GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Diamond DeShields nearly guided No. 13 North Carolina to its first three-game season sweep of No. 10 Duke in six years.
The Tar Heels' freshman star finished with 25 points but couldn't knock down the tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Blue Devils' 66-61 win in Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
DeShields, who made 10 of 25 shots and hit five 3-pointers, said she thought her final 3 was good.
"I was very confident in my shot when I took that one," she said. "But you know, things happen. I'm all right with it. I'll just work harder and be ready for the next game."
Still, it was another big performance against Duke for DeShields, who scored 30 points in UNC's win at Cameron Indoor Stadium then had 18 in last weekend's home win in the regular-season finale. In the three games, she averaged 24.3 points and hit 11 3-pointers.
"She's won us a lot of basketball games," associate head coach Andrew Calder said. "And in the end, she's going to have the basketball in her hands. She can shoot it or pass it, but she's going to have the ball in her hands. That's my loyalty to her, because she can make great plays. She's a great player. She's an all-American basketball player."
For Duke, Tricia Liston scored 17 points and Ka'lia Johnson hit the go-ahead free throws with 44.1 seconds left.
Johnson's two free throws broke a 60-all tie and helped the second-seeded Blue Devils (27-5) avoid a three-game sweep by their fiercest rival. Duke went made all six of its free throws in the final minute of a tight game, holding off DeShields and the sixth-seeded Tar Heels (24-9).
Oderah Chidom hit two free throws to make it 64-61 with 17.5 seconds left, then hit two more after DeShields' final miss with 9.2 seconds left to seal Duke's trip to Sunday's championship to face No. 2 Notre Dame.
Liston made just two shots after halftime, but the second was a huge 3-pointer at the 2:02 mark to cut the Tar Heels' lead to 59-58. Then, after Xylina McDaniel's free throw, Elizabeth Williams scored on a stickback to tie the game at 60 with 1:18 left.
DeShields committed a technical foul for taunting Haley Peters after hitting a jaw-dropping step-back 3 with 8:08 left, one of a series of small mistakes that proved costly when Duke pushed ahead late.
UNC went just 2 for 7 at the foul line in the final 6:14, including reserve N'Dea Bryant making 1 of 2 after being fouled on a jumper after Johnson's big free throws. The Tar Heels also somehow managed to have the wrong people taking shots at key moments, with Latifah Coleman missing a driving basket as the shot clock wound down in a tie game and Bryant being bailed out on her quick jumper by drawing Williams' fifth foul.
Williams finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, including a big one on Stephanie Mavunga's stickback attempt on Coleman's missed drive. Mavunga fouled Johnson on the scramble for the rebound to set up the go-ahead free throws.
North Carolina was poised to add another win against Duke, with DeShields knocking down three 3s and fellow freshman Allisha Gray one of her own to break a 31-all halftime tie and give UNC a 43-35 lead with 16:42 left.
Gray finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Tar Heels, who shot 34 percent and went 9 for 30 from 3-point range.
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