by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM The last time Duke and N.C. State met in this building, the Wolfpack pulled a monumental upset.
Again Duke (27-2), which is ranked No. 6 in the country, is the tournament’s top seed. State (16-15), which escaped Clemson 56-45 in the first round on Thursday less than 20 hours before Tiger coach Itoro Coleman lost her job, is seeded No. 8.
State won 75-73 in this spot last season. And on Jan. 3 at Reynolds Coliseum, Duke had one of its closer calls this season in a 67-57 win.
This time Duke is better in the final few minutes, pulling away for a 79-65 victory.
The Blue Devils lead 42-33 at halftime before the Wolfpack makes a noisy run, going up 57-53 on a Marissa Kastanek layup with 7:02 left.
Duke responds with a 9-0 run, ending in a pair of Tricia Liston free throws at 3:19, and the Wolfpack can’t get closer than four points back again.
Liston finishes with 26 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Alexis Jones with 17, Elizabeth Williams with 13 points and nine rebounds and Richa Jackson with 13 points off the bench. It was the first time in the junior Liston’s career she has scored over 20 points in a double-double.
Marissa Kastanek leads the Wolfpack with 18 points, followed by Markeisha Gatling with 16 points and nine rebounds and Myisha Goodwin-Coleman with 12.
Duke shoots 43.9 percent to the Wolfpack’s 41.7 and wins the rebound battle 42-30. The Blue Devils commit 15 turnovers to the Wolfpack’s 13.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “Our team played really, really hard and it was a physical game. N.C. State did a great job as well. It was just a great game for us to rebound better, get some defensive stops and step up and execute on offense. I thought Tricia’s leadership was just incredible. As a junior, she’s been around the block and she knows a lot of different things out there. I thought (Jones) matched that, running things, taking care of the basketball and setting things up out there.”
State coach Kellie Harper: “We obviously played a very solid team tonight. I think Duke is very talented. They’re balanced, especially on the offensive end, and it hurts for us to come up short. Our team had an amazing mindset — not only did they believe they were going to win this game, but I’ll be honest with you that they thought they were going to win the tournament.”
Liston: “We wanted to play today for ourselves. We had to prove we belonged to be here and we wanted to be here. Tournament time is always a fun time, but it’s one game and you’re out. You can’t look past any teams here. We wanted to come out here and get the win and that’s what we did.”
Kastanek: “It was pretty emotional for me. It was my last game in the ACC Tournament. We fought hard as a team and I’m proud of all my teammates. We played really well together and we never quit.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke is looking very solid for post-season play, while the Wolfpack looks like a very good WNIT team.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Liston’s 3-pointer to make it 65-58 with 2:52 to play.
Duke: Won 2.
State: Lost 1.
State leads 39-34.
Duke vs. Florida State, Saturday, 1 p.m.
N.C. State in WNIT