Dec 22, 2013 5:55 PM
Tricia Liston scored a season-high 28 points to help No. 2 Duke beat No. 5 Kentucky 69-61 before 23,706 fans at Rupp Arena on Sunday.
Five days after defending champion and No. 1 Connecticut soundly dealt the Blue Devils their first loss, they used their size and length to hand the Wildcats their first defeat before the largest crowd to see a women's game in Kentucky.
The 6-foot-1 Liston thrived on mismatches to shoot 10 of 19 from the field, including two 3-pointers, falling a point short of her career best. Duke's 6-3 center, Elizabeth Williams, was 6 of 10 to chip in 17 points and had eight rebounds.
The Blue Devils (12-1) stifled Kentucky (11-1) around the basket, limiting the Wildcats to 25-of-75 shooting (33 percent) and 3 of 15 from long range. Poor free throw shooting also doomed Kentucky, which made just 8 of 19 from the line.
Janee Thompson had 12 second-half points to lead Kentucky and helped rally the Wildcats to 59-55 with 6:07 remaining. Liston answered with consecutive layups to stretch Duke's lead back to eight and provide a safe cushion as the Blue Devils won their second in a row.
Duke shot 26 of 59 (44 percent), made 15 of 18 free throws and outrebounded Kentucky 46-42.
Samarie Walker and Bria Goss had eight points for Kentucky.
The game began in a charged atmosphere with the Wildcats playing before a crowd nearly four times their season average at nearby Memorial Coliseum. The sellout was official Friday and the question was whether students and faculty would help break the state record of 22,152 set in 2010 when Kentucky played at Louisville's KFC Yum! Center.
Adding to the environment was a raffle in which one fan won partial ownership of a thoroughbred race horse for a year. Of course, there was the Wildcats' unbeaten start highlighted by consecutive top-25 wins over Louisville and Baylor.
Duke entered its third game in a week after blowing out Albany on Thursday. There have been few easy opponents for the Blue Devils, particularly this month with Kentucky representing their fourth ranked foe in five games.
But Duke was no stranger to Rupp, losing here to Kentucky two years ago as the Wildcats' annual appearance resumed after a brief hiatus. And in building a 36-24 halftime lead, the Blue Devils certainly weren't in awe of the massive building or the partisan crowd.
With size advantages at many positions including Williams having a two-inch edge over Walker -- who went scoreless in the first half -- Duke simply exploited it on both ends.
Frequent layups helped the Blue Devils shoot 14 of 29 from the field including seven straight baskets during one stretch. Their length also made passing and shooting difficult against the zone for Kentucky, which began 0-for-5 en route to 10 of 35 for the half.
Wildcat players often found hands in front of them as they struggled to work the ball inside and particularly around the perimeter, keeping them from spotting up from long range.
Other than leading for a 5-minute segment helped by a complete lineup swap, Kentucky played catch-up as Duke forged a 26-16 rebounding edge before Kentucky dominated 26-20 in the second.