PITTSBURGH — Dan Burt felt good about his Duquesne women’s basketball team after a pregame shootaround a staff member called the best they had seen as part of the red and blue, but in what has become a consistent theme, this did not carry over.
Duquesne at times appeared lifeless as Davidson came into the Palumbo Center and departed with a 62-47 victory.
Burt was clearly fed up with this latest setback and as was the case following the City Game loss to Pitt, he was Duquesne’s only voice in the media room, and he certainly was not shy opining on his team.
“We are a bad basketball team that doesn’t play hard enough, is selfish and frankly can’t shoot a basketball to save our lives at this point,” he said. “I am completely at my wit’s end with the character and the talent we have to be in the situation that we are in. I have played more than multiple combinations and we cannot seem to have success with a whole lot of those. I’ve described it as one foot forward at two steps back.”
Burt’s press conference provided more of a roller coaster than Cedar Point has ever possessed, certainly speaking plenty of volumes.
Every question provided a direct answer and it was candor that surprised many in the media room preparing for the men’s game.
They had not seen press conferences from earlier in the season, but what they did see was a season’s worth of frustration from a coach who is running out of answers.
“I thought the kids were prepared for what they would face and they didn’t throw anything new at us,” said Burt. “Defensively we gave them two threes and another bucket early. We think because our hand is there that is acceptable but if they can shoot it, they’re not that uncomfortable. We are a poor defensive team, we don’t guard the ball well, we certainly don’t guard dribble penetration and that’s what you get when you are 7-8 and lose by 15.”
Early on, Davidson had to overcome what may have been Duquesne’s strongest offensive start of the season and it was able to turn what was an eight-point deficit into a tie in a matter of five minutes.
“We had to dig in, it was not the speed we do at shootaround,” Davidson coach Gayle Coats Fulks said. “We needed to bring more intensity, be quicker and talk more.”
Coats Fulks is in her second season at Davidson and has already changed the culture of that program. Quite simply, it is starting to believe.
“We’re learning how to win, that is something we are still trying to figure out how to do,” said Coats Fulks. “It comes down to that consistency thing, not doing 10 things at once. Every game will be different and I can’t tell you what it will look like, but we have to stay locked in and do it well together.”
That is clearly a motivated basketball team, which Duquesne has not shown an ability to be, at least on a consistent enough basis, when it truly matters.
Davidson absolutely won this basketball game, but shooting 23.1% in the second quarter, 8.3% in the third and 17.6% on three-point shots certainly did not help Duquesne’s cause.
As several of the Duquesne players took to the stands, some were all smiles, while others shed tears, all processing this latest result, while Burt stewed and clearly was trying to process the latest in a series of games in which his team was outplayed.
“I don’t know what kind of confidence I can give them anymore,” said Burt.
POST DELIVERY SUSPENDED
If a Duquesne fan was late arriving to the Palumbo Center Wednesday, then they missed just about all of the team’s post offense.
Paige Cannon scored the team’s first four points and initially the contest looked to be similar to the one played a year ago at Belk Arena when the redshirt junior forward led Duquesne with 19 points.
She would pick up two fouls before the end of the first quarter and the post play but the warning signs were already there.
“Paige scored those points and she had a mismatch, then she got two quick fouls,” Burt said. “The next touch was to Kadri (Ann-Lass), but because there was a 5-foot-11 kid there she tried to take a dribble and reverse it. That’s soft.”
The statistics will show that Davidson was a +6 in the paint, but to Burt the story is about his veteran Duquesne team getting pushed around by a 5-foot-11 forward who plays more like a guard.
The player he was referring to was sophomore Sarah Donovan who recorded a double-double with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes of work.
Coats Fulks seemed to understand why Burt would call her a guard because Davidson runs a post style which involves more facing up. As a result Davidson tries to use her guard skills and craftiness in the post.
“Today we got our butts kicked by a 5-foot-11 four player, who I think is more of a three and our post players were picked on, by a 5-foot-11 player that had 21 and 12” said Burt. “I don’t even know what to say at that point.”
Prior to the season Burt received some advice from a coach which almost now seems to be more of a prophetic warning.
Teams that have had success that are senior laden with high expectations a lot of times can be complacent and entitled, both of which Burt said were monikers which could be used for his team.
Davidson was clearly the young team which was proud of last season’s success with a new coach and dynamic. It is hungry to build on last season and with a 2-0 Atlantic 10 record are doing just that.
Duquesne meanwhile has been referred to as broken by its own head coach and it is beyond the point now of similar mistakes reoccurring on a regular basis.
“You can say we’re complacent and we’re entitled, for no reason at all, except for our past and our past doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
Burt almost was taking a pulse of his locker room when reflecting on priorities that are not with the team first.
“We have at least one player worried about their professional career, people worried about minutes and people worried about their shots,” said Burt. “We have selfishness in our locker room. I can only say so much. When you’re 7-8 and have the expectations we have, they’re going to start to tune me out. They have to take ownership of this and if they don’t then we’ll have a season of around .500 and dogfights every night.”
Though he did say the coaching staff as a whole needs to be accountable, Burt stated that ultimately the players need to police themselves if they want this season to turn around.
“Until that locker room decides to police itself a little bit, nothing’s going to change,” Burt said. “We’ll have dog fights every game, win some and lose some but not what Duquesne thinks it should be. When will those seven kids step up and take ownership? There is a mentality in that locker room that has to change. Certainly as coaches we have things to do also.”
Even something as simple as getting to the foul line when things were not working out, something Burt has said after just about every game was not followed.
In the third quarter, when Duquesne shot 8.3% from the field, the team took three free throws and one of those was on an and-one play where Omogrosso made the lone basket and had to shoot a foul shot.
As Duquesne continues to find answers, they will have to come on the road as a Sunday tilt with George Mason awaits.
“I can’t want it for them more than them,” said Burt.