Surrounded by two Toledo players, one at each side, freshman guard/forward Amaya Hamilton knew that grabbing a rebound in a one-point game was paramount, so when she battled for the ball and then was fouled, the Duquesne sideline erupted, understanding the enormity of this sequence.
Hamilton made two free throws and Duquesne was able to recover from its dry spell and a Toledo team which refused to give up regardless of what the scoreboard stated.
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“To come in and hit four free throws in that kind of pressure as a freshman says a lot about her and that rebound was critical,” Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt said. “If we don’t come up with that rebound, this could have been a different outcome. She’s going to be a great player for us long term, I am not trying to put pressure on her but I believe in that 100%.”
Up by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter, Duquesne was able to secure its seventh straight win, taking a 79-74 contest Saturday night at La Roche University’s Kerr Fitness Center over Akron.
“That was a really good team win tonight, we beat a program, Toledo, we have a lot of respect for,” said Burt. “Regardless of their record we knew they were a talented team that had not yet shot the ball well against a very tough schedule. I am incredibly proud of the kids we have and the fortitude they showed tonight especially when Toledo cut it to one and we couldn’t buy a bucket. We found ways to win which is the hallmark of a good team. Right now we’re a good team, we hope that as we continue on this path, we become a great team.”
Junior guard Amanda Kalin led Duquesne with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Fellow junior guard Libby Bazelak contributed 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. As a team, Duquesne shot 51.9% from the field and everyone who played scored.
Nakiah Black led Toledo with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds.
After a relatively even first quarter, Duquesne was able to control the pace of play in the second quarter and after Toledo cut its deficit to two points, the Dukes answered back with an 11-0 run and took a 43-31 advantage into halftime.
At halftime, Burt reminded his team that Toledo would not give up and that the smarter team would win.
In the third quarter, this continued to be Duquesne. Though the teams split the quarter, this only meant that Duquesne maintained its double-digit advantage.
Though Duquesne scored the first point in the fourth quarter, Toledo was able to get back into the game as the Dukes did not consistently execute on either side of the floor.
Hamilton’s sequence and a Duquesne stop on the defensive end, led to the pendulum turn one final time, this occasion benefiting the home team.
“We’re starting to grow up, what I thought would be a roller coaster has not been,” Burt said. “It’s nice to see us finding ways to win when we can’t buy buckets.”
The seven-game winning streak is the longest in the Atlantic 10 this season. Because of it, Duquesne has the best non-conference record in the A-10, though Rhode Island can match it Sunday with a win over Providence.
“I wanted to be 3-1 between Pitt, Central Connecticut, Akron and Toledo,” said Burt. “It is a challenging year with no true home game, being road warriors and graduating 5,000 points. To go 4-0, scoring points and frankly dominating three opponents, I feel good about that.”
Duquesne will look to extend its winning streak Tuesday at Cornell. A win would give Duquesne eight straight for the first time since the 2017-18 season (12/31/17-1/28/18).
Historically, Duquesne is 4-0 against Cornell with the last meeting occurring Nov. 13, 2019. Cornell is 5-3 and is coached by Dayna Smith, a Pittsburgh native who is the program’s winningest coach.
Record aside, Duquesne has to move on quickly from Saturday night’s result. It plans on taking Sunday off and then desiring an effective practice Monday before a long bus ride against an opponent Burt considers unknown.