CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Waltiea Rolle had the go-ahead three-point play with 3:20 left and blocked Chelsea Gray's shot on the final play to help No. 13 North Carolina beat No. 5 Duke 62-60 on Monday night.
Italee Lucas scored 17 points to lead the Tar Heels (21-3, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who fought through a tough and often ugly rivalry game before holding on to win in a thrilling finish.
Gray had a season-high 20 points to lead the Blue Devils (21-2, 7-1) and had a chance to tie the game after rebounding a missed jumper from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt with about 6 seconds left. She raced upcourt and tried to force up a driving layup, but the 6-foot-6 Rolle was waiting to block it away.
The horn sounded a split second later, leaving a dejected Gray sitting on the baseline while Rolle and the Tar Heels began their oncourt celebration.
Rolle — who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks — had appeared to make her biggest play a few minutes earlier after Duke had taken a 56-54 lead on Gray's layup with 3:25 left. But Cetera DeGraffenreid broke through the Blue Devils' fullcourt pressure and found Rolle for a layup while drawing a foul from Jasmine Thomas. Rolle made the free throw — a minor victory considering the Tar Heels finished 7-for-18 at the line — for the 57-56 lead.
Then, after she stole the ball from Karima Christmas, Rolle found Jessica Breland inside for another basket and a foul. Breland made the free throw, pushing the lead to 60-56 with 2:42 left.
Breland added her own late highlight, leading the break after Rolle blocked a shot from Gray and throwing a behind-the-back pass to Lucas for a layup while drawing yet another foul that made it 62-57 with 1:33 left.
But Thomas hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two with 37 seconds left to keep the Blue Devils in it, though they couldn't quite complete the late comeback.
Ruffin-Pratt added 10 points, seven rebounds and eight assists for the Tar Heels, who shot 46 percent and kept Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie winless in four tries in Chapel Hill. North Carolina led 27-26 at halftime and by as many as six in the second half, though the Tar Heels never could put it away.
Thomas finished with 18 points for Duke, which shot 35 percent.