Late 19-3 Run Pushes Third-Seeded Duke Past Sixth-Seeded Florida State, 81-67
March 7, 2008
By Steve Phillips
GREENSBORO, N.C. - As far as Duke was concerned, Abby Waner's timing could not have been better.
Held scoreless for the first 29 minutes of Friday night's Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Tournament quarterfinal game against Florida State, Waner exploded for 14 points in a span of just under six minutes to lead the Blue Devils to an 81-67 win.
Waner's scoring spree highlighted a 19-3 run that saw Duke turn a six-point deficit into a 66-56 lead. The third-seeded Blue Devils (22-8) kept the sixth-seeded Seminoles at arm's length in the final six minutes to earn at spot opposite second-seeded Maryland in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal game.
Waner credited teammate Keturah Jackson with providing the pep talk that lit the decisive fire.
"I remember one specific moment where we were sitting on the bench," Waner said. "KJ said, `Look guys, it's now or never. We can't wait until the last two minutes to try and beat them.' Our whole team just came together. I haven't felt anything like that all season. That was very powerful."
Waner's knockout punch included a steal and driving layup, another basket in transition and two deep shots from 3-point range. The junior guard also contributed a key assist and rebound as the Blue Devils awakened to thwart what appeared to be an upset in the making. Waner finished with team highs of seven rebounds and seven assists.
"Shots draw attention, and I understand why they do," said Duke first-year coach Joanne P. McCallie. "But some of the passes Abby made were just as fabulous and brought the same emotion. When you see people do what they love to do and do it well, it's very motivating."
Before Waner took charge, Chante Black's inside play helped the Blue Devils tread water. Black finished with a game-high 20 points, while Joy Cheek scored 11.
"(Black) was a warrior for us tonight," McCallie said.
Mara Freshour's 18 points led Florida State (18-13). Tanae Davis-Cain added 15, and Alysha Harvin scored 14.
While the effort was a clear improvement over a 32-point loss to the Blue Devils during the regular season, the Seminoles were left to lament a game in which little went right after Freshour's shot-clock beating jumper gave them a 53-47 lead with 11:46 to play.
"I think we showed we're a much better basketball team than the first time we played Duke," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "Abby Waner went on a 7-0 run by herself and had an assist on the next basket. Her (first) long 3 was the back-breaker. She's a great player, and give them credit."
The late comeback was actually the Blue Devils' second of the night. Duke spotted Florida State an early seven-point lead before battling back to lead 36-35 at the half. Black's nine points paced the Blue Devils in the first 20 minutes, and Freshour led all scorers with 10.
Though the tide ultimately turned against her team in the second half, Semrau believes the Seminoles have made their case for NCAA Tournament participation.
"Obviously the conference we play in, our strength schedule, our RPI are all good," Semrau said. "Eighteen wins is a lot. And the committee needs to consider that we haven't played but 10 games with this (full) team. We've had 17 different starting lineups for a variety of reasons.
"This is a team that has had to fight and is just starting to show what it can do. We're really starting to come together now."