McCANDLESS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Down by double digits for a second consecutive game, the Duquesne women’s basketball team again was attempting a fourth quarter comeback and assistant coach Cherie Lea was shouting defensive formations.
When Duquesne forced a shot clock violation, the bench, led by Lea erupted in approval.
Duquesne scored 27 fourth quarter points, successfully completing the comeback with a 75-72 victory Friday night over Kennesaw State at LaRoche University’s Kerr Fitness Center.
“For three quarters we lacked toughness, focus, effort and energy,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “We will not be able to turn things on in a quarter like that for the rest of the season and win a game. Hopefully that will end with the new year coming and our one-game season against Oklahoma State. The rest of our season is filled with a much-improved Atlantic 10 Conference where we were not respected, which a lot of it is not knowing what we had. I think the kids will understand and there won’t have to be long discussions about it. They’ll understand clearly what is at stake and if they don’t I would be really disappointed.”
Amanda Kalin was one of four Duquesne starters to reach double figures in scoring, earning 18 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Libby Bazelak added 16 points and eight rebounds. Laia Sole (14) and Nina Aho (12) also achieved double figures.
Duquesne also outscored Kennesaw State 21-0 in fast-break points.
All five Kennesaw State starters achieved double figure point totals with Pittsburgh native Amani Johnson leading the way accumulating 21 points and eight rebounds.
“Kennesaw State, in particular their local players, just played fantastic basketball today,” said Burt. “To be able to come here and play in front of a pro-Kennesaw crowd with a lot of their families here and they played well.”
Both teams held the lead in the first quarter, but it was Kennesaw State which held a slight advantage shooting slightly better to the field and taking three free throws to Duquesne’s zero. Additionally, Duquesne shot one-for-eight on its three-point shots.
It was a challenging second quarter for Duquesne as it shot 17.6% from the field in the period. Duquesne had an early advantage as Sole got to the free throw line on three separate occasions. Kennesaw State committed four early fouls to Duquesne’s zero.
“Whether you have youth or you have experience, not having energy and focus is not acceptable,” Burt said. “I can live with Saint Francis being a situation where we were mentally fried from taking finals. Tonight was different. Our bags were packed and we were ready for Christmas and that includes the coach. We didn’t have the focus we needed to do what we needed to do over the course of a game.”
Kennesaw State was able to contain the Duquesne offense which got second and sometimes third chances, but were unable to finish the possessions.
As Duquesne’s offense struggle to execute, Kennesaw State was able to string together shots and towards the end of the quarter started to accumulate extended possessions.
Kennesaw State was able to extend its lead to as many as 14 points but settled for 10 by third quarter’s end.
The Duquesne defense attempted to play unfriendly hosts to the visitors forcing Kennesaw State to extend offensive possessions towards the end of the shot clock, but more often than not were able to make key baskets at important times.
In the fourth quarter, Duquesne opened on a 10-4 run and then made a key defensive stand as Kennesaw State failed to get a shot off. The possession fired up the Duquesne bench as the Owls called a timeout.
As the quarter went on, Duquesne gained the lead and held on entering the final moments.
Part of that came with adjusting to the 47 cumulative foul calls that occurred in this game. Both teams had multiple starters with four fouls and Duquesne freshman Amaya Hamilton fouled out.
Given the numerous foul calls, Burt asked for hand-check whistles early and often because he felt his team was superior when it got closer to the basket.
Duquesne appeared to adjust slightly better as it was able to play smaller at the end of the third quarter and carry that over.
“That’s where we found some flow where even if they picked up a fourth I was keeping them in,” said Burt.
Kennesaw State coach Agnus Berenato noted that a key difference in this game was Duquesne’s ability to take advantage of the left side of the court being open, which she felt was recognized.
Burt admitted after the game that he did not recognize this but unintentionally believed that due to the smaller lineup, his team unintentionally saw it.
“Our kids were able to find more driving lanes more so when we went small,” he said. “You have to guard Paige Cannon at the three-point line now and all of a sudden you in a sense have five guards out there which opens up driving lanes which allows Amanda Kalin to finish eight-of-nine from the field. We got good drives in the first half, but nothing to the nail or logo, everything was to the baseline. We like that but there were a lot of things on the wings. We were picking the ball up on the wings above the free throw line or driving towards the baseline with no drives to the middle until the second quarter.”
Up 74-72 in the closing moments of regulation, Sole missed a jumper. Though she missed, Bazelak was able to grab an offensive rebound and Duquesne was able to keep the ball away from Kennesaw State until it fouled with four seconds remaining in regulation.
Sole split free throws and Kennesaw State grabbed the rebound with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
Following a timeout call, Kennesaw State turned the ball over on the inbounds pass and Duquesne advanced the ball. Again Sole split free throws and the Owls inbound pass was intercepted by Kiersten Elliott, ending the game.
Now Duquesne is 10-2 on the season which despite the above frustrations has Burt excited given all that the team has had to overcome.
“You cannot not be happy 10-2,” said Burt. “We are not happy with how we played the last two games. We’re going to enjoy Christmas and hopefully they’ll work out, move forward and all of us will take the lessons we’ve learned.”
Duquesne will next travel to face Oklahoma State Dec. 30. The game will be televised by Big 12 Now and ESPN+. Duquesne, which has never faced Oklahoma State, is 2-7 lifetime against Big 12 programs.