- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - With the tension of tournament time coming up, coach Joanne P. McCallie wanted a test for No. 7 Duke.

She can always count on getting one from North Carolina State - even when it looked like another blowout for the Blue Devils.

Tricia Liston scored 24 points and Duke held on to beat No. 14 N.C. State 83-70 on Thursday night.

Haley Peters scored five of her 13 for the Blue Devils (24-3, 11-2 ACC) after the Wolfpack trimmed their 24-point lead to four.

“Exactly what we need,” McCallie said. “We need a lot more of those games, the idea of playing a very quality opponent, the idea of a hot shooter that we lost and didn’t find, of making incredible plays on our end. … It’s this kind of year for those kind of games.”

Alexis Jones and Richa Jackson each scored 12 for Duke, which never trailed and withstood a furious rally to take hold of second place in the conference behind unbeaten and second-ranked Notre Dame. The Blue Devils blocked a season-best eight shots, seven in the first half.

Kody Burke had career highs of 30 points and six 3-pointers for N.C. State (22-5, 9-4), hitting three straight 3s during the rally.

“That’s the reason we had a chance,” first-year coach Wes Moore said. “She got us back in the game and gave us some momentum, and our kids fed off of that.”

Her last one made it 70-66 with 3½ minutes left. But N.C. State came up empty on its next four possessions - either missed shots or turnovers by freshman guards Miah Spencer and Ashley Williams.

“You’ve obviously used a lot of energy to get there, but we had some momentum and you could feel it,” Moore said.

And then Peters hit what Moore called “the big shot.”

Her 3-pointer from the corner with 2 minutes left made it a seven-point game. She then stuck back Jones’ missed 3 to put Duke up 75-66 with about a minute remaining, and the Blue Devils pulled away for their third straight win in the series.

“We just refocused when it got to a point where they caught back up,” Liston said. “We started getting stops on the defensive end. We started locating their shooters.”

A tight finish should have been expected - even after the Blue Devils jumped out to that huge lead: Since McCallie took over at Duke in 2007, eight of the 10 meetings have been decided by 14 or fewer points.

“No one’s ever going to quit in those games,” she said.

But they always seem to end the same way at Cameron Indoor Stadium - where N.C. State hasn’t won since 1996.

Peters and Elizabeth Williams each had 10 rebounds, and Liston reached the 20-point mark for the eighth time in 10 games since ACC co-player of the year Chelsea Gray suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Markeisha Gatling had 16 points and Spencer finished with 14 for N.C. State, which has lost two straight since a six-game winning streak vaulted the Wolfpack into the top 10 for the first time since 2001.

“Now we’re seeing everybody’s ‘A’ game, and we’ve got to be able to answer that,” Moore said. “I think we can but it’s a big responsibility, and you’ve got to work that much harder.”

N.C. State was well on its way to its worst shooting night of the season before it got hot midway through the second half, digging its way out of that huge hole to make it a game again. Spencer’s 3-pointer with just under 6 minutes left made it 67-57 before Burke’s 3-point binge made things unexpectedly tense.

That’s because Duke looked to have wrapped this one up early in the second half by scoring on eight of nine trips downcourt during a 19-5 run that pushed its lead well into the 20s.

Liston hit three 3s during the burst, starting it with one and capping it with two more on back-to-back possessions to make it 59-35 with 14½ minutes left.

“The shot selection was very poor at that time,” the coach said. “A lot of jump shots, and defensively we weren’t communicating as well. … I think we lost our focus in that period of time, and I think it’s a good lesson for us.”


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

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