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Cowgirls to test Duke's home win streak in NCAAs

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP)

Duke is always tough to beat at Cameron Indoor Stadium - especially in the NCAA tournament.

Still, the Blue Devils are getting ready for a major test from an Oklahoma State team that is capable of matching Duke's high-powered offense.

Second-seeded Duke (31-2) puts its 17-game home winning streak in tournament games on the line Tuesday night against the seventh-seeded Cowgirls (22-10) in the second round of the Norfolk Regional.

Oklahoma State forward Toni Young said Monday that the key is getting off to a good start and ''keeping that burst throughout the whole game.''

That's not as easy as it might appear.

Duke is 19-2 in NCAA tournament games at home and hasn't lost one since 1996, and no team not named Connecticut has come into Cameron and beat the Blue Devils since 2008.

A win over Oklahoma State will cap Duke's fourth undefeated home season in school history and make the Blue Devils 16-0 there. Because there's just one senior on the roster - backup center Allison Vernerey - their focus won't be on sentiment but on finding a way to keep themselves rolling into the Norfolk Regional semifinals next week.

''They can score at five different positions,'' Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. ''They're very experienced, they're long, they're athletic, they keep people out of the paint. ... They know how to play the game. They don't run plays - they read, they react to what the defense does.''

At least his Cowgirls can say they won a game at the famous arena - they did beat DePaul there Sunday in a first-round game, a couple of hours after Duke dispatched Hampton.

Now comes an even tougher job: handling the Blue Devils there, in a matchup of teams that seem capable of pushing the tempo and giving the scoreboard a workout.

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie described the Cowgirls' offense as ''physical but uptempo - go, go, go.''

Both teams rank in the top 15 in the nation in scoring offense, with the Blue Devils ninth with an average of nearly 76 points and the Cowgirls 13th with almost 74 points per game.

They also each have four double-figure scorers, with Duke led by center Elizabeth Williams - who scores 15.5 points per game and is coming off an 18-point performance against Hampton - and Young leading Oklahoma State with an average of 16.2.

In the Cowgirls' first-round win over DePaul, Young scored 20 of her 25 points in the first half and ''can just rattle off points quickly,'' McCallie said.

The key will be how well Oklahoma State's defense can play. The Cowgirls are 18-0 when holding their opponent to fewer than 60 points - but only once this season has Duke been held to fewer than 60.

Where the teams differ most is in their postseason experience. The Blue Devils have reached the regional round in 14 of the last 15 years and have been beaten in the regional finals in each of the last three seasons.

Before Sunday, though, only two Oklahoma State players had ever played in the tournament and the Cowgirls have made it to the second weekend just once since 1991.

So they have to trust that their Big 12 schedule - seven of the league's 10 teams made the NCAA tournament - prepared them for the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Blue Devils.

''Every time we step on the court (in conference play), it's like an NCAA tournament game because most of the teams that are in the Big 12 come to the NCAA tournament and make a good run at it,'' Young said.

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at (at)JoedyAP.

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