5 percent to Miami’s 33.3. The Hurricanes win the rebound battle 44-37, but commit 21 turnovers to 12 for Duke.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “It was just a great basketball game. I was proud of our team and our effort. I really liked our aggressiveness in the second half, particularly the rebounding. Miami is an excellent team, and boy do they have some shooters. But Elizabeth was on it, just on it, and Chelsea was spot-on with her ball movement.”
Meier: “Congratulations to Duke. Their (50) points in the paint absolutely killed us. We didn’t turn them over as much as we need to, but that’s hard to do. They’re really good. … I’m happy for them. I’m happy for the ACC. I think those kids are awesome. We want the best and we want this conference to be the best.”
Gray: “Everything we didn’t do in the Maryland game (a 63-61 road loss on Sunday) we wanted to do in this game. All our anger was put into this game, and all of the things we didn’t do well in that game we did well in this one. We were not losing this game.”
Elizabeth Williams: “The physical play (in this game) was to be expected. You have to go out and play hard, but play composed. I tried to kick the ball out if I saw I was being doubled or that someone was open. That’s just college basketball, especially with the events coming up. I just have to maintain my composure.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke has the coveted No. 1 seed for the ACC Tournament, and that Miami is still in the hunt for the rest of its season goals.
Stars of the game
1. E. Williams.
3. S. Johnson.
Play of the game
Gray’s driving layup to make it 69-64.
Duke: Won 1.
Miami: Lost 1.
Duke leads 9-0.
Miami vs. Boston College, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Duke at UNC, Sunday, 3 p.m.