Maryland guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had played bitter rival Duke only once prior to Saturday, and she didn’t enjoy the experience one bit.
“I have a bad taste in my mouth from that last game,” Walker-Kimbrough said during a Friday press conference.
One year after losing by 19 at Duke, the Terrapins rode Walker-Kimbrough’s 24-point performance to a 65-55 triumph in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. Walker, a sophomore, went 10-for-15 from the field and came within one point of her career high while playing against Maryland’s old rival from the ACC.
The Big Ten Conference champs from Maryland, seeded No. 1 seed in the Spokane Region, advance to Monday’s regional title game at the Spokane Arena (9 p.m., ESPN). Maryland, 33-2 with 27 consecutive wins, takes on the winner of Saturday’s Tennessee-Gonzaga game in Spokane.
The 16th-ranked Blue Devils, who were seeded fourth, finished the year 23-11. Injuries and the January departure of Sierra Calhoun left Duke short on depth. That may have played a factor in the 18-7 run Maryland put together after the Blue Devils pulled within one at 42-41 with 13 minutes to go.
“It’s been a remarkable season in many, many ways,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Duke center Elizabeth Williams, a four-time All-ACC first-team pick, led the Blue Devils one last time with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“She’s been a rock,” McCallie said. “She is truly is the embodiment of what a student-athlete is all about.
“Not enough is written about it. I guess it’s not ‘sexy’ enough. Pre-med. Great grades. A person who’s doing all the right things. And then of course, blocking a whole lot of shots and doing other things on the floor.”
Laurin Mincy, Maryland’s lone senior, scored all 15 of her points in the first half. She nailed four 3-pointers in five tries by halftime, when Maryland held a 31-23 lead.
“I think that Maryland did a terrific job of being the aggressor in the first half, and it kind of set us back a little bit,” Duke senior guard Ka’lia Johnson said. “But once we made up our mind that we were going to attack and jam the ball inside like we always do, I think we put them on their heels. We just needed to do that a full 40 (minutes), not 20.”
Mincy finished with a game-high seven assists. Crisp ball movement led to 17 assists on 23 field goals for the Terrapins.
The smaller Terrapins outrebounded Duke 33-24. Brionna Jones of Maryland led everyone with 10 rebounds, and she added 10 points.
Turnovers posed a problem for Duke yet again, but the Blue Devils had only one more (14) than Maryland. The Terrapins topped Duke 12-4 in bench points.
Johnson worked hard for her 15 points and three steals.
“Heart and soul all the way,” McCallie said.
Rebecca Greenwell, Duke’s redshirt freshman guard, also had three steals but just five points after scoring 37 in Duke’s first two tournament games.
Duke freshman forward Azura Stevens, the former Cary High standout, scored 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Maryland point guard Lexie Brown, an All-Big Ten first-team pick, went 0-for-7 from the floor and scored just one point.