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Panthers Edged By No. 17 Blue Devils, 51-49

Jania Sims drives past Duke's Joy Cheek in the second half. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Jania Sims drives past Duke's Joy Cheek in the second half. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Dec. 8, 2007

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NEW YORK (AP) - Duke spends a lot of practice time on late-game situations.

All that work paid off Saturday when Joy Cheek's putback with 1.2 seconds left lifted No. 17 Duke to a 51-49 victory over Pittsburgh in the first game of the Maggie Dixon Classic.

"We practice it a lot," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "I saw Joy following and I didn't know the clock, whether she got it in time."

Cheek scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half and Abby Waner added 10 for the Blue Devils (7-3).

"It was a great team win," Waner said. "Joy came up huge on that last play."

With 12.7 seconds left and the game tied at 49, Duke drove the length of the court and Chante Black missed a turnaround. Cheek got the rebound and put it in for the game-winner.

"We practice an 8-second drill where they always say the big's buddy should go after the ball. I was the buddy this time," Cheek said.

No. 4 Rutgers beat Army 59-42 in the second game of the women's doubleheader, the first at Madison Square Garden in 26 years. The last women's doubleheader at the Garden was in 1981 with Rutgers, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion and Cheyney State.

Shavonte Zellous and Jania Sims both scored 17 points for Pitt (6-3). The Panthers held a 24-18 lead with 6:20 left in the first half before going scoreless over the next 9 minutes. Marcedes Walker finally ended the drought with a putback with 17:08 left in the second half.

"I don't know if it was good defense or they just missed shots, I'll have to watch the tape," McCallie said.

The Blue Devils had dropped three straight games for the first time in a decade before beating Rutgers 49-44 on Thursday night.

With Duke trailing 31-28, Cheek scored all seven points during a 7-2 run that gave the Blue Devils a 35-33 lead.

The teams traded baskets before Duke used an 8-3 spurt capped by Emily Waner's 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to take a 47-40 lead with just over 6 minutes left.

Pitt responded with a 9-2 run to tie the game on Sims' layup with 1:13 left.

With the game tied at 49, Sims stole the ball from Jasmine Thomas, but Zellous missed a jumper from the wing that would have given the Panthers the lead.

"You just got to make that shot," Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said. "I had a great day at work until that last 1.2 seconds. When you come as close as we did to beating a Top 25 team like Duke you have to seize it and we didn't today."

The inaugural Maggie Dixon Classic was played at West Point last year. Dixon died April 6, 2006 of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart. Her death came three weeks after her first season as a head coach at Army, a performance that won the admiration of the academy and all of college basketball.

"Maggie set such a high standard in all that she did and we are so pleased to honor her by competing in such a fine event," McCallie said. "Women's basketball is greatly enriched by Maggie's legacy and this event allows all the participants to salute a respected and admired colleague."

Trailing 24-18 with 6:20 left in the first half, Duke closed with a 6-0 run to tie the game.

Duke was 11-for-28 (39 percent) from the field and had 16 turnovers in the first half. Pitt was 9-for-27 (33 percent).

A portion of the proceeds from the games will go to C.A.R.E (Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education Foundation, Inc.). C.A.R.E. offered free heart screening for any child or teenager attending the Classic.