Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 27, 2013

Cowgirls fall to Duke 68-59 in NCAA 2nd round

DURHAM, N.C. — Oklahoma State figured it needed to play a perfect game to beat Duke on its home court.

The Cowgirls made it halfway there.

Second-seeded Duke erased a 15-point deficit in the second half and beat No. 7 seed Oklahoma State 68-59 on Tuesday night in the second round of the Norfolk Regional to deny the Cowgirls their second trip to the regional semifinals in six years.

“We came to the toughest place as far as a No. 2 seed goes, and we went toe to toe for about 35 minutes with them,” Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said, “and I’m proud of our group for that.”

Liz Donohoe had 14 points to lead Oklahoma State (22-11), which led for nearly all of the first 35 minutes but had 21 turnovers and made just 2 of 14 shots over the final 9? minutes.

“We almost had to play a perfect game to win this game, and I thought we played pretty close to perfect in the first half and maybe the first 4-5 minutes in the second half,” Littell said. “But it was a tough draw coming in here, because we know how good they are.”

Brittney Martin added 13 points and her free throw with 7:50 left put the Cowgirls up 51-45.

That’s when Duke finally started playing like a No. 2 seed going for its 18th straight NCAA tournament victory at home.

Elizabeth Williams had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Haley Peters added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Tricia Liston scored eight of her 13 in the final 6-plus minutes for the Blue Devils (32-2), who will face sixth-seeded Nebraska in the regional semifinals on Sunday in Norfolk, Va.

Chloe Wells also finished with 13 points for Duke, which dug out of that deep hole by outscoring the Cowgirls 47-23 during the final 19? minutes to reach the tournament’s second weekend for the 15th time in 16 years.

“Coach came in (at halftime) and just said we were just getting ready for a great comeback,” Peters said. “We knew we played a bad first half but we couldn’t focus on that. It was more about how we were going to change in the second half ... and we were going to have a great comeback.”

Duke improved to 20-1 in NCAA tournament games at Cameron and won its 20th straight home game.

“That was a blue-collar comeback,” coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That was guttural. That was gutsy.”

Alexis Jones hit a free throw before Liston finally warmed up after a 2-for-12 start, scoring six straight points to give Duke its first lead since the opening minutes.

She stuck back her missed jumper, drew contact, hit the following free throw and then buried a 3-pointer with 5? minutes left to put the Blue Devils up 52-51.

That got Duke’s decisive 17-2 run rolling, scoring on five straight possessions with Jones’ free throws maxing out the lead at 62-53 with 53.8 seconds left.

By that point, their 15-point hole — their largest deficit at Cameron all season — was a distant memory.

They fell that far behind in the first minute of the second half and were in danger of being run completely off their home court before they got back in it with 12 straight points.

“You can want things too much sometimes and press a little bit and forget to play together,” McCallie said. “Second half, very different story. Everybody on the same page, everybody pulling in the same direction and I thought it was a fascinating thing to be a part of.”

Toni Young finished with 12 points and Tiffany Bias added 11 for Oklahoma State, which held Duke to 18 percent shooting from 3-point range in the first half.

“We’re a fast and quick team, and we used what we got to build a lead against them,” Young said.

Bias banked in a 3 with about 10 seconds left making it 34-21 at the break, and Martin hit a short jumper about 15 seconds into the second half to put the Blue Devils down by 15. But the Cowgirls couldn’t hold on, and their third trip to the round of 16 slipped away down the stretch.

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