GREENSBORO, N.C. — Richa Jackson scored a season-high 15 points and was one of three freshmen to reach double figures in No. 8 Duke's 79-50 victory over Wake Forest in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday.
Haley Peters added 11 points and Chelsea Gray finished with 10 for the top-seeded Blue Devils (27-3). They shot nearly 51 percent to win their fourth straight, opening the defense of their ACC tournament title by beating Wake Forest for the 35th straight time.
Duke used two huge runs to build an early lead, then came up with another overwhelming burst to pull away down the stretch and advance to a semifinal matchup against fifth-seeded Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Sandra Garcia scored 19 points to lead the Demon Deacons (15-17), and she pulled them within 12 when she hit a 3-pointer with 11½ minutes remaining.
Duke then reeled off 10 straight points as part of a 19-4 run, with Gray hitting a pair of 3s to start the spurt and Chloe Wells hitting from long range to push it to 66-39 with 6½ minutes left.
Gray, a regular starter who was limited to eight total minutes in Duke's last three games with a sprained left ankle, came off the bench and had a perfect shooting day. She hit all three of her attempts from the field, both of her 3-pointers and two free throws in 14 minutes.
Brittany Waters added 11 points for Wake Forest, which shot 32 percent and had early scoring droughts of 4½ and 6½ minutes. The Demon Deacons haven't beaten the Blue Devils since the 1993 ACC tournament, and last month lost to Duke by 43 points.
The rematch wasn't much closer.
Thomas capped both of Duke's early runs with key baskets — and gave the Blue Devils a scare when she went down with a scary-looking knee injury.
The ACC's preseason player of the year swished a 3-pointer from the corner 5½ minutes in to finish a 12-0 spurt. In doing so, she stumbled over teammate Shay Selby — who had fallen to the floor while she screened Garcia. Thomas crumpled to the floor and laid on the court in obvious pain for a few moments before she was helped off the court and headed to the locker room.
She returned to the bench at the 10½-minute mark with her left knee wrapped in a bandage, returned to the game with 8:34 left and almost immediately showed she hadn't lost a step. Her steal and layup with 6 minutes before the break closed an 18-3 burst that gave Duke its largest lead of the half at 30-11.