CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Tricia Liston scored 15 points to help No. 7 Duke beat rival North Carolina 69-63 on Sunday and win the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship outright.
Freshman Elizabeth Williams added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Blue Devils (24-4, 15-1 ACC), who had already clinched the top seed in this week’s league tournament in Greensboro. But this win gave Duke an outright ACC crown for the first time in five years, while also giving fifth-year coach Joanne P. McCallie her first road victory in the rivalry.
Duke led almost the entire way, shooting 56 percent in the first half to lead by 14 points at halftime. The Blue Devils pushed that margin to 17 before the Tar Heels (19-10, 9-7) rallied to within four in the final 90 seconds, though Duke did just enough to hold on the rest of the way.
The Blue Devils finished the game shooting 52 percent.
But they only earned this win by making a couple of key plays in the final seconds.
After Krista Gross’ stickback pulled UNC to within 67-63 with 1:17 left, Haley Peters — who spent a chunk of the game in the locker room getting stitches after taking an inadvertent elbow to the mouth from Shegog late in the first half — tipped out a missed free throw to Chelsea Gray to keep the possession alive. Gray hit a free throw to push the lead to five with 20.4 seconds left.
Then Allison Vernerey blocked a 3-point attempt from Candace Wood in what amounted to North Carolina’s final gasp. Liston came up with the rebound and added another free throw with 9.5 seconds left to push the Blue Devils’ lead to six and ultimately seal it.
Senior Chay Shegog scored 22 points for UNC in her final home game, while freshman Brittany Rountree scored 14 of her 17 points after halftime and hit four second-half 3-pointers help the Tar Heels cut into Duke’s big lead.
The Blue Devils’ last win here came in a 1-vs-2 game five years ago under Gail Goestenkors, who left after that season to take over at Texas. Duke lost by 31 points in McCallie’s first trip to Chapel Hill, then by 15 in her second. In 2010, the Blue Devils arrived with a chance to wrap up the ACC regular-season crown outright against a flailing team that had lost seven of eight — including a 28-point loss in Durham — but shot 26 percent and lost by 10.
Last year, the Tar Heels won when Waltiea Rolle blocked Gray’s layup just before the horn to preserve a 62-60 victory.
McCallie looked to be on her way to her first win, and by an easy margin, when Williams scored on a stickback to make it 57-40 with 13:21 left. But the Duke offense slowed to a crawl and North Carolina’s frantic defense — along with Rountree’s outside shooting — helped the Tar Heels rally.