Duke 57, Texas Tech 51
-- All Duke needed to get back to the Final Four was Alana Beard, and a great night on defense.
Beard scored 28 points as the top-seeded Blue Devils rallied to beat No. 2 Texas Tech, 57-51, tonight in the Midwest Region final.
Duke (35-1) will take its 15-game winning streak to Atlanta, where it will play Tennessee (32-4) in the national semifinals Sunday night. The Lady Vols advanced to their 14th Final Four with a 73-49 win over Villanova in the Mideast Region final.
Duke struggled on offense through its first three games in the tournament and still hasn't scored more than 66 points. The shooting problems continued tonight, but the Blue Devils made up for it with their defense, as well as Beard's court savvy and clutch scoring.
Besides scoring nearly half of Duke's points, Beard had eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
Her three-point play with 1 minute 55 seconds left broke a tie at 51, and Duke forced three Texas Tech turnovers in the final minute. Iciss Tillis blocked a shot by Tech's Plenette Pierson with 30 seconds left to ensure Duke's third trip to the Final Four in the last five years.
Pierson, who missed two free throws with 41 seconds left, led Texas Tech (29-6) with 17 points and 17 rebounds. But the Lady Raiders missed 23 of their 31 shots in the first half and shot 34.4 percent for the game.
Duke couldn't find the basket early on, either, missing 10 of its first 11, and the Lady Raiders led most of the first half. But Duke slowly got back in it and erased a 21-17 deficit by closing out the first half with a 9-0 run. Beard scored eight of the points on a bank shot from 14 feet, a jumper from 16, two free throws and a scoop shot off the backboard.
Texas Tech used a 10-2 run in the second half to tie it at 36 on a layup by Jolee Ayers with 12:46 left. Duke went back ahead 46-38 after Beard hit back-to-back jumpers, but the Lady Raiders countered with 10 straight points for a 48-46 lead with 4:53 left.
A three-pointer by Tillis put Duke ahead 51-50, and Pierson tied it for the last time by hitting one of two free throws with 2:08 left.
The 55 points were the fewest yet by Duke in the tournament, but 12 blocks and 11 steals negated the Blue Devils' 36.5 percent shooting.
And the Lady Raiders felt Beard's presence all over the court. When she wasn't scoring, she was blocking shots, making steals or getting fouled, going 12 for 14 at the free throw line.