DURHAM, North Carolina — No. 16 Duke dug out of a huge hole, and 15th-ranked North Carolina almost did, too. No lead was safe in this fierce rivalry — until a freshman hit some unlikely free throws.
Azura Stevens had 21 points, 12 rebounds and two big foul shots with two seconds left in the Blue Devils' 81-80 win over the Tar Heels on Sunday.
All-American Elizabeth Williams added 18 points in her final scheduled game at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the Blue Devils (20-9, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference).
They erased a 12-point deficit in the second half and built a 15-point lead — then blew almost all of it before holding on to snap a three-game losing streak and earning the No. 4 seed in this week's league tournament.
"I thought it would be time for us to crawl back and finish," coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "It's just what the game's all about. It's a 40-minute game. You've got to play it all out."
Allisha Gray scored 20 points and Jessica Washington had 19 for the Tar Heels (23-7, 10-6), the tournament's No. 6 seed.
They had the ball down two in the closing seconds before Gray missed a driving layup down the lane with about 5 seconds to go.
Stevens — a 56 percent free-throw shooter — put Duke up 81-77 with two free throws with two seconds left and Gray hit an inconsequential 30-footer at the buzzer.
"We were gambling that (Stevens) was going to miss the foul shots, and we ran the plays for Allisha, both of those at the end," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We thought it was either going to score or get fouled there at the end. ... The last play, it'd have been nice if it had only been down by three."
Rebecca Greenwell added 19 points and Amber Henson had 10 for the Blue Devils, who overcame 23 turnovers — a season-long issue — by forcing 22 from the Tar Heels and turning them into 35 points.
Latifah Coleman scored 14 points, Stephanie Mavunga added 11 after missing her first nine shots and Brittany Rountree finished with 10 for North Carolina.
Coleman's 3 with less than 90 seconds left pulled the Tar Heels to 78-75. They got the ball back after Williams was called for charging, and Mavunga put back Washington's missed 3 with 34.2 seconds to play to pull to 78-77.
Stevens hit the first of two free throws with 29.5 seconds left, but her miss on the second meant North Carolina would tie it with a bucket or take the lead with a 3.
Coleman dribbled out much of the clock near midcourt before handing off to Gray, whose layup went off the rim.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels tied a school record with 14 3-pointers, a mark set against Navy in 1991 and matched most recently against Gonzaga in 2006.
Duke: This was the 100th ACC victory for McCallie, the Blue Devils' eighth-year coach. No other coach in league history has done it in less time.
North Carolina: Either Georgia Tech or Clemson on Thursday night in the second round of the ACC tournament.
Duke: Either Boston College, Wake Forest or No. 23 Syracuse on Friday in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.
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