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No. 7 Duke women win 40th straight vs Wake, 71-56

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2014 at 8:19 pm •  Published: February 27, 2014

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke doesn't have any more point guards. What the seventh-ranked Blue Devils do have are three tall seniors — and the formula to beat Wake Forest every time they play.

Duke pulled away for its 40th straight win over the Demon Deacons on Thursday night, beating them 71-56.

And each of the Blue Devils' three active seniors came up big in their final regular-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Haley Peters scored a season-high 22 points, Richa Jackson added 15 and Tricia Liston scored 10 with a critical 3-pointer late.

"I think it says a tremendous amount," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "They've all grown."

This wasn't their Cameron farewell, though — they'll be back in a few weeks for the NCAA tournament subregional that Duke is hosting.

Playing its first full game without injured point guard Alexis Jones, Duke (25-4, 12-3) locked up the No. 2 seed for next week's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and avoided its first losing streak since 2007-08.

"Throughout the game, we were just finding out more about who we are now," Peters said, referring to the team's new, taller look. "By the end of it ... I think we played to a little bit of how good we can be. ... We know that there's so much more there for us to do."

ACC scoring leader Dearica Hamby scored 20 points and Chelsea Douglas finished with 19 and hit five 3-pointers for the Demon Deacons (14-14, 5-10).

They shot 33 percent, allowed the Blue Devils to shoot 56 percent and were denied their first victory over Duke since the 1993 ACC tournament. That matches the third-longest losing streak in Division I against a conference opponent.

"We talked about how they were going to be one of the biggest teams on the floor," coach Jen Hoover said. "They didn't have anybody that could guard the quickness (of Wake Forest). ... We really never got that second shooter going, and I thought it really affected us."

Wake Forest had the ball down 59-54 twice in the last 4½ minutes but came up empty on both trips, with Hamby missing a contested layup with about 4 minutes left and Kelila Atkinson missing a 3 about a minute later.

Elizabeth Williams then gave Duke some breathing room with a layup with 2½ minutes to play and Liston followed with a 3 on the next possession to make it 64-56 and effectively end it.

"She's so automatic when she gets an open look," Hoover said.

Williams finished with 10 points and freshman Oderah Chidom had 12 rebounds for Duke, which had 42 points in the paint to Wake Forest's 22 and outrebounded the Demon Deacons 40-28.

"We're just so long now, with all of our defenses, we can bother shooters without really running out at them and opening up the middle of our defense," Peters said. "It's going to be hard for people to play against how long we are now."

That the Blue Devils' bigger players had to play a bigger role in this one wasn't much of a surprise — mostly because they're pretty much out of smaller players.

That's because Jones, a 13-point scorer and the Blue Devils' offensive catalyst, suffered a season-ending tear of her left anterior cruciate ligament four days earlier in a loss at No. 2 Notre Dame. That injury left them with no healthy point guards on the roster.

They've also been playing for the past 1½ months without point guard Chelsea Gray, an ACC co-player of the year whose college career ended with a broken kneecap. Coincidentally, when she went down as a junior last year with a dislocated kneecap, her primary replacement was Jones.

Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils had trouble generating separation until the closing moments — when they finally appeared to get comfortable playing their new style.

Wake Forest kept itself within striking distance nearly all night, never falling behind by more than 13 until the final minute. Peters hit a jumper with just over 6 minutes left made it 59-46 before the Demon Deacons made their final rally.

Douglas and Hamby hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, with Hamby's pulling them within five with just under 5 minutes remaining.

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap