PITTSBURGH — Duquesne women’s basketball senior guard Chassidy Omogrosso was not shy mentioning that her team was motivated for its Friday night Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal against Saint Louis.
The Billikens eliminated Duquesne at the same stage of last year’s event and also bested the Dukes at the Palumbo Center earlier this season.
“We talked about it all week in preparation for them,” Omogrosso said. “It was payback. We owed them from last season and earlier this season. We had to prove a point.”
The third-seeded Duquesne was able to exact a measure of revenge with its 72-51 victory Friday night at the Palumbo Center and extended its season-best winning streak to seven games.
“We had so many great contributions from a lot of different people. I thought that really our defense created our offense today and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done today.”
Omogrosso led the way for Duquesne scoring a game-high 20 points, a total which gives her exactly 1,700 in her career.
Redshirt junior forward Paige Cannon scored 12 points in this contest, her first time reaching double-figures in nearly two months and second highest total of her season.
Cannon was 5-for-6 on the evening and made both of her three-point attempts.
“At the end of the day, I know that all of us want to win and I just to do what I can for what my teammates need from me,” said Cannon. “Today I made my shots, my teammates got me the ball and I knocked it down.”
Duquesne senior guard Conor Richardson also had 12 points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field in 17 minutes. Of Duquesne’s starting five, the lowest plus/minus was a +12.
Defensively, Duquesne offered one of its best performances of the season, holding Saint Louis to a 29.9% shooting clip from the field and forcing 17 Billiken turnovers. Though senior guard Kerri McMahan scored a career-high 18 points, Duquesne held Rookie of the Year Ciaja Harbison to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting and Jordyn Frantz, another player who received postseason recognition was 1-for-11 from the field.
“It’s a situation much like when they had Kemph, their great point guard in the past, we’re trying to funnel her and force her to take contested jump shots,” Burt said of defending Harbison. “Obviously we want to keep her out of the paint. I thought we did a nice job of that. It was multiple people, I thought Conor Richardson did a nice job along with Amanda Kalin and Libby always.”
Saint Louis opened this contest 1-for-17 from the field, shooting 5.9% from the field in the first quarter but remained engaged in the game. By the third quarter, it had cut Duquesne’s advantage to two points.
What followed was a 15-0 Duquesne run which changed the game’s overall course and Saint Louis was never able to recover.
“The run was extremely big,” said Omogrosso. “I think that we gained a lot of momentum. We run on a run and we said ‘no let up’ from there. We got a lot of stops during that run which was big too.”
“The story of the game is we came untied,” Saint Louis coach Lisa Stone said. “Our offense was affecting our defense so we tried getting it all back and that’s not how we play. I give Duquesne credit, we were trying to play the same way. We had the best leadership since I’ve been at Saint Louis. It was a tough day and I told them do not compare your career to this one game. We ran into a buzzsaw, take nothing away from Duquesne, they got it momentum and they kept it and we couldn’t get back in.”
Saint Louis also had to contend with foul trouble as McMahan and All-Rookie Team selection Brooke Flowers, among others were on the receiving end of official’s whistles.
Stone also believes a big difference from the last time these teams met was Omogrosso’s play. Duquesne, in her eyes, was able to successfully execute plays because Omogrosso got going. Stone stated that the Billikens had little margin for error and even when Omogrosso picked up her second foul midway through the second quarter, her team did not take advantage.
Duquesne is now set to face Fordham in a semifinal contest which features the two Atlantic 10 teams with the largest current winning streaks.
“We know that Fordham is going to bring,” said Burt. “Fordham probably plays the hardest in the league. I think Stephanie (Gaitley) is the best X and O coach in the league, so we know what we are in for tomorrow.”
As far as what Duquesne’s chances are for that game, Stone is optimistic.
“They’re playing how Dan and everyone else expected them to be playing all year,” she stated. “They’re figuring it out at the right time and he’s got to be excited because they’ve played very well the last seven games. From that game they took off, they have a lot of weapons and they’re deep enough to make a run. They’ve got what it takes and they’re at home.”