NCAA women: Duke beats San Diego State 66-58 to reach regional final
TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jasmine Thomas and Duke put an end to San Diego State's surprising NCAA tournament run while putting the Blue Devils a win away from their first Final Four since 2006.
Thomas matched her career-high with 29 points, and second-seeded Duke beat No. 11 seed San Diego State 66-58 on Saturday to reach the Memphis regional final.
With the win, the Blue Devils (30-5) notched their eighth 30-win season in the past decade and moved to their first regional final since 2006 when they lost in overtime to Maryland in the national championship game.
San Diego State (23-11) upset two ranked teams to reach this game for the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 in 1994. But the Aztecs' bid to become the first double-digit seed to play in a regional final since that expansion failed as they missed their first 10 shots of the second half.
Duke led 35-34 after a tight first half, and the Blue Devils scored the first 10 points of the second half to take advantage of the Aztecs' cold shooting.
The Blue Devils reached their eighth regional final in the last 13 years and will play fourth-seeded Baylor, a 77-62 winner over No. 1 seed Tennessee, on Monday night in what will be the second Duke-Baylor regional final in 48 hours with their men's teams playing Sunday in Houston for a trip to the Final Four.
"What a great story line," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of the mirror games.
The women's game will be a rematch of the coaches from the 2005 national championship game. Mulkey won her lone title that year over Michigan State and Joanne P. McCallie, who's now coaching Duke.
Joy Cheek also added 14 points for Duke. The Blue Devils, who came in second nationally averaging 13.3 steals per game, nearly had that at halftime with 12. They finished with 23 and turned San Diego State's 26 turnovers into 32 points. Duke also improved to 25-2 when holding an opponent under 40 percent with the Aztecs hitting just 37.7 percent.
Quenese Davis led the Aztecs with 14 points. Jene Morris had 13, and Paris Johnson 12 before fouling out late.
The Blue Devils came as the Atlantic Coast Conference champ in both the regular season and the tournament. Their lofty pedigree and seeding didn't bother San Diego State for the first 20 minutes, not with the Aztecs having already knocked off Texas on its home court and third-seeded West Virginia just to reach this stage for the first time 1985.
Duke led 35-34 at halftime after a tight first half in which the teams swapped the lead back and forth 10 times with four ties. Duke led by as much as seven with seven straight points at 29-22 on a 3-pointer by Thomas. The Aztecs simply answered back, not shying away from the speedy Blue Devils.
That all changed in the second half as the Aztecs lost their shooting touch. They missed their first 10 and hit only one of 13 before Quenese Davis' 3 with 8:05 left.
Duke didn't waste the opportunity. The Blue Devils opened the half with a 21-3 spurt in grabbing control, capped by Cheek's bucket with 8:18 left and a 56-37 lead. Thomas, who had 17 points in the first half, hit all six free throw attempts in that stretch to help pad the margin.