Just four days prior, Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt seemed tired and at a loss for words following a loss at St. Bonaventure, but a 74-70 victory Friday night over La Salle certainly had him in good spirits.
“Obviously I am very happy about tonight’s game, it might be our most complete effort,” he said. “It felt like an Atlantic 10 Tournament game, it felt like we were in Richmond with the way both teams fought. I love the aggressiveness we had on both the offensive and defensive ends. We played with a sense of desperation and I am really happy for the kids. Their warmup was the best warmup we had all year and a lot of times when you’re talking that equals energy and energy brings aggressiveness which you saw tonight. We had key contributions from literally the entire roster and I could not be prouder of what this victory is.”
It was a very balanced scoring performance for Duquesne, (5-9, 4-6 Atlantic 10) which was led by Laia Sole’s 11 points. 10 of the 11 Duquesne players to see the court got on the score sheet, and also grabbed a rebound.
In addition, Duquesne recorded 19 assists on 21 made baskets and had 37 bench points, compared to La Salle’s (10-13, 6-10 A-10) 18.
“We made a fair amount of adjustments within the game that Matt (Schmidt) did a great job with,” said Burt. “It was exploiting some of the things La Salle was doing defensively and making some changes and counters. Matt is very good at doing that but the credit must also go to the players because they execute it and our players did that across the board… I can’t think of another game at Duquesne in my time here that has been so team oriented, just a really good win for us.”
. Typically Burt has been very loyal to his starting lineups and does not make any changes, but this is far from a typical year, not just due to COVID-19, but also because Duquesne has not won at the clip it usually does.
With Tess Myers’s insertion into the starting lineup, Duquesne has gone with seven different fivesomes in what is now 14 games.
“When you get to this time of the year it is a little bit of everything and listening to my staff and their opinions,” Burt said of the change. “When you don’t start fast, you have to change the lineup a little bit and we did that. Our lineup we started, started fast. We made shots early. The way things worked out this is a good starting lineup right now. Things may be the same Sunday, they may not.”
Reflecting on the starting lineup decisions, he stressed that only Amaya Hamilton played a heavy dose of minutes with 37 and no one else eclipsed 26 minutes.
Burt believes that starting is one thing, but successfully finishing the game is far more important.
“I believe the players know the coaching staff cares deeply about them,” he stated. “It is managing people and their personalities and there are going to be people that are going to be hurt that they are not starting. Maybe they are used to it, whatever it may be. You want to be the finisher and that is the most important thing, finishing the game and being on the floor for the w.”
Below are Duquesne’s seven starting lineup combinations this season, and the record attached to each.
Sole-Johnson-Bragg-K. Elliott-Kalin (0-1)
Sole-Johnson-Bragg-McConnell-K. Elliott (0-3)
Hamilton-Sole-C. Elliott-Bazelak-K. Elliott (1-0)
— Duquesne Women's Basketball (@DuqWBB) February 26, 2021
. Duquesne’s regular season finale will indeed be Sunday against Saint Joseph’s. An earlier contest which would have been played at LaRoche University’s Kerr Fitness Center was ultimately cancelled because of a positive Tier-1 COVID-19 test from Saint Joseph’s.
Given that the Atlantic 10 men’s and women’s basketball championships have flip-flopped weeks, teams in the conference had the option to play an additional contest or two and use those opportunities as a potential advance for when play shifts to Richmond.
This was an option Fordham and George Washington have opted to play with the former ending what will be 20 days away from the court to head to Foggy Bottom.
Duquesne had explored a similar opportunity, but instead have decided not to play. Duquesne will practice against itself while also utilizing its two male practice players and assistant coaches Vanessa Abel and Cherie Lea, both of whom played under Burt and display that form on a regular basis.
“We believe because the way the season has been, our bodies and our health, it’s better to take a couple of days off before preparing for the tournament and adding a wrinkle or three before we go to Richmond,” Burt said. “We’re in a situation where it’s been a very taxing year on our entire program and these players need the time to focus on their academic work and let their bodies heal.”
Before the focus shifts towards Richmond, Duquesne understands it has one contest left. Under normal circumstances, Burt takes the team for ice cream following a conference road victory, but he made it clear that is not the case this time.
“We’re not eating ice cream tonight,” said Burt. “We’ve got another game on Sunday and then we have a conference tournament. I’ve preached playing our best basketball when we get to Richmond and that’s our goal. We will celebrate this to midnight and then we will move on.”