ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - With all the talk surrounding national player of the year candidate Alana Beard, it took a senior to keep Duke's season alive.
Senior guard Sheana Mosch stole the ball from Georgia freshman Alexis Kendrick, preventing the Lady Bulldogs from getting a chance to tie the game and sending No. 1 Duke to a 66-63 win in the women's NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinals before a sellout crowd of 16,182 fans at The Pit.
Trailing 66-63, Georgia (21-10) forced a shot clock violation to get the ball back with 10.6 seconds left. Georgia inbounded the ball to senior guard Tina Taylor, who raced the ball up the floor looking for a open shot. Taylor found Kendrick cutting to the right wing, but Mosch stripped Kendrick of the ball, denying the Lady Bulldogs of the improbable upset.
Beard waited until nearly the last minute to help deliver the dagger that ended Georgia's season.
The 5-foot-11 junior scored on a runner in the lane with less than a minute to play to give Duke (34-1) a 66-61 lead.
Ebony Felder, who scored 10 points, forced her way through a double team on the block and scored on a layup to set up the final exchange.
Georgia had only three team fouls when Felder scored and couldn't get the steal or foul enough to send Duke to the foul line.
Duke will play the winner of Saturday's late game between No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 6 New Mexico on Monday for the right to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta next weekend.
With Georgia leading 32-28 at halftime, the start of the second half set the tone for a down-to-the-wire finish. The teams played the first 7:08 with only a handful of breaks in the action, and each time Duke crept close, Georgia answered. The Blue Devils cut the Lady Bulldogs' lead to one five times, but Georgia bumped the lead back to three each time.
Mistie Bass took advantage of Christi Thomas being on the bench to spark Duke. Bass, a 6-3 freshman center, scored on a hook shot and then converted an offensive rebound to give the Blue Devils a 47-46 lead with 9:44 remaining.
Duke pushed the lead to 51-46 on another Bass layup before freshman forward Marquita Driskell scored four straight points to make it 51-50 with 6:41 to play.
Vicki Krapohl and Iciss Tillis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Duke its biggest lead, 57-50, with 5:36 to go. Georgia then went inside to Felder and Thomas, who scored the Lady Bulldogs' next eight points to help Georgia cut the deficit to 61-58 with 3:28 remaining.
Georgia played without freshman guard Sherill Baker, who injured her right shoulder Monday against Rutgers. Baker dressed out for the game and wasn't wearing a sling on her right arm, but she was merely a spectator.
Baker's absence didn't affect Georgia at the start. Packed in a 2-3 zone, the Lady Bulldogs limited Beard's touches and forced the Blue Devils to shoot from 3-point range, where they started one of seven.
Meanwhile, Kendrick took the ball at the defense. She scored five points and handed out two assists in the first 8:05 to help Georgia build a 17-8 lead.
But the Blue Devils' defense started to create opportunities after Kendrick hit a 3-pointer to give Georgia a 25-16 lead. Georgia committed a turnover, and Beard and Bass had steals on consecutive possessions which helped Duke in transition. Lindsey Harding hit a jumper and Tillis scored a layup to cut Georgia's lead to 25-23 with 3:44 remaining before halftime.
A Beard 3-pointer gave Duke its first lead, 26-25, with 2:33 to play, but after two lead changes Thomas converted a three-point play and then hit a turnaround jumper to give the Lady Bulldogs a 32-28 halftime lead.
Georgia shot 12 of 27 in the first half. Duke was 10 of 31, including five of 17 from 3-point range. The Blue Devils' season-high for 3-point attempts was 26.
The Blue Devils came in riding a 13-game winning streak. They had won those games by an average of 24.5 points.
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