MCCANDLESS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It is rare that a coach has much happiness after a loss but after Friday’s 68-63 Duquesne women’s basketball overtime setback to VCU, Dan Burt displayed plenty of optimism.
Playing largely seven handed and the overwhelming majority of those seven being underclassmen, Duquesne held tough against VCU, the preseason favorite who is both experienced and physical. Even though VCU had not played in 19 days, those characteristics remained.
“Even though we took a loss, I couldn’t be more proud of our team and our players,” Burt said. “I walk out of the locker room with my chin held high and I know they do too. Tonight we took a positive step in our season, we stuck together, had good energy and some good basketball play. Our not good basketball play will be corrected with experience.”
Within the last week, Duquesne has had to overcome the loss of Amanda Kalin who is out with a significant injury and was on crutches by the team’s bench. With Burt saying during a chalk talk posted on social media Thursday that Libby Bazelak will be back in around the next two weeks, the challenge has been finding leadership and a voice.
“It’s definitely hurt us not having Amanda out there and her leadership,” sophomore guard/forward Amaya Hamilton said. “I really think that we had a lot of people step up and I couldn’t be any prouder of my teammates. We’ve just got to keep pushing. We’re playing for her and playing with a lot of energy and we didn’t have that before. That was exciting to see even though we lost.”
Indeed Duquesne is looking to fill the leadership void with a group largely made up of underclassmen which Burt acknowledged is a definite change from his past teams.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on having older players and older players playing,” he said. “There’s none of that now. We’re all freshmen and sophomores and kids who haven’t played. They don’t know all the sets, they don’t have all the ins and outs figured out. That’s not going to happen by Richmond or next week. You can’t get upset at them, you have to teach.”
While one game will not determine who Duquesne’s leader is, it was clear that the team played with more aggression and heart. In a long season, the team appears to have a spark and it ready to take the next step.
“I was trying to find that flow and tonight I feel like we found that flow and found people that did the things we were looking for all season,” said Burt.
Duquesne playing by and large with seven bodies as mid-January approaches the rotation appears to be set.
Ny Langley came in for a couple small stretches of playing time but it was her first action since Dec. 18 at Toledo and she also was injured last season.
Lindsey Linard who made the most of her opportunity against Dayton did not play Friday and neither did Anie-Pier Samson. Walk-on Caroline Elliott came in at the very end of the game when Duquesne had to foul VCU to extend the game and multiple Dukes had four fouls. Neither Snezhana Serafimoska nor walk-on Machaela Simmons had their numbers called.
“When you look at it we don’t have anybody else,” Burt said. “You’re really looking at a seven-man rotation and we’re trying to get them better so can get confident putting them in game situations. As you get later in the year your rotations become smaller. When you have players injured and out like we do this is the group that’s going to play.”
As far as worrying about depending on seven players on a nightly basis and if that makes things harder when it comes to keep players healthy, Burt believes it is easier because the choices of who plays become more narrow.
Spinning things forward, Hamilton saw results and it seems indeed as if seven primary players is the way Duquesne will go.
“Today said a lot,” stated Hamilton. “That’s a huge step for us moving forward, we got better tonight and I am really proud.”
HAMILTON, MYERS SHINE
It would be understandable if Hamilton were to have mentally shut down after losing her spot in the starting lineup prior to this past Sunday at Dayton, but instead she has shown that she values her team over herself.
Hamilton understood she was having some struggles with shooting but going to the bench helped free her up and understand that even if shots are not falling that there are many other ways to impact a game.
Friday, Hamilton recorded her first career double-double consisting of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“I really needed tonight, it helped my confidence a lot,” she said. “If I can rebound and put the ball in the basket more it can help our team win games. We need to emphasize rebounding and shoot at a higher percentage which we haven’t been doing in the past, me specifically as well.”
Meanwhile Myers had the night of her young Duquesne career with her career-high 20 points which included a game-tying three point basket with 8.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
Myers buried six triples Friday night which matched Heather Massengale (Feb. 10, 1994) for most by a first-year Duquesne player.
The two had good chemistry together, most notably in the third quarter finding each other for three-point shots that frustrated VCU enough that it called timeout after it made a basket.
Myers finished as a +11 and Hamilton a +4, the lone Duquesne players to finish with a positive plus/minus rate.
HE SAID IT
“There’s no excuse for us to be 5-13 but we would welcome more gym time. We came out here (LaRoche’s Kerr Fitness Center) yesterday and I’m kicking myself that we didn’t take more free throws. We had free shooting and shot free throws for 12 minutes. We’ve got to get more free throws in when we’re here.” – Burt