DURHAM, N.C. -- The women's NCAA tournament almost tipped off with an upset that would have broken a number of brackets. But thanks to Rebecca Greenwell's clutch 3-point shooting, No. 4 seed Duke escaped 54-52 against No. 13 Albany.
This one nearly went to the dogs, though. The smaller Great Danes outplayed the Blue Devils on Duke's home court for much of the game. And Albany led 52-50 with 22.2 seconds left and Duke's Elizabeth Williams on the foul line.
Williams missed her first attempt, and then -- as Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie reported it -- she told Williams during a timeout to intentionally miss the second attempt and have Duke go for the rebound, as the Blue Devils had dominated the boards all game. They knew they had the possession arrow, too.
Sound rather risky? Yes, but it worked out. Duke, which finished with a 47-31 edge in rebounding, actually didn't get this one. But the Blue Devils were able to tie it up and then Greenwell nailed her sixth 3-pointer of the game.
Albany's Imani Tate, who had a team-high 17 points, missed a driving shot at the basket, then Duke's Azura Stevens made one of two free throws. Albany's Erin Coughlin got a good look at a 3-pointer with 1 second left, but it was long. And the Blue Devils survived. It was their closest victory ever in an NCAA first-round game.
Key stat: Duke pulled out this victory despite 27 turnovers; Albany's 16 steals were the most by a Duke foe in a tournament game. The Great Danes' ability to turn over Duke was very key in offsetting Duke's major height advantage.
Turning point: Considering this went to the wire, there really was no one moment when things turned. But this was a key juncture: With 3:56 left, Albany's Sarah Royals got a steal and went in for a layup. Duke's much taller Stevens tried to block Royals' shot but was called for a foul. Royals made the shot and converted the three-point play, putting the Great Danes up 47-45. But then Greenwell made a 3-pointer to give Duke back the lead. It was one of many big plays Greenwell made when the Blue Devils really needed it.
Key player: There's no other way to put it: Greenwell absolutely saved Duke. She was 6-of-11 from 3-point range and 7-of-13 overall for a game-high 20 points.
How it was won: In the end, Duke's defense and rebounding were enough -- barely -- to win this game. But Albany, the America East champion, really pushed the Blue Devils to the brink.
What's next: Duke will face either No. 5 seed Mississippi State or No. 12 seed Tulane in the second round Sunday.