March 24, 2007

Rutgers stuns Duke on free-throw failure

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Duke's free-throw failure in the final second sent Rutgers to the regional finals. Epiphanny Prince went coast-to-coast for the go-ahead layup with 20 seconds left and Duke star Lindsey Harding missed two free throws with 0.1 seconds left, preserving fourth-seeded Rutgers' 53-52 upset of the top-seeded Blue Devils on Saturday in the semifinals of the Greensboro Regional.

Harding could have given the Blue Devils (32-2) the win — or at least forced overtime — when she stole an inbounds pass near midcourt, drove hard to the basket and was fouled by Myia McCurdy.

The ACC player of the year missed both free throws hard off the back iron, and Carrem Gay's tipback as the horn sounded failed to come close. Harding fell to her back and covered her face in horror, while the Scarlet Knights (25-8) celebrated at midcourt.

Matee Ajavon had 20 points for Rutgers, which advances to face Arizona State (31-4) on Monday night with a berth in the
Final Four on the line. The Scarlet Knights will make their second appearance in the round of eight since 2005, and they did it by denying the Blue Devils their sixth straight berth in the regional finals.

Duke led 52-48 entering the final minute before Ajavon started the rally with a 3-pointer with 48.5 seconds left.

The Blue Devils worked the ball around to center Alison Bales, who missed a long jumper, and the rebound was ripped from Wanisha Smith's hands by Prince, who went the length of the floor and hit a layup over Harding — the Atlantic Coast Conference's defensive player of the year — to put Rutgers ahead to stay.

Duke brought the ball downcourt before Essence Carson stole the ball from Harding, and the Blue Devils fouled her with 5.6 seconds left before Harding came up with the steal on the subsequent inbounds pass.

Bales finished her Duke career by matching her season high of 21 points, and she blocked four shots but fell one shy of the
NCAA single-season record of 152. Gay added 10 points for the Blue Devils, whose two losses this season have come at the Greensboro Coliseum. They previously were upset three weeks earlier by North Carolina State in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.

Rutgers — which has five freshmen and no seniors on the roster — shot 57 percent in the second half and was determined to avenge an 85-45 loss to Duke three months earlier. It was the most lopsided defeat in coach C. Vivian Stringer's 11 seasons with the Scarlet Knights.

Duke blew a 10-point lead early in the second half, while Rutgers clawed back and twice tied it before rallying in the final moments.

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