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Duke back in tourney after one-year hiatus

By The Sports Xchange
Duke back in tourney after one-year hiatus
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a remark with Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski during a celebration event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on September 8, 2015. The Duke Blue Devils won the NCAA college basketball championship in March of 2015. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke's women's basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus.

The Blue Devils are in position to make some noise.

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With the No. 2 seed in the Bridgeport Regional, Duke (27-5) begins the tournament at home, taking on Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champion Hampton (20-12), the region's No. 15 seed, on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

We're excited and hungry -- it's a long wait," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "But you just take it one game at a time. It's pretty special. It's a reward for our fans and the support we've had all year. And it's a reward for our team. We love playing in Cameron."

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Duke is a No. 1 or 2 seed for the 15th time in the last 17 years it has participated in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils were ACC Tournament runners-up to Notre Dame this year.

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Hampton is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance. This will be the third time the Pirates face Duke in the NCAA Tournament, most recently with the Blue Devils winning 67-51 in 2013.

Duke has won each of the five all-time meetings.

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"We know enough about them to know they're a great program with solid kids," Hampton coach David Six said.

Hampton enters the matchup on a six-game winning streak after defeating top-seeded Bethune-Cookman 52-49 on Saturday in Norfolk, Va. The MEAC Tournament's Most Valuable Player was Jephany Brown of Hampton.

"They're a remarkable and a resilient group," Six said of his team. "We're going to celebrate what we're done. ... We're going to compete. I know that because I've watched that all year. We're going to continue swinging."

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Duke, which was unranked at the beginning of the season, surprised some observers with such a high seed.

"That's just kind of a nice thing," McCallie said. "It doesn't really count for anything except for a reflection on the body of work prior."

Duke has played regional top seeds Notre Dame (losing twice) and South Carolina (winning at home). Unbeaten Connecticut is the top seed in the Bridgeport Region.

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"We played to defeat the odds (this season)," said Duke junior guard Lexie Brown, a transfer from Maryland who is averaging a team-best 18.3 points. "They counted us out before the season even started. So just the little stuff that we took over time, we just worked hard the entire season to show our toughness."

Duke has won 21 of the past 22 NCAA Tournament games on its homecourt.

"We went undefeated at home this season so we want to continue that trend," said Duke junior Rebecca Greenwell, who averages 16.4 points. "It's going to be great."

Hampton junior center Kaylah Lupoe suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's MEAC championship game and missed the last seven minutes, so the status of her availability will be determined closer to the NCAA opener.

Senior guard Malia Tate-DeFreitas leads Hampton in scoring with 17.2 points per game.

The Duke-Hampton winner meets the Temple-Oregon winner in the second round Monday.

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