DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Karima Christmas started with jabs from far away. She finished with a knockout.
Christmas scored a career-high 25 points and made two big plays down the stretch to help No. 8 Duke defeat Maryland 71-59 on Sunday.
“Karima was outstanding,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She was attacking at all times, very aggressive, very confident and showed a tremendous amount of leadership on the floor, which was so much fun to watch.”
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Joy Cheek added 17 points for Duke (23-4, 11-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which closed the game on a 17-6 run over the final four minutes.
Lori Bjork scored 14 points to lead Maryland (18-9, 5-7), which trailed 36-33 at halftime. Lynetta Kizer had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Anjale Barrett scored 11 points for the Terrapins.
Maryland, which trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, led 46-43 with 13 minutes remaining.
“I’m really proud of our young team,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who has one senior and no juniors active on her roster. “The first 36 minutes, we were there. The last four minutes, you saw veterans for Duke step up and provide great leadership.”
Christmas shot 7 for 13 from the field, made a career-high four 3-pointers and added four steals to help the Blue Devils get their fifth consecutive win. She entered the game having made 2 of 22 3-point attempts in her last 12 games, but she was 3 for 3 midway through the first half against Maryland.
“I think I just stayed focused,” Christmas said. “If I was open and had the opportunity to shoot, I just shot.”
The Blue Devils led 54-53 with 4:05 to play before Christmas made two big plays inside to help them pull away.
First, she grabbed an offensive rebound and shoveled the ball to Cheek, who turned the pass into a three-point play. Then Christmas delivered a three-point play after rebounding her own missed shot, putting Duke ahead 64-55 with 1:47 left.
The Blue Devils won despite getting just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting from leading scorer Jasmine Thomas. Thomas became the 26th player in Duke history to score 1,000 career points when she made a layup after a steal early in the first half.
“If you would have told me before we started the game that we held Jasmine to eight points and we were going to lose, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Frese said. “I thought Christmas was spectacular.”
Cheek, who also had four assists, also busted out of a shooting slump. She had not scored more than 10 points in a game since Jan. 7, a span of 11 contests, but had 11 points by halftime against the Terps.
Cheek said she and her teammates, who were playing less than 48 hours after their 64-50 win at Georgia Tech on Friday night, gained a burst of energy just before the opening tip.
A few Maryland players bumped some Blue Devils on their way to the bench before the national anthem, setting the tone for what would be a physical game. With Duke’s players facing away from the basket that Maryland’s players had just finished using, a few Terrapins forced their way through the shoulder-to-shoulder line Duke had formed.