Waner Shoots No. 1 Blue Devils Past Cavaliers In ACC Tournament Quarterfinals, 79-58
March 2, 2007
BY STEVE PHILLIPS
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- While Abby Waner wowed the crowd with her outside shooting, Duke stifled Virginia with a gritty defensive effort.
It added up to a 79-58 win for the top-ranked and top-seeded Blue Devils in Friday's Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Tournament quarterfinal game.
It also prompted a candid assessment by Virginia coach Debbie Ryan on what it will take for any team -- in this tournament or elsewhere -- to defeat a Blue Devil squad that will carry a 30-0 record into Saturday's 2 p.m. semifinal game against fourth-seeded North Carolina State. With Friday's win, Duke became the first women's program in NCAA history to record at least 30 wins seven straight seasons.
"They're going to have to have a bad day, and somebody is going to have to have a really good day," Ryan said. "That's the way I see it. They are very balanced in every aspect."
Waner served notice early that Friday would be a good day for Duke, particularly when it came to her outside shooting.
Dazzling the eighth-seeded Cavaliers with her quick release and willingness to shoot from almost unthinkable range, Waner went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc to key the Blue Devils to a 38-25 halftime lead. The sophomore from Colorado finished 6-of-10 on 3-point shots.
"When I grew up, I played against boys a lot," Waner explained. "When you play against boys that are a lot more athletic and quicker and can jump higher, that forces you to get off your shot a lot quicker."
She wasn't the only Blue Devil -- nor member of the Waner family -- to victimize the Cavaliers from 3-point range. Her younger sister, Emily, sank both her first-half 3-point attempts.
"I thought Emily Waner's 3s were probably more key than Abby Waner's 3s," Ryan said. "Emily Waner coming in and stretching us even farther (defensively) made it even more difficult for us. I thought that was mentally taxing on our team."
Duke, which built its lead to as many as 23 points in the second half, limited Virginia forward Lyndra Littles to seven points on 2-of-14 shooting. Littles scored a career-high 32 points in Thursday's first-round win over Clemson and scored 28 in the Cavaliers' 76-61 loss to the Blue Devils during the regular season.
"The last game, she gave us a lot of problems," Duke center Alison Bales said. "I think (Blue Devil coach Gail Goestenkors) changed the game plan a little bit today. We had a guard on her for some of the game, and we also had post players on her. We were working a double team every once in a while."
Bales finished with 13 points and blocked six shots, while Carrem Gay and Joy Cheek each added 10 points for the Blue Devils. Freshman Monica Wright's 18 points led Virginia (17-14). Senior center Sideah Williams added 12 points -- eclipsing the 1,000-mark for her collegiate career -- and led all rebounders with 10.
Tomorrow's semifinal game puts Duke against an N.C. State team that has turned into a bit of a sentimental favorite in view of head coach Kay Yow's ongoing fight against breast cancer. Goestenkors acknowledged emotions will run high, but she believes her team will focus on taking the next step toward its first ACC Tournament title since 2004.
"We love Kay Yow, and that will never change," Goestenkors said. "But when we get on the court, we are here to win, just as they are. It will be a battle on the floor, as it should be."