Duke Gives Greensboro The Blues

By Jeff Lippman - March 08, 2008

It took all season but Joanne P. McCallie finally has Duke looking like...well, Duke.

The three seed in the ACC Tournament advanced to Sunday's final against arch-rival North Carolina, who defeated Virginia handily earlier in the day, by beating a cold-shooting Maryland team that was simply outworked by the invigorated Blue Devils.

This isn't the same Duke team that I watched Maryland dominate in College Park back in January. Even without the services of leading scorer Chante Black, who sat the bench most of the game in foul trouble, the Blue Devils controlled the game and basically led from start to finish.

Wanisha Smith has spent four years playing on one of the best teams in the country behind big-time stars like Alana Beard, Alison Bales, Lindsey Harding and Abby Waner. The senior guard picked the greatest possible moment to have the game of her life.

Smith poured in an emotional game-high 22 points and was the leader for the Blue Devils. In Black's absence, Joy Cheek stepped up huge, scoring 16 and grabbing eight boards. Abby Waner scored just nine points but her defense was sensational and she came up with the biggest and one of the night to put the game away in the closing minutes on a drive over close friend Marissa Coleman.

For Maryland, it was Coleman who paced them in scoring with 20 points. The junior was 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

ACC Player of the Year Crystal Langhorne recorded a double double for the Terps with 16 points and 11 boards, senior Laura Harper had 12 and 12 and junior point guard Kristi Toliver had 10 points. Toliver shot just 2-of-10 from long range.

The sad realization for the Terp seniors, they are too good not to have won at least one ACC Tournament title. Brenda Frese and company will return to College Park most likely expecting to receive a two seed in the NCAA Tournament when the bracket is announced March 17.

That's not to take anything away from what Coach P accomplished with those Blue Devils. Duke, currently ranked No. 12 in the AP, have a good shot at a three seed. It wasn't always easy this season for McCallie and her Devils, but they are playing their best basketball when it counts most.

It won't get any easier Sunday - in fact, it's going to get a heck of a lot harder - as it will be an all Carolina Blue final in Greensboro.

Atlantic Sun Championship

Your 2008 Atlantic Sun Tournament Champs are none other than top-seeded East Tennessee State. The Bucs secured their first-ever NCAA berth by defeating No. 2 Jacksonville, 75-72, in Nashville. Latisha Belcher had 24 points and eight rebounds for the Bucs.

Ohio Valley Championship

The Murray State Racers raced past Eastern Illinois and into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Murray State was the No. 3 seed in the OVC tourney and defeated the four seed in the title game behind tournament MVP Amber Guffey's 27 points.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 05:29 PM on March 08, 2008

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