Duke takes out Carolina in OT, 81-79
Posted March 1, 2009
Updated March 2, 2009
Duke guard Abby Waner began her Senior Night with a three-pointer against North Carolina on her first shot attempt, two minutes and 50 seconds into the game. She swished a wide open look from the left side of the key, which tied the game at 5-5.
After 14 not-even-close shot attempts and 41:24 of game time elapsed, Waner hit her second bucket of the evening. She swished a three in transition, again from the left side of the key, with 45.8 seconds remaining in overtime.
The shot gave Waner’s team the lead for good and helped decide a tilt-a-whirl of a game, 81-79, in Duke’s favor.
“I wasn’t thinking,” Waner said about her game-winning shot. “It was just ball, basket. Sometimes you just have to dumb it down – then it goes in.”
Waner said she wasn’t thinking about that shot, but she thought a little about the 14 that came before it. Those included airballs, rim-clankers, bricks – the kinds of shots you see fans take during half time prize contests.
“In basketball, if you over-think it too much, sometimes you let it get inside your head,” Waner said.
On her final shot of the night, the final shot she’ll ever take in an official game on Coach K Court, Waner delivered the bucket her team needed most as if she hadn’t missed a shot all night.
But Waner’s shot could never have happened were it not for sophomore point guard Jasmine Thomas, who seemed like she didn’t miss a shot all night.
Thomas hit key bucket after key bucket for the Blue Devils. She keyed a major Duke run in the first half that lifted her team to a 40-32 halftime lead. Then, with Duke trailing, 67-65, and on down to its final possession in regulation, Thomas drove the lane and hit a bank-shot runner from five feet out with 20 seconds left.
After Cetera DeGraffenreid’s lay-up attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, Thomas took over in overtime. She hit a pull-up jumper to open the extra frame scoring. After UNC’s Rashanda McCants swished a jumper to give the Heels a 71-69 lead, Thomas came right down and answered with a jumper of her own. With the score tied at 73, Thomas penetrated, backed down her defender, then turned and hit a jumper from inside the foul line to put Duke up two. And after Waner hit her critical three, Thomas made two free throws with 19 seconds left to put the game away.
Thomas scored eight of Duke’s 14 points in overtime and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points on eight-of-17 shooting.
During Waner’s senior address to the fans following the game, the two-guard made sure her one-guard received recognition. “First of all, has anybody seen number five, Jasmine Thomas?” Waner said, eliciting a raucous cheer from the near-capacity crowd at Cameron.
During the game, that crowd included a large Carolina contingency, and a vocal one at that. The Tar Heel fans enjoyed plenty of moments during the contest, as the game featured 12 ties and 13 lead changes.
Especially late in the game, it seemed that Duke had let the game slip away. Carolina trailed for most of the second half but chipped away at the Blue Devil lead and eventually pulled ahead, enjoying its largest lead of the game, 67-61, with 2:02 to go.
At that point, Duke had managed just six points over an approximately six minute stretch, during which Carolina scored 11 points. But over the final two minutes, Duke shut Carolina out and scored six points unanswered to knot it up.
“This was like the best senior night ever,” soon-to-be-graduate Chante Black said in her fan address.
Black fouled out of her final home game against UNC with 4:13 remaining in regulation, but her teammates came through. Fellow senior Carrem Gay tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds, sophomore Karima Christmas added clutch 18 points and seven boards, and junior Bridgette Mitchell scored 13 points for the Blue Devils.
McCants led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and three other Tar Heels – Jessica Breland, DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas – scored in double figures. In the second half especially, McCants and Breland, along with some key three-point shooting, carried the Tar Heels during their comeback.
But the Heels turned the ball over 33 times (juxtaposed with only 15 assists) and allowed Duke to nab 32 offensive rebounds. Those numbers led to 28 Blue Devil points off turnovers and 21 second-chance points.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said, “The pressure you feel is for your seniors,” but she must have felt some herself – this was McCallie’s first win in seven tries against the Tar Heels. It also ended a four-game Carolina winning streak against Duke.
Gay ranked the Senior Night victory “definitely at the top” among Duke-Carolina games during her four years in Durham.
Waner, who experienced the downs of a prolonged shooting slump and the ups of a game-winning shot, said, “This game is a really good example of what the last four years have been,” meaning exultant at times and bleak at others.
“Everything came together in this game,” Waner said. “The atmosphere was great, sold out, the fans were really into it … Then to go into overtime with your archrival in a very crucial game … I’d say it was a pretty good way to go out.”
Better than, say, if she had missed.