52 - 60 Final
  for this game

Thomas, takeaways lead Duke past LSU in 2nd round

Mar 23, 2010 - 2:16 AM By JOEDY McCREARY AP Sports Writer

DURHAM, N.C.(AP) -- Duke kept taking the ball from typically sure-handed LSU. It was only a matter of time before the game belonged to the Blue Devils, too.

Jasmine Thomas scored 15 points to help Duke pull away late and beat the Tigers 60-52 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament.

Bridgette Mitchell scored 12 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (29-5), who went ahead to stay on Thomas' layup with 3 1/2 minutes left. The Tigers (21-10), whose average of 12 1/2 turnovers per game ranked No. 2 nationally, matched a season high with 22 giveaways - many against Duke's tough matchup zone - and had one field goal in the final 4 minutes.

"We knew that if we put a lot of pressure on the guards and put a lot of stress into getting it to (star Allison Hightower), they'd make some mistakes," Duke's Karima Christmas said. "And we capitalized on those."

So much pressure, in fact, that LSU coach Van Chancellor said the Blue Devils' zone "makes it look like there's six players out there."

"That's hard to get in the gaps of. And when we got in the gaps of it, we turned the ball over," Chancellor said. "You turn the ball over 22 times against a team this good on the road, it's hard to overcome that. I don't care what else you do. You cannot give another team 22 more possessions."

Hightower had 19 points and LaSondra Barrett added 12 for No. 7 seed LSU. Katherine Graham hit two free throws with 3:49 left to give the Tigers their last lead at 47-46.

Thomas drove the lane for a left-handed layup, and Keturah Jackson added a stickback to start the 10-2 run that put the Blue Devils on their way to their 12th regional semifinal berth in 13 years. They're headed to Memphis next weekend, when they will face the winner of Tuesday night's San Diego State-West Virginia game.

By winning this matchup of heavyweight programs that have combined for nine Final Fours since 1999, the Blue Devils extended their winning streak in tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 14 and improved to 30-1 on their home court during the past two seasons.

"Their fans motivate them. For the beginning of the game, we had them pretty quiet," Barrett said. "But for every steal or and-one that they get, it really excites their fans. It was like a motivation to them. They're very loud. I guess we just have to keep fighting. We should have just kept fighting through that, but it's a tough environment."

Duke also matched a school record set a decade ago with its 16th home win of the season, and improved to 21-0 when holding its opponent to fewer than 60 points.

"To be here for the first and second round ... was a blessing, a fun experience, to be on our home court again," said Mitchell, a senior who played her final game inside the storied arena. "We just embraced it."

Courtney Jones added 11 points for LSU, which was denied its 13th trip to the round of 16 and was playing a tournament game on an opponent's home court for the first time since a loss at Colorado in 2002. The Tigers, who reached five straight Final Fours from 2004-08, were bounced in the second round for the second straight year.

Asked what LSU needs to return to that Final Four form, Chancellor responded: "One great shooter."

Neither team led by more than five points in the second half until Christmas capped Duke's decisive run with two free throws that made it 56-49 with 22.7 seconds left. Jones' 3-pointer with 16 seconds left was the Tigers' only basket down the stretch.

This was billed as a matchup of two of the nation's stingiest defenses, with both schools ranking in the top 20 in scoring defense. Throughout this one, they took away the strengths of the opposing offenses.

The Tigers surpassed their season average with 13 turnovers in the first half alone, but kept Duke off the offensive glass. The Blue Devils, who entered with the seventh-best rebounding margin in Division I, had just three offensive boards in the first half and allowed LSU to shoot 52 percent before the break - their worst defensive half of the season.