PITTSBURGH — The Duquesne women’s basketball team has been through plenty of back-and-forth games, including a loss in their previous contest against UCF, but against Eastern Tennessee State on Sunday, the scoring was lower and the margin for error down the stretch larger.
Duquesne’s veteran team was able to use experience to its advantage forcing ETSU into several crucial mistakes and going back to the locker room 66-58 victors.
“Any game has its ups and downs but it’s about who goes on a run and who answers the run,” senior guard Chassidy Omogrosso said. “I think we did a good job answering ETSU’s runs. Come conference play we will have a lot of games that are close that we have to hold our lead.
By no means had Duquesne forgot its 81-77 road loss to this same ETSU team, just a short season ago.
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder from last year because we did not finish that game how we wanted to,” senior forward Kadri-Ann Lass said. “That gave us even more motivation to come out and win at home.”
Lass recorded a double-double, her first of the season and fourth in her Duquesne career with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“I got my confidence today from the defense getting the blocks and rebounds made me want to keep playing and going hard,” said Lass. “My mentality was I will let the offense come to me and I will control what I can control, which is defense.”
The defense was improved and held ETSU a 35.4-percent shooting clip. Though it was out-rebounded and outscored in the paint, Duquesne won three of the four quarters in the game.
“We did a better job pressuring the ball and turnovers created a lot in transition, especially in the first half,” senior guard Omogrosso said.
OMOGROSSO HAS AN IMPORTANT GAME
Coming into Sunday’s game, Omogrosso had experienced a true up-and-down season, and offered a knowing smile when asked about it.
Omogrosso was a 26.5-percent shooter from the field and an uncharacteristic 18.9% on her three-point shots.
Sunday, Omogrosso scored 23 points, 20 of which came in the first half and tied a career-high with six made three-point shots.
“It felt good but my teammates had the confidence in me every pass, they tell me to keep shooting,” she said. “That helped me and kept my mentality up. Every game is a new game, you can’t think about the past. Their zone had open looks in the beginning. Our press break, they have me back so they have to guard.”
Burt was quick to praise Omogrosso’s scoring ability and hopes that this performance continues throughout the season.
It’s good that Chass had 20 in the first half, maybe her best first half shooting the ball at Duquesne,” said Burt. “She had to be more of a facilitator in the second half. Juca in particular down the stretch had a couple of big shots that helped us win the game. If we can get those two engines going at the same time, we could be really dangerous.”
CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
Burt appeared fairly critical after Wednesday’s press conference against UCF and that was once again the case on Sunday.
It started in the first quarter when Duquesne attempted nine three-point shots as opposed to five two-point shots, as ETSU led 18-15 after 10 minutes.
Burt has consistently mentioned these slower starts and how it plagued the team last season with having to use so much energy just to come back and efforts like this where Duquesne only shot two free throws in the first half are what frustrate him.
By firing the quick threes, it did not allow for a proper post entry pass which could keep the ETSU defense honest.
“I rode our guards a bit in the second quarter and at halftime that we had to feed the post,” Burt said. “When we do feed the post, we have to be 50% from the field, especially if you shoot threes like we did for that. We can’t settle for jumpers, off-balance hooks or getting pushed off the lane. We have to get low block position and then score the ball. It is a combination of things. We haven’t established a post position for an entire half. Some of that is weight room and some of that is will and not accepting being pushed.”
Before, these repeated mistakes were not necessarily accepted, but to an extent understood as the season was early. Now with four games left, these miscues are still occurring with an alarming frequency, especially for a veteran unit.
“Oh it’s problematic,” said Burt. “it’s a problem and that’s why I am not all happy and giggles here. If we can’t develop a nastiness at both ends of the floor, we won’t reach our goals.”
Burt believes some of the veterans are not playing hard enough which is puzzling considering there was more room to float last season when the depth had not consistently established itself.
Now with Conor Richardson back from injury and having her minutes increase, Amanda Kalin providing quality time on both ends of the floor and Libby Bazelak playing well within the team’s principles, past accomplishments do not secure anything in December.
It leads to a problem for Burt and really his whole staff, who plays, when and what is compiled to make that unenviable decision.
“I would call it historical data and stats,” Burt said. “You know what Chas and Juca and Kadri and Conor have given you. You take that into account a little bit, but as the season goes on, that becomes lesser. It is more over what you have done in the last five games, three practices and last quarter. All of those calculations are going through your head as a head coach. Then you have your assistants giving you their opinion and you are asking for their opinion in some cases. There are a lot of decisions being made on that bench about who and when and what line ups are best. Sometimes you have to make an educated guess and sometimes it is not correct while other times it looks really good.”
Right now, Duquesne has a question mark attached to its name, some of which is due to record and some wondering how much the quality of opponent has affected that bottom line. Despite that, Burt does not consider this non-conference schedule to be time to push the panic button.
“We’re a work in progress, but never at this level before,” said Burt. “In some ways that is not a bad thing. You learn about yourself.
FEELING ORANGE IN ST. PETE? CALL LIBERTY
For the second time this season, Duquesne will play in a multi-day tournament competing in the St. Pete shootout in Florida.
Duquesne first faces No. 15, Syracuse which is ranked 10th in the RPI on Friday and then a day later will take on Liberty.
“You have to prepare and learn how to prepare after playing a tough opponent and play less than 24 hours later. It is like the Atlantic 10 Tournament,” Burt said. “Playing Syracuse on a neutral court is fantastic. Our kids are familiar with theirs because they have a lot of international players who have played each other. It will be a good test for us and is a great RPI game. Liberty team is struggling a little bit but they will be prepared. It is a tough second game. It is not a team that will out-athlete you but they are smart and well coached.”