DURHAM, N.C. — Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie has talked often about how a demanding schedule prepared her team for the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps that's why her players didn't look panicked Monday night, even as they trailed in the final minutes against a fearless team carrying the nation's longest winning streak.
Instead, freshman Chelsea Gray and the Blue Devils answered with the decisive spurt to beat Marist 71-66 in the Philadelphia Region, sending them to the Sweet 16 for the 13th time in 14 years.
Gray scored all 13 of her points in the second half to help Duke (31-3) rally from 11 down, including the go-ahead free throws with 2:27 left in an 11-0 run that put the second-seeded Blue Devils ahead for good. Krystal Thomas added 10 second-half points, and fellow senior Jasmine Thomas had 17 as the Blue Devils escaped a stunning loss on their home court.
"We've been together a long time," McCallie said. "We've been in many, many close games. I think we're very comfortable with it. I don't know what people are thinking, but at this time it's not about blowouts and leads. … I think our team did slow down a little bit and executed and relaxed and enjoyed the opportunity."
That seemed to be a fitting word for this game considering how close the 10th-seeded Red Foxes (31-3) came to pulling off a huge upset. Despite playing the second half without injured leading scorer Erica Allenspach, Marist led 60-54 on Kate Oliver's 3-pointer with 5:22 left and even had a shot to tie it in the final seconds after the Blue Devils had taken the lead.
Marist had won 27 straight games.
DEPAUL 75, PENN ST. 73: Keisha Hampton hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds left and scored 19 of her 26 in the second half to help the host and third-seeded Blue Demons (29-6) rally from 14 down to defeat the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions (25-10).
TENN. 79, MARQUETTE 70: Meighan Simmons had 18 points to help the top-seeded Volunteers (33-2) beat the eighth-seeded Golden Eagles (24-9). It was Tennessee's narrowest margin in a tournament home win since 1991.
OHIO ST. 67, GA. TECH 60: Jantel Lavender had 17 of her 21 points in the second half to set an NCAA record with her 135th straight double-figure scoring game, leading the host and fourth-seeded Buckeyes (24-9) past the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets (24-11).
NOTRE DAME 77, TEMPLE 64: Natalie Novosel had 17 points to lead the second-seeded Irish (28-7) past the 10th-seeded Owls (24-9) in Salt Lake City.
GONZAGA 89, UCLA 75: Courtney Vandersloot had 29 points and 17 assists as the 11th-seeded Bulldogs (30-4) beat the third-seeded Bruins (28-5) before a raucous home crowd.
STANFORD 75, ST. JOHN'S 49: Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 22 points, and the top-seeded and host Cardinal (31-2) overcame a slow start against the ninth-seeded Red Storm (22-11).
UNC 86, KENTUCKY 74: Italee Lucas had 22 points, and the fifth-seeded Tar Heels (27-8) used their superior size to overcome the quickness of the fourth-seeded Wildcats (25-9) in Albuquerque, N.M.
VIRGINIA TECH: Dennis Wolff, a longtime men's coach, will replace Beth Dunkenberger on the women's team, the Associated Press reported.
WISCONSIN: Coach Lisa Stone was fired after eight seasons and one appearance in the NCAA Tournament.