Nebraska-Duke Preview

The Blue Devils have lost three straight regional finals and are

determined to not make it four in a row.

Second-seeded Duke (32-2) plays sixth-seeded Nebraska (25-8) on

Sunday in the Norfolk Regional semifinals.

And if the Blue Devils beat the Cornhuskers, they’ll face either

top-seeded Notre Dame or 12th-seeded Kansas for a spot in New

Orleans – and a chance to reverse recent history. Duke hasn’t

reached the Final Four since 2006.

Of course, the Blue Devils insist they aren’t looking past a

Nebraska team that just knocked off third-seeded Texas A&M

behind star point guard Lindsay Moore’s 20 points and 10 assists.

But they’re well aware of how their last few seasons have ended and

they don’t want it happening again.

”In the end, it comes down to the determination and the fight

of a team,” guard Tricia Liston said Friday. ”We’re really trying

to make it a different season for us this year by taking that next

step.”

That’s been a tough step to take for a Duke program that has

reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in 15 of the last

16 years and has four Final Fours to its credit but none since

’06.

”As we’ve learned in the past, tournament time is only (about)

one game – you can only really focus on one because then you have

the chance of not even making it to the next,” Liston said.

”Based on some lessons we’ve learned … we don’t really look

ahead anymore, and we kind of have to focus game by game and earn

our next 40 minutes.”

This Duke team features an interesting mix of youth and

experience in the tournament.

The Blue Devils have only one senior – backup center Allison

Vernerey – and a starting lineup that consists of three juniors,

shot-blocking sophomore Elizabeth Williams and freshman Alexis

Jones, who slid over to play point guard after Chelsea Gray was

lost for the season.

Those five have combined to start 24 NCAA tournament games in

their careers.

”This is a special time of year right now, playing with a team

and trying to get little details and fun things going – maybe an

extra play here or there,” coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ”It’s

all the little things that make a difference. To me, I’ve been

doing this a long time and it’s always fun because you have a new

team and a new experience.”

The Blue Devils swept the Atlantic Coast Conference

regular-season and tournament championships. They made it to the

regional semifinals by rallying from 15 points down in the second

half to beat Oklahoma State 68-59 on Tuesday.

”Duke is one of the most talented teams in the nation,”

Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. ”They have a roster filled from

top to bottom with college All-Americans, All-ACC players, high

school All-Americans and USA national program players. It seems

like they are in the national-championship discussion every year,

and there are some really good reasons for that.”

But Nebraska has won 13 of 15 and believes it can play with

anybody, especially after Monday’s 74-63 win over Texas A&M on

the Aggies’ home court.

One key for the Cornhuskers, Moore said, is not getting psyched

out by Duke’s resume.

”We understand that they’re a big name, but we have been

playing successfully and having a good run,” she said. ”So we

just need to make sure we stay focused on the things that we’ve

done up to this point and not necessarily psych ourselves out

against a big name like that. Just play Nebraska basketball.”

Her coach, like all the others in the regional, trusts that her

point guard can make it happen.

”She is a kid who does not like to lose,” Yori said. ”It

doesn’t matter if we are playing a shooting game in practice,

five-on-five, game time, or monopoly. She does not like to

lose.”