Christmas scored 10 of her career-high 14 points in the second half and chased down the critical rebound that led the eighth-ranked Blue Devils past No. 3 Stanford 56-52 on Tuesday night.
Chante Black added 14 points for the undersized Blue Devils (7-1). They never trailed in the second half and used an effective fullcourt press to force Stanford into a season-high 23 turnovers, turning them into 18 points.
"It was a knockdown, drag-out -- that was a heavyweight fight in some ways," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We were trying to make it a lightweight fight a little bit (and) get up and down the floor more."
Jayne Appel had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Stanford (7-2), which had its six-game winning streak snapped. Jeanette Pohlen added 13 points, including a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:05 remaining that pulled the Cardinal within 54-52.
Black hit the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18.6 seconds left but missed her second attempt. Christmas outjumped the Cardinal's front line for the rebound and got it to Abby Waner, whose free throw with 13.9 seconds remaining made it a four-point game.
"I just said, 'I had to get the ball,"' Christmas said. "It was the last few seconds in the game. We couldn't let them get another possession. We just had to get the ball and take care of it."
Said Waner: "We've never seen anybody play like (Christmas did) in a while."
Stanford has six players who are at least 6-foot-3 or taller, but Duke outrebounded the Cardinal 40-39 and held them to 38.5 percent shooting, snapping a three-game streak in which they made at least half their shots. Stanford was just 12-of-27 from the free-throw line.
"I don't think we did a great job against their press," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Their size is disruptive and their athleticism is disruptive. ... If you can't make layups and free throws, I think you're going to be in for a long night."
While both schools regularly play high-profile nonconference games, the women's powerhouses met for the first time in a decade, with the Cardinal making their first visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1988 -- well before the Blue Devils joined them as national championship contenders.
VanDerveer scheduled the matchup -- the first stop on the Cardinal's three-game Southeastern road swing that takes them to South Carolina and No. 11 Tennessee -- to get her team tournament-ready.
McCallie remained perfect against Stanford, with her previous two victories coming in NCAA tournaments at her former stops, Maine and Michigan State. Duke improved its nonconference record at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 53-4 over the past eight seasons.
Duke fell behind by nine after a miserable start in which the undersized Blue Devils didn't have any offensive rebounds during the first 12 1/2 minutes and missed their first eight 3-point shots.
"We did a good job early, but then we got sloppy and people tried to do some things that they shouldn't have done," VanDerveer said.
Once Duke tightened up the defense and started forcing some Stanford mistakes, the game tightened, too. The Blue Devils took their first lead when Black's transition layup made it 21-20 with 6 minutes left in the half.
"These ladies are very athletic and quick, and we've been pressing since Day 1," McCallie said. "When you see a team like Stanford, that dominates on their frontcourt line, you certainly want to try to get in their face or pressure the guards and do your best to keep the ball from crossing center court and getting into the paint area."
Stanford's lone tie of the second half came at the 14-minute mark, when Melanie Murphy's baseline drive made it 36-all.