DURHAM, N.C. – App State led 34-28 at the half and stayed within striking distance despite Duke's hot second-half shooting, but the Mountaineers (3-3) fell 73-65 to the Blue Devils (5-0) on Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Michaela Porter and Janay Sanders both scored 19 points and Alexia Allesch added a season-high 13 for the Mountaineers, who recorded season bests in field-goal percentage (47.4%) and 3-point percentage (44.4%) on the night.
App State was looking for its first win over Duke since 1978 and nearly captured its first victory over an ACC opponent since 2012.
The Black and Gold, who just a week ago lost 89-44 to the UNC Tar Heels, showed dramatic improvement and a no-quit mentality even when the Blue Devils made 13 of 20 shots in the third quarter, including an early 11-0 run that turned a seven-point App State lead into a four-point Duke advantage.
A 6-0 fourth-quarter App State run on layups by Porter, Sanders and Brooke Bigott cut the deficit to just four points before Duke made a basket with 4:28 left to give the Blue Devils a cushion they would not relinquish down the stretch.
Sanders was the epitome of App State's fight to the end. After a dominating first half in which most of her 13 points came from easy layups off the dribble-drive, she went down with a lower body injury in the closing seconds of the half before gutting out a second-half performance at less than 100 percent.
Playing an inspired second quarter, App State led by as many as 10 points at 34-24 with 2:30 left before halftime. The Mountaineers used a combination of hot shooting (10 of 16) and stingy defense (held Duke to four field goals and forced six turnovers) in the quarter.
Duke was led by 21 points from Lexi Gordon, who converted 6-of-7 field goals and drained 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc.
The teams had nearly identical shooting numbers on the night, with App State making 27-of-57 from the field and 8-of-18 3-pointers and Duke converting on 28-of-56 from the field and 8-of-19 from 3-point land. The difference was from the free-throw line, where the Mountaineers made 3-of-8 and Duke made 9-of-13.
Defensively, App State forced 26 turnovers and converted those into 23 points on the offensive end. The Mountaineers were on the short end of the rebounding battle, 41-23.
App State plays the back half of its two-game road swing on Monday at UNC Asheville before returning to home for a Dec. 1 matchup with East Tennessee State.