24-4, 13-2 Conf
23-4, 14-1 Conf

No. 7 Duke fights off No. 5 Miami to clinch ACC's top seed

DURHAM, N.C. -- Most of No. 7 Duke's big lead vanished late against No. 5 Miami. The Blue Devils had enough left for one final push, and it was enough to once again give them the top seed in their conference tournament.

Elizabeth Williams scored 19 points and the Blue Devils held on to beat the Hurricanes 74-64 on Friday night, clinching the No. 1 seed in next week's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Chelsea Gray added 12 points and nine assists and Haley Peters had 12 points to help the Blue Devils (23-4, 14-1) snap Miami's 13-game winning streak.

After having a 14-point lead cut to three, Duke pulled away to wrap up the ACC's top seed for the third straight year.

"The games we're going to play now ... you don't blow people out. You might, but not really, and so I think our team was ready for anything that would happen," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "I thought the team got back together and said, 'Enough. Let's focus.' And that leadership came from Chelsea and it came from Elizabeth, and it was important."

Duke shot 48.5 percent, forced 21 turnovers and in what McCallie called "an awesome, awesome stat," outscored Miami 50-16 in the paint. The Blue Devils held the Hurricanes to one field goal in the final 9½ minutes to extend their winning streak in ACC home games to 30.

"Coach just emphasized that we have to keep the mannerisms throughout the whole game," Gray said. "Highs or lows, just keep an even keel."

Shenise Johnson, the ACC's leading scorer, had 18 points and Riquna Williams had 17 on 6-of-16 shooting for Miami (24-4, 13-2), which missed its final nine shots and shot 33 percent. Williams' layup with 4 minutes remaining was the Hurricanes' only basket down the stretch.

Miami trailed 67-53 with 5½ minutes left but reeled off 11 straight points -- all but two coming at the foul line -- to make things tense for a while. Sylvia Bullock's free throw with 1:52 remaining pulled the Hurricanes to 67-64.

"Boy, we had the opportunities. We did at the end," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "We flipped the switch and we were Miami and the pressure was on them and you've got to make those magical plays."

Gray followed with a driving layup with 1:15 left, and after two misses by Riquna Williams, Gray and Tricia Liston combined to hit five of seven free throws to seal it.

"It's hard to contain her," Johnson said of Gray. "One minute she's surveying, the next minute she's at the rim."

Stefanie Yderstrom finished with 16 points for Miami, the conference's second seed for the second straight year. The Hurricanes fell to 0-9 against Duke, and Meier -- an All-American player for the Blue Devils -- slipped to 0-8 against her alma mater during a coaching career that also includes a stint at Charlotte.

Facing the Blue Devils as a top-10 team for the first time -- and taking on a Duke team that is without three starters -- this figured to be the Hurricanes' best chance to beat them. Instead, it wound up being another empty trip to North Carolina's Triangle, the site of both of Miami's league losses. North Carolina beat the Hurricanes in January.

"We're not coming out of this game with our heads down at all," Meier said. "I thought we did what we needed to do. I'm very proud of our effort, very proud of the game plan. We wanted to hang around ... and then generate opportunities at the end. It was just how we scripted it."

Allison Vernerey finished with 10 points while Elizabeth Williams reached double figures for the 13th straight game for the Blue Devils, who finished 13-1 at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season -- the lone loss coming to No. 4 Connecticut. Duke wraps up the regular season Sunday against the rival Tar Heels.

Duke turned to its defense midway through the first half to take the lead for good and push it into double figures. The Blue Devils forced seven turnovers during a 22-5 run that erased an early seven-point deficit.