McCANDLESS TOWNSHIP, Pa. -— It was a subdued reaction from the Duquesne women’s basketball team after a 70-53 victory over Rhode Island Tuesday afternoon, a win which gave the Dukes its 20th such outcome this season.
The understanding is there that this now is a good season, but the Dukes wants more. They want a great season.
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“We are playing best basketball of the season right now,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “The players have an incredible belief in themselves and the team. We are in a really good place.”
In Rhode Island, Duquesne was facing the most effective rebounding team in the conference, a fact aided by having an Atlantic 10 First Team caliber player in Nicole Jorgensen who scored 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Duquesne won the rebounding battle by six.
“You know when you are going against someone as good as (Jorgensen), you’re going to have to box out every time because she’s going to out-rebound you otherwise,” sophomore center Laia Sole said.
Duquesne played as a team Tuesday night, frequently having all five players on the court touch the ball before settling on a high-percentage shot, an encouraging sign as Friday’s contest against Fordham draws near.
“It was a really great team win because we had a lot of energy,” junior guard Amanda Kalin said. “We just want each other to be successful and it is a good start and gives us good momentum heading into Dayton.”
SETTING THE TONE
To say this was a paint contest would be quite the understatement as Duquesne scored 52 of its 70 points from there.
Amanda Kalin’s career-high 24 points came on 11-of-13 shooting. Kalin has never been afraid of driving it to the basket, but her finishes were automatic at a time Duquesne needed it the most.
“Amanda tonight just saw things other people didn’t see,” Burt said. “She saw seems and other areas that opened up like a Barry Sanders-type running back where she split defenders, it was beautiful to watch. The way she finishes, because she doesn’t jump more than four or five inches and yet she has that english with that spin on the glass. She was outstanding tonight.”
Duquesne shot 48.4% from the field, recorded 19 assists and led for 33:48 of game action, a sign of togetherness, but more so the team seeming to follow Kalin’s lead and be the aggressors.
“I would say the most important thing for us tonight was sharing the ball,” said Sole. “We have showed we are not a selfish team.”
LITTLE MARGIN FOR ERROR
Rhode Island entered this game losers of four straight contests to end regular season play, so it would have been understandable if shoulders were dropped, but this Rams team is one that does not forget easily.
A year ago, Rhode Island came to Pittsburgh for the Atlantic 10 Championship campus site matchup and returned to Kingston with a 106-69 loss.
“We came into this game for redemption,” senior center Nicole Jorgensen said. “Every day we have the support from the coaching staff that it is a new day and a new game. We were ready to battle and it didn’t come out in our favor. We did the best we could and I know none of us have regrets.”
Rhode Island came into this game with a clear gameplan to try and counter Duquesne’s motion offense, trying to be aggressive when it came to switching and trapping. Early on, this was successful because Duquesne was not able to take open three-point shots, but a couple of factors did not work to Rhode Island’s advantage.
For starters, Jorgensen was in foul trouble early and often, but also her teammate Davida Dale who scored 27 points in the regular season contest between these two teams was a non-factor shooting 1-for-12 from the field and picked up three first half fouls.
“When we don’t have Nicole on the floor or Davida gets in foul trouble, it makes it difficult either-or,” Rhode Island coach Tammi Reiss said. “Those are our Batman and Robin. We run our offense through (Jorgensen), that’s our go through. When you have some foul trouble and youth coming in, we struggle on both ends of the floor. It affected us greatly.”
Reiss is in her first season and admitted that her team does not quite have enough depth and with her two most consistent players being restricted in the sense of having foul trouble, in addition to a clear sign of fatigue due to players who did not see the court much receiving extended time, she knew her Rams were in trouble.
“It was effective until you fatigue and then the rotations get a little slower, the help gets slower and you start to give up layups and three-point shots,”We don’t play zone for rebounding purposes, so when you fatigue, you’ll start to give some stuff up. They executed defensively how we liked. I like what Duquesne runs and they take good shots.”
With Duquesne’s offense, Rhode Island had to make choices defensively but Reiss admitted that the Dukes did a good with their switches attacking one of the Rams freshman, who the first-year coach stated was their defensive weak link which led to lay-up after lay-up and opened up the paint.
Despite the result, both Jorgensen and Reiss depart Pittsburgh with smiles on their faces. They gave everything they have and even though the result did not go Rhode Island’s way, nothing was left to complain about.
“I am really proud of my team and they way they embraced our culture of the changes we made,” said Reiss. “It was reflective in the game tonight. Last year they played and lost by 37. This year, they battled. We’re not very deep, but they come to play and they play hard.”
When it comes to the Atlantic 10 Championships, there is the game itself and then the game within the game. That inner game is substitutions.
With Tuesday games, of course you are playing to win the game but if your team does so, there is the possibility of playing three contests in as many days which leads to the balance of trying to emerge victorious with trying to have starters be as fresh as possible. The last thing any coach wants is for players to be tired come Sunday’s championship final when there is an automatic NCAA Tournament berth on the line.
This is a topic Burt has touched on quite a bit over the years and he already uses a nine-player rotations this season, almost all of whom played at least 10 minutes, which helps his cause.
“You want to go with those that got you there,” he said. “With how Amanda played her minutes would have been more but she had some problems breathing and took a shot on a screen. I would’ve liked to have sat Libby (Bazelak) a little bit more, but you can’t sit her because when she gets cold, it’s hard for her knees to get warm again, so you get rest assured that Libby with play 40.”
How Burt manages minutes in Friday’s contest against Fordham will be something worth keeping an eye on.
FIRST ROUND IN REVIEW
Duquesne’s contest with Rhode Island was one of four first round contests played Tuesday with both Dayton and VCU earning byes as the two top-seeds based on regular-season results.
Here are the results and who moved on to Dayton for the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals.
#9 Richmond 57 #8 George Washington 49
#4 Saint Louis 69 #13 George Mason 61
#5 Massachusetts 72 #12 St. Bonaventure 54
#7 Davidson 67 #10 La Salle 63
#3 Fordham 59 #14 Saint Joseph’s 36
#6 Duquesne 70 #11 Rhode Island 53
Richmond’s defeat of George Washington was the second time a road team won in the three years campus site games have taken place. The two teams previously faced each other Saturday which ultimately determined who got the eighth seed and got to host the other.
Below are Friday’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal contests:
#1 Dayton vs #9 Richmond 11 a.m.
#4 Saint Louis vs #5 Massachusetts 2 p.m.
#2 VCU vs #7 Davidson 4:30 p.m.
#3 Fordham vs #6 Duquesne 7 p.m.