DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Albany kept taking things from Duke all day – first the ball, then the lead.
The Great Danes couldn’t keep their hands on their first NCAA Tournament victory.
The Blue Devils beat Albany 54-52 on Friday in the first round of the Spokane Regional after Rebecca Greenwell hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds left.
Imani Tate had 17 points and Shereesha Richards added 12 for the Great Danes (24-9), who forced 27 turnovers and were trying to become just the second No. 13 seed to win a game in the tournament and the first since Marist in 2012.
”We should have won the game,” guard Sarah Royals said. ”I think that we outplayed them, and I’m not ashamed to say it.”
They had two chances to retake the lead after Greenwell’s big shot in the final seconds put Duke up 53-52.
Tate missed on a drive down the lane with about 8 seconds left and Duke’s Azura Stevens hit the first of two free throws with 6.4 seconds left.
She missed the second and the Great Danes raced downcourt, but Erin Coughlin’s corner 3 clipped off the back iron at the buzzer.
”I’m convinced that every shot Erin shoots goes in,” Royals said.
Greenwell finished with 20 points for the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (22-10). They won their NCAA Tournament opener for the 22nd straight time.
”We didn’t go down without a fight tonight,” Greenwell said.
Elizabeth Williams had 12 rebounds but was just 2 for 9 shooting while Amber Henson added 10 boards for Duke, which will play the Tulane-Mississippi State winner on Sunday in the second round.
The Blue Devils rarely have trouble with their first NCAA Tournament opponent, winning each of their previous 18 first-round games by double figures.
Not this time.
The Blue Devils had their hands full with an Albany team making its fourth straight tournament appearance. Neither team led by more than eight, and the Great Danes appeared to be in control late, leading by four with the ball in the final 90 seconds.
”I think we all had faith in each other that we were still going to win the game,” Williams said. ”I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind.”
Williams made it a one-possession game with a jumper in the lane with about 1:10 remaining, and Duke got the ball back after Richards and Tate missed with about 40 seconds to play.
Royals fouled Williams with 22.2 seconds left and after the Duke All-American missed both – the second on purpose – the officials called a held ball and the arrow pointed the Blue Devils’ way.
Greenwell inbounded the ball to Ka’lia Johnson, who kicked it back over to Greenwell for a deep 3 from the right wing that swished through for her season-best sixth – and most important – 3-pointer.
Greenwell was asked if she thought her 3-pointer was good when it left her hand. Her response: ”No. I had no idea.”
The main subplot was Duke’s overwhelming size versus the Great Danes’ pressure and speed. Albany turned Duke’s 27 turnovers into 33 points – numbers coach Joanne P. McCallie called ”ungodly” – while the Blue Devils did build a 47-31 advantage on the glass. ”I don’t know if anything can offset all of (the turnovers),” Williams said, ”but the rebounding was important for us down the stretch.”
Albany: The Great Danes, who had 14 turnovers, lost for just the third time when turning it over fewer times than their opponent. They entered with 13 true road wins – second in Division I only to undefeated Princeton.
Duke: McCallie has won 12 straight first-round games.
Albany: Season over.
Duke: Plays Mississippi State or Tulane on Sunday in the second round.
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