- Graham Hays, espnW.com
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DURHAM, N.C. -- A bad weekend for the postseason fortunes of teams from the Triangle stretched into Monday, as No. 7 seed DePaul ensured that No. 2 seed Duke joined the men’s teams from Duke and North Carolina on the NCAA tournament sideline. Led by 22 points from Megan Rogowski and 18 points from Megan Podkowa, the Blue Demons beat the Blue Devils 74-65 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
With the loss, Duke became the first No. 1 or No. 2 seed to fail to reach the Sweet 16 since the Xavier team that included Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips was upset on its home court by Louisville in 2011, Shoni Schimmel’s first NCAA tournament. The last such team from a major conference that failed to reach the third round was No. 2 seed Texas A&M in 2010.
Key stat: 21 turnovers. Duke cleaned up its ball control a little as the game progressed, but the tone was set early as the Blue Devils struggled to deal with the full-court pressure and frequent traps applied by the Blue Demons. The question ever since Duke lost the services of both Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones was how it would fare against a pressure defense in the postseason. The answer was not well enough. Duke’s three primary replacement ball handlers combined for 16 turnovers and could not get enough looks for Elizabeth Williams, who was otherwise dominant.
Turning point: Duke carried over the momentum it seized in the closing minutes of the first half and took its first lead of the game on Richa Jackson’s layup with a little more than 18 minutes remaining. Coming back the other way, DePaul’s Podkowa hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Blue Demons back in front 30-28. Getting any kind of shot to fall seemed to settle the Blue Demons, who quickly pushed that small margin back out to something between five and eight points through much of the second half.
Duke didn’t get back to within a single possession until seven minutes remained, at which point two quick baskets from Jasmine Penny and Brittany Hrynko extended the lead yet again.
Key player: Playing the role Tricia Liston might have played had she made a different decision in the recruiting process (DePaul was in the running for her until she signed with Duke), Podkowa was fearless on a big stage. She finished with 18 points and five rebounds, and even came up with a pair of blocked shots on Duke's Williams among three total.
How it was won: Both teams had potential advantages that could have been decisive in a vacuum: Duke’s superior size, and DePaul’s perimeter depth and quickness. The Blue Devils never got a chance to fully exploit the former because the latter made life miserable for anyone in a Blue Devils uniform who tried to handle the ball.
Add in just enough 3-pointers, after a rough start from behind the arc, and DePaul’s formula worked.
What’s next: DePaul advances to the Sweet 16 in Lincoln, Neb., and will play the winner of Tuesday’s second-round game between No. 3 seed Texas A&M and No. 11 seed James Madison. This is DePaul’s first trip to the tournament’s second week since 2011, when it lost to Duke in a regional in which Connecticut was the top seed.