PITTSBURGH — As Duquesne senior guard Conor Richardson drove towards the basket, she had the option of embracing contact by taking a left side layup, but instead opted to take a reverse layup which was off the mark.
That was Duquesne’s first possession in a 55-54 loss Sunday afternoon to George Washington and Duquesne’s coach Dan Burt was pretty direct assessing the play.
“Game, right there,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt offered. “That’s the game. That’s the way we played.”
Burt felt this way because at worst case, Richardson would be shooting free throws but instead Duquesne shot four in the entire first half, while shooting 17.9% from the field.
“I’m in the school of thought where I am very disappointed with how our team performed, especially early,” said Burt. “Our shootaround was not good. We did a good job of policing ourselves, having energy and finding some toughness over the last five days and then we got a little lackadaisical. When you start the game 4-15 and then 1-13 so basically 17% for the half and only go to the free throw line on two separate occasions and only commit two fouls, you haven’t done your job.”
Ultimately GW led by 24 points with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Duquesne was able to fight back in the contest going on a 32-9 run from the closing 50 seconds in the third quarter and the entire final 10 minutes.
The run came despite Duquesne shooting 38.1% in the final quarter, but the team did sink all six of its free throws. In the stretch, George Washington was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after Kelsi Mahoney was considered taunting Chassidy Omogrosso and were assessed an additional one when Lexus Levy’s foul of Libby Bazelak did not involve any contact with the basketball, but rather entirely on the five-foot-nine guard.
GW made enough free throws down the stretch and Omogrosso’s last-second shot was not enough, securing both team’s fates in this game.
Burt’s postgame press conference was not as critical as other losing efforts, but in the same vein was not complimentary of the players. Never did he truly reflect on the comeback, but rather issues that again presented themselves Sunday.
“I can’t really count on many people to deliver the same performance game after game or something even similar,” he remarked. “If I can find someone, can you sit down and guard? It’s not like Duquesne. I’m really sad about it actually.”
Earlier this season, Burt talked about juggling lineups and stated any leash for the players who got the team into its successful positions in past years was now gone.
It is quite possible that more adjustments will be needed, especially when a team shoots 7.7% in a quarter.
Burt offered the solution of throwing the team’s five best defenders on the floor with the idea that if Duquesne cannot score, the priority would be to guard opponents and not let them score.
In that second quarter, GW scored one basket in the final seven minutes, but this did not matter when Duquesne also was held to one basket in the same stretch.
Again Burt is searching for answers.
“We have to find 4-5 kids that will give you toughness and energy when the ball does not go in the basket,” said Burt. “I still stand by the meeting. If we have a meeting like that and win five in a row and do that again, all of a sudden we are 10-2. I can live with that. We as coaches can do an awful lot for them and sometimes players need to do things for themselves.”
Despite this, Duquesne is 11-9 overall and 5-2 in an Atlantic 10 that has not been this wide open in a considerable amount of time.
Duquesne of course returns all but one player from last year’s team and which in the past Burt admitted earlier results may be due to expectations and entitlement, it could be used advantageously given the program’s history in the last decade-plus of basketball.
“A lot of people including myself that don’t realize what we’ve done over the last 12 years has not been done very many places in America at the mid-major level,” Burt said. “The non-power five schools there may be 10, 12 schools at the most of the 290 that are similar to us. Everyone has a downturn, I’m not ready to say that because we have the talent but we’re not putting it in a way to give us consistency or the best chance to win.”
When the team returns to practice Wednesday, it will be tasked with picking up the pieces of what has been an uneven season and answering many questions which stem from this game and several others.
“I can’t want it more for them, they have to want it more,” said Burt
LUMA CONTAINED BUT SENIORS STEP UP
It was clear during this game that Duquesne was very concerned with GW’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Neila Luma. Duquesne attempted to limit Luma’s touches and a combination of missed shots and foul troubles did not make her much of a factor as she had four rebounds and six rebounds in 26 minutes.
“I was in Cleveland yesterday recruiting and the entire drive there and back I am just thinking about how we can guard Luma,” Burt said. “She was the one who really scared me.”
Duquesne probably thought it had an advantage with her not being much of a factor, but GW moved the ball at will, often times making its sets look very easy and then defensively frustrating the home team.
In addition, Mahoney and senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista matched personal career highs on three-point shots. Bautista was named Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Monday.
“Bautista lit us up, she is difficult to guard with her change of pace and step back,” said Burt. “We allowed Mahoney to maybe have one of the better games in her career and that is the story of who are. We are just a very average basketball team.”
Both of these seniors stepped up which pleased GW coach Jennifer Rizzotti.
“I talked to them about how flawlessly they had to play to win a championship last year and they will have to have games where they play flawlessly and they understand that,” she said. “Teams that are really good at the end of the year have seniors who understand that and are inviting the pressure and play underneath it.”
Duquesne’s seniors meanwhile shot 28.2% from the field, a number which was aided by the fourth quarter comeback.
The short answer is that Duquesne will next face Fordham in a road contest Sunday, but there is more than that. Duquesne will get two days off and both are needed.
Omogrosso injured her ankle after making a three-point shot which cut Duquesne’s deficit to four points. She was in clear pain when she came back in and at one point was brought out of the game so she would not have to play defense.
She was well enough to get back in the game but after she fouled Mahoney following a missed layup, she crouched, still very much in pain.
Additionally, in the same sequence, Halle Bovell needed to be helped off the court and she was unable to finish the game.
There was no update following the game about either injury.
Still, this is a Duquesne team which has some clear adjustments to make and will have to take to the road for these possible answers.