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Duke 81, Georgia 69

Posted March 25, 1999

— OK, Duke men, now it's your turn.

Nicole Erickson had 22 points and Michele VanGorp had 20 and the women Blue Devils held Georgia's Miller twins to 31 combined points to reach the national title game with a 81-69 victory over the Lady Bulldogs on Friday night.

Duke's men will try to match the success of their female counterparts Saturday when they face Michigan State in the national semifinals at St. Petersburg, Fla.

The female Blue Devils, making their first trip to the Final Four, will face Purdue in the championship game Sunday night. Ukari Figgs had 24 points and Stephanie White-McCarty added 17 as the Boilermakers defeated Louisiana Tech 77-63 in Friday's other semifinal.

The title game will reunite Erickson and VanGorp with former teammates Figgs and Stephanie White-McCarty. Erickson and VanGorp transferred away from Purdue in 1996 after their sophomore season.

Georgia Schweitzer added 13 points for Duke (29-6), which was 9-of-16 on 3-pointers. The nine 3-pointers were a record for the national semifinals.

``They beat us the way they beat most teams, and that's by spreading us out and hitting the 3s, or throwing it in to VanGorp,'' Georgia coach Andy Landers said. ``We didn't have a clue offensively throughout this game. We didn't give up, we hung in there, but they just shot the ball too well.''

Following up on its shocking defeat of three-time defending champion Tennessee in the East Regional final, Duke built a 15-point lead early in the second half and used a late 16-3 run to rebuild its advantage after Georgia pulled within six.

``I thought we played with tremendous poise,'' Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. ``We played with confidence and I also thought we were relaxed. We had a championship mentality, which we showed all year long.''

Coco Miller scored 18 points and identical twin Kelly Miller added 13 for Georgia (27-7). The Millers averaged a combined 37 points per game this season. Freshman center Tawana McDonald had 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs.

The Blue Devils undermined Georgia's transition game by shooting 51 percent and committing only 11 turnovers, and focused on slowing the Miller sisters.

``We know they like to go left and shoot a little jumper. We wanted to try to force them to go right, deny them the ball and bump them around a little bit,'' Erickson said.

The Blue Devils' defeat of Tennessee on Monday made Duke the second school to send its men's and women's teams to the NCAA tournament Final Four in the same season. Georgia was the other, in 1983.

The absence of Tennessee and star Chamique Holdsclaw, the two-time national player of the year, took some of the luster off the women's Final Four. There were large patches of empty seats in the 17,709-capacity San Jose Arena.

Leading by six points at halftime, the Blue Devils - who are 22-0 this season when leading at halftime - opened the second half with a 14-5 run to take their biggest lead of the game to that point.

After Coco Miller opened the half with a basket to pull the Lady Bulldogs within four points, VanGorp hit a 3-pointer from the baseline - just her second of the year.

McDonald then picked up an offensive foul, her third, and went to the bench. VanGorp immediately hit a shot in the lane, and Peppi Browne added a basket to make it 47-36.

After a basket by Coco Miller and a free throw by McDonald, Schweitzer had a three-point play and followed with a steal and uncontested layup. Brown hit two free throws to give the Blue Devils a 54-39 lead.

The Lady Bulldogs responded with a 13-4 run while VanGorp sat on the bench after getting her third foul. VanGorp returned to hit a shot and begin an 8-2 run - including six straight free throws - to give Duke a 66-54 lead.

A layup by Erickson made it 68-55, and Erickson hit another shot as the 30-second shot clock was expiring to make it 70-55 with five minutes remaining. A 3-pointer by Erickson seconds later, and a 3-pointer by Lauren Rice, gave Duke a 76-57 lead with 3:13 remaining.

Duke's experience showed in the opening minutes as the Blue Devils, who started three seniors, built a 17-7 lead and went the first 10 minutes of the game without committing a foul.

Georgia, which started two sophomores and a freshman and has just one senior on its squad, finally found its touch from outside and rallied to lead 27-25 after a layup by Kelly Miller with 5:42 left in the half.

The game was tied 31-31 with 3:34 left before halftime when Duke went on another run. The Blue Devils finished the half with a 9-3 run while the Lady Bulldogs were missing five of six shots.

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