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Women’s basketball: Duke holds off Albany, Hatchell back in NCAA tourney

The Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke kept giving Albany every chance to pull the first huge upset of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

And then Rebecca Greenwell snatched victory right back.

Greenwell hit a 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds left that lifted the Blue Devils past Albany 54-52 on Friday in the first round of the Spokane Region.

The redshirt freshman finished with 20 points for the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (22-10). They overcame a season-worst 27 turnovers to win their NCAA Tournament opener for the 22nd straight time.

“We didn’t go down without a fight tonight,” Greenwell said.

Imani Tate had 17 points and Shereesha Richards added 12 for the Great Danes (24-9), who were trying to become just the second No. 13 seed to win a game in the tournament and the first since Marist in 2012.

“We should have won the game,” guard Sarah Royals said. “I think that we outplayed them, and I’m not ashamed to say it.”

Elizabeth Williams had 12 rebounds but was just 2 for 9 shooting while Amber Henson added 10 boards for Duke, which will play fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Sunday in the second round.

The Blue Devils rarely have trouble with their first NCAA Tournament opponent, winning each of their previous 18 first-round games by double figures.

The Blue Devils had their hands full with an Albany team making its fourth straight tournament appearance. Neither team led by more than eight, and the Great Danes appeared to be in control late, leading by four with the ball in the final 90 seconds.

“I think we all had faith in each other that we were still going to win the game,” Williams said. “I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind.”

Return of Hatchell, Ohio State highlight Chapel Hill regional

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Hall of Fame coach is back in the NCAA Tournament.

So is Ohio State’s team.

The fourth-seeded Tar Heels and fifth-seeded Buckeyes will be favorites to win their tournament openers Saturday.

North Carolina (24-8) faces 13th-seeded Liberty (26-6) and Ohio State (23-10) takes on 12th-seeded James Madison (29-3) in the first round of the Greensboro Region.

All eyes will be on North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who returns to the sideline of her sport’s biggest event after missing last season battling leukemia.

Hatchell said Friday, “Trust me, I don’t take it for granted.

“Not one bit,” she added. “I’ve been smiling for the last five or six months, I guess. Everything that I do, you would think it would be old to me, but no. It’s special.”

Hatchell could not attend her team’s NCAA tournament games last season even though the Tar Heels hosted the first two rounds.

At this time last year, she had just finished her final round of treatment and was at her self-described “weakest point.”

The Tar Heels have battled through a different kind of adversity this season, earning their 13th NCAA tournament berth in the past 14 years despite losing starting forward Xylina McDaniel to a season-ending leg injury in December.

Ohio State has dealt with personnel losses of its own. Injuries have left the Buckeyes with eight active players, including three freshman starters.

But behind NCAA scoring leader Kesley Mitchell, Ohio State earned its first berth in the tournament since 2012.

“Everybody was excited but realized that there was a lot more that we want to do,” Ohio State guard Cait Craft said. “That doesn’t have to be the highest point that we reach this season.”

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