EAST LANSING, Mich. - Joanne P. McCallie squatted on the sideline, staring in disbelief as her top-seeded Duke Blue Devils fell apart in an arena where she was once adored.
Michigan State fans came to boo their former coach.
They ended up cheering as loud as they have in years, witnessing a rare second-round upset against a woman who bolted for her dream job two years ago.
Mia Johnson scored a season-high 17 points and Lauren Aitch had 15, lifting the ninth-seeded Spartans to a 63-49 win Tuesday night over mighty Duke.
“It was never about playing Coach P. It was all about us,” Michigan State forward Aisha Jefferson said. “A lot of people just look at the name ‘Duke’ and that’s the end of the game right there.”
Duke was doomed because it didn’t make a shot for the last 7½ minutes as it was outscored 16-2, leading to fans — including men’s basketball players — rushing the court to celebrate.
McCallie insisted it wasn’t surreal to end a promising season against a program she led to the 2005 championship game as the end of the game unfolded and the only question left was the final score.
“I was just trying to focus on us getting stops and scores,” McCallie said. “And, we didn’t get either.”
In more than a decade, the only top-seeded team to lose in the second round was Ohio State in 2006 setback against eighth-seeded Boston College.
“Coaching kind of takes a back seat sometimes and that’s what happened,” said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant, deflecting credit for knocking off her predecessor.
Michigan State (22-10) will face Iowa State (26-8) on Saturday night in the semifinals of the Berkeley Regional.
Jasmine Thomas had 14 points and Karima Christmas scored 13 for Duke (27-6) while leading scorer Chante Black was held to just four.
“I just don’t know what to think,” Christmas said. “I don’t want this season to end.”
The last time a national power was eliminated this early in the NCAA tournament was 1997.
The Blue Devils, who scored at least 75 points in each of their last six games, were held to a season-low total and made just 27 percent of their shots.
Raucous fans and flying elbows seemed to rattle them.
“We lost our composure,” McCallie acknowledged.
The game was so physical there were sequences in the lane that looked like NHL goal-mouth scrambles.
“We’re feisty,” Johnson said. “We weren’t going to back down.”
The fans weren’t, either.
McCallie was booed — louder than she was Sunday — when she was introduced and she simply smiled as she shook hands with Merchant and shared a laugh with her coaching staff.
Coach P knew how loud it could get in the Breslin Center because she coached there for seven seasons.
“This place is a better place for women’s basketball because Joanne P. McCallie was here,” Merchant said.
Duke insisted it wasn’t unfair, as a top-seeded team, to play on Michigan State’s home court. But it certainly gave the Spartans a lift to have most of the lower level in their arena filled.
Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and several of his players even took time away from preparing for their third-round matchup with Kansas to watch. Football coach Mark Dantonio sat with Izzo and hugged Merchant after the game outside her locker room.
Izzo stayed for the whole game, cheering from a suite, and his players were on their feet on a baseline as were 5,000-plus fans in the stands.
CBT: Turning the page on the Mike Rice scandal, Rutgers hired Louisville's Julie Hermann as athletic director on Wednesday. But, Hermann has a prior scandal of her own.
Check out the best images from the women's NCAA tournament.
Latest from CollegeBasketballTalk
Washington guard C.J. Wilcox undergoes surgery on left foot4 hr 21 min ago
Vanderbilt forward Sheldon Jeter elects to transfer5 hr 28 min ago
New Mexico, former coach Steve Alford settle buyout dispute6 hr 35 min ago
Former Indiana guard Remy Abell commits to Xavier7 hr 33 min ago
College basketball videos
Griner comfortable with coming out
DPS: Richard Deitsch from Sports Illustrated joins the show to discuss Brittney Griner coming out and explains why it wasn't seen as a big deal.
Three cheers for college hoops
Take a look at cheerleaders in action from around the country.