Duke rallies, stuns Ohio State to reach Sweet 16

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Reigan Richardson scored 28 points and added seven rebounds as No. 7 seed Duke rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to beat No. 2 Ohio State 75-63 on Sunday and earn a spot in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018.

Richardson hit a 3-pointer from the wing to put Duke up 59-57 with 5:21 left. That sparked a 13-2 run by the Blue Devils that put the game out of reach.

Ashlon Jackson scored 13 points and Taina Mair added 11 for the Blue Devils (22-11), who advance to play the Syracuse-UConn winner next in Portland, Oregon.

“We’re super proud, just how the team played today,” said Richardson, who averaged 11.9 points per game during the season. “I think we were down by 16, and we didn’t let it faze us. We stayed with each other and we were able to climb back.”

Duke’s upset win was only the second time in the tournament that a lower seeded team had won. The better seeds were 31-1 in the opening round.

Cotie McMahon paced the Buckeyes with 27 points. Most of those were in the paint. Ohio State attempted just nine 3-pointers and didn’t make one until there were 12.2 seconds left in the game.

Celeste Taylor, who transferred to Ohio State from Duke before the season, scored just six points before fouling out with 6:38 left in the game.

“They played better,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “They deserved to win. We didn’t play well today.”

Ohio State’s pressing defense caused problems for Duke early as the Buckeyes built a 16-point lead. But the Blue Devils came roaring back. A 12-2 run cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 36-32 at halftime.

“These guys never flinched,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said. “In the huddles, they were locked in. They kept their belief, even though it felt like we were getting run out of the gym at the beginning of the game. Possession by possession we worked our way back.”

McGuff said the Buckeyes just kind of fell apart.

“We were really generating good shots early in the game in the first quarter and we were rebounding the ball with energy and discipline,” McGuff said. “Then as the game wore on, we really got out of sync on offense, and Duke was playing really good defense, so they had a hand in that. Then we really broke down with our rebounding.”

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