PITTSBURGH — Word across Duquesne was that women’s basketball coach Dan Burt had lost his mind offering Kiersten Elliott a scholarship.
Elliott did not see any court time in her freshman season and as a walk-on was a crucial part of Duquesne’s scout team, but that was not enough.
Even after the first two games of Duquesne’s season, Elliott averaged 8.5 minutes, which as a returning player could have been a concern to her, but instead the reaction was to work even harder in practice.
“She went out and guarded her butt off and competed so hard in practice that you had no choice but to play her,” Burt said. “She competed. You can work hard in practice, but if you don’t compete and get a little dirty, which is not who she is, but she had to go there to show the coaching staff she could play. She is top notch in every facet of her life.”
To date, Burt never doubted Elliott and his faith was again rewarded as she scored a career high 15 points as Duquesne defeated St. Bonaventure 71-63 Friday afternoon at LaRoche University’s Kerr Fitness Center to open Atlantic 10 play.
“We talked very simply after the game about when you get your opportunity to make the most of it and Kiersten Elliott did that today,” said Burt. “I mentioned to the team that if you didn’t play or play the minutes you feel you would like to play that you need to look at Kiersten Elliott who did not even play a minute as a freshman. Now she leads us with 15 points, hit timely shots but also her steals, deflections and tips were critical.”
KIERSTEN FORRRRRRRR 3 ‼️
The grad student from nearby Vincentian Academy has matched her career-high with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point land.
— Duquesne Women's Basketball (@DuqWBB) December 11, 2020
. Burt expressed that Duquesne would be able to practice more in the last week however with final exams concluding Friday prior to the game, practices were shorter.
Duquesne normally has about 52 practices in as a team at this point of the season, though that has been an impossibility for the 2020-21 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now there can be more of a focus on college basketball as the team tries to get into more game shape.
Also before moving onto point two there was the slightest ounce of an update regarding Libby Bazelak’s return to the court which was that according to Burt, she “will play soon”.
. Prior to the game, Duquesne had announced that there would be no fans at any home games in Dec. and Jan. The university had already announced cutouts being present which were led by former Dukes Paige Cannon and Kadri-Ann Lass and stationed behind the spread out team seating areas.
“It’s been tough not really having a crowd cheer us on so we have to rely on our teammates and coaches but everyone’s been so positive and uplifting,” Elliott said. “It’s been a great experience. It’s been tough but we’ve made the best of it.”
We see some familiar faces in the stands at the first @DuqWBB game of the season! 👀
— Duquesne Athletics (@GoDuquesne) December 11, 2020
The first half proved a bit of a struggle for Duquesne which could not get into a rhythm. Duquesne knew St. Bonaventure’s tendencies but it was the Bonnies first game of the season after having to sit out for 14 days due to COVID-19.
St. Bonaventure appeared improved on the court and more polished in its first outing.
Burt had trouble trying to find combinations in the first half though that changed in the second half as Amanda Kalin got into a rhythm in the latter portions of the third quarter. Duquesne also went on a 15-2 run which placed it up by 10 points as St. Bonaventure used multiple timeouts.
“We finally had it,” said Burt. “The ball was moving, it was humming. Defensively we were good with digging.”
Indeed Elliott had deflections and Precious Johnson recorded five blocks, though Burt believes a couple additional swats were missed.
THEY SAID IT
“I knew we had to have a great defensive performance. St. Bonaventure has good drivers and shooters and I knew we had to get stops. Defense fueled us today and we all worked together and saw the right passes to get the shots.” – Elliott
“For me as the coach I’m trying to find those moments where I can play people, put them in positions to have success and lengthen their minutes,” he said. “Today was not that day for a couple of them. It’s going to be a very difficult coaching job for me, not just coaching in the middle of a pandemic. Finding minutes and keeping people happy and hopeful becomes difficult on my end. I want the kids who are not playing as much to remain hopeful so that then translates to getting better in practice so they can get the minutes they deserve sometime down the line.” – Burt
Photo credit: Dave DeNoma/Duquesne Athletics