Oklahoma City Region

Duke Overcomes Hostile Crowd, Pesky Foe

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008

The Murray State women's basketball team was making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. But if the Racers continue to play like they did last night against Duke, it won't be their last.

Showing uncommon composure and resilience for a tournament newcomer, No. 14 Murray State tested third-seeded Duke before eventually falling, 78-57, in last night's first-round game in the Oklahoma City Region.

The Blue Devils (24-9) advanced to play in tomorrow's second round against Arizona State, a 61-54 winner over Temple in the second game.

Duke, which hadn't played in two weeks, looked sloppy and rugged from the outset. The Blue Devils had to contend not only with Murray State's determined play but also a hostile Comcast Center crowd. The many Maryland fans who returned for the second session created an inhospitable environment for Duke, enthusiastically rooting for the Racers as they loudly booed the Blue Devils.

"That must be the Turtle IQ," said Duke Coach Joanne P. McCallie, who was loudly booed at the end of the game for pressing the Racers.

The only Duke player who didn't seem bothered by the atmosphere was Wanisha Smith, who led the Blue Devils with 16 points.

Not much went right for Murray State (24-8) early. The Racers showed all the signs of a team making its first trip to the NCAA tournament, missing their first seven shots. Ohio Valley Conference player of the year Ashley Hayes (26 points) finally broke the Racers' scoring drought with a three-pointer that led to a Murray State scoring spurt. Her basket began an 8-3 run that pulled the Racers to 9-8.

"That No. 23, she got the best of us," McCallie said of Hayes, who finished with 26 points. "We didn't do anything to stop her."

Hayes didn't expect Duke to give her so much room to shoot, so she was amazed to score so easily against the Blue Devils.

"I was surprised how open some of the shots were," she said.

The surge was short-lived, however, as Murray State failed to make a field goal for the next eight minutes. The Racers' only point during that stretch came on a free throw by Amber Guffey, who missed the second of two foul shots after missing only 20 of her 197 attempts coming into the game.

When Murray State's 6-foot-5 center Angela Brown picked up her second foul with 12 minutes 52 seconds to go in the first half, the Racers had to go with a five-guard lineup, leaving them with no players taller than 5-10 on the court. Murray State, which was going to have trouble contending with Duke's 6-5 center Chante Black no matter who was on the floor, now found itself at a sizeable disadvantage.

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