The Duquesne women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end with a 72-68 overtime loss to La Salle Thursday afternoon at the Atlantic 10 Championships, in a second-round contest held at VCU’s Siegel Center.
“We won three quarters today and lost the most important one in overtime,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “We have an incredible group of young women and I have an immense amount of gratitude for what they have gone through this year. It has been a very trying year from a health standpoint, not having a home standpoint. It’s been tough. Today they did what they’ve done all year pretty much, they played hard and given everything they had. That’s all we can ask.”
Duquesne concludes its season earlier than usual, having ended a streak of 13 consecutive trips to the A-10 Championship quarterfinals.
“One season does not define what our basketball program is and when you have the tradition we have had and the success we have had over the last 15 years, we will not allow one season of chaos to define us,” said Burt. “Today we came up a little short.”
PRECIOUS MAKES IMPACT ON AND OFF THE COURT
When she was in the game, Johnson was arguably the best player on the court for either team, but foul trouble affected her and in turn the team.
Johnson enjoyed her first-career double-double consisting of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I think it’s easier when we communicate and look for each other,” she said. “We played more as a team today and looked more towards the inside which is when I feel we have the most success, getting the ball in and then passing out and rotating it.”
Johnson was a +15 when on the court and had an efficiency rating of 26, both serving as the highest margins on the team by a comfortable margin.
When Johnson was not on the court, Duquesne appeared a step slower in the paint and La Salle, specifically Claire Jacobs, who had 27 points, capitalized.
Johnson ended up fouling out during the overtime period.
“Anytime you have a 6-foot-4 center who is as talented as Precious have to leave the game it certainly impacts you,” said Burt. “Precious not being in the game did not lose the game for us. Precious played a heck of a basketball game for us and frankly La Salle was good at identifying weaknesses in our defense and exploiting them.”
BAZELAK PLANS TO RETURN
Libby Bazelak had quite the season coming back to the court after having offseason knee surgery and Thursday earned a season-high 19 points, before she met a similar fate to Johnson, fouling out in overtime.
With the season over, Bazelak was willing to open up more about the degree of pain she was in.
“I’m honestly super thankful I was able to play this year because I wasn’t sure I would be able to,” she said. “It was really good to be back on the floor again, but now I’ve got an appointment on Tuesday with my surgeon and I’m going back in for another surgery. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner next year.”
Indeed regarding a follow up on returning next season, Bazelak responded, that she is hopeful and “that’s the plan”.
“Libby is an absolute warrior and it’s very obvious you can see she’s not playing at 100% with the injury that she has,” said Burt. “There’s not a tougher kid that I have coached and I’m including April Robinson and other tough kids. Libby is as tough as it gets and gave us everything she could possibly give us this year. We’re excited to get her healthy in the coming months and then have her help lead this team.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Indeed Duquesne left a lot to be desired this season, it would be the first to admit it, though of course both COVID and serious injuries reared their respective heads.
Amanda Kalin was lost for the season during the team’s Jan. 3 contest at Dayton and Bazelak missed the team’s first eight games. Additionally Laia Sole played through injury and of the 16 to see the court this season, just five played all 16 games.
In the first quarter of Thursday’s game, Duquesne conceded nine offensive rebounds, this after starting the contest with an 11-2 advantage.
“We have to make a significant jump from a strength-and-conditioning standpoint,” Burt said. “We are nowhere near where we need to be as an Atlantic 10 women’s basketball team and that blame goes with me and the chaos we’ve had since last March and not putting together a program to benefit our strength and conditioning. I’m really excited about the facility we now have and what we’re going to accomplish in the offseason.”
Burt also stated that his team had trouble making open shots, something that could explain a lot why Duquesne was not regularly able to win close contests, something which was a strength of last year’s team.
For her part, Bazelak felt in an effort to try and improve, things became more complex and that for whatever reason, things just did not work out.
“We struggled a lot this year and tried making so many adjustments but we have a lot of talent on our team,” she said. “We’re good basketball players and a really good team, it’s just we couldn’t put it together. We tried to change it up too much, but we just needed to go out and play our game.”
There also will be a call for more leadership as he expects some of the team’s current and rising underclassmen to take jumps in that area.
With Burt, after these next couple of weeks off and exit meetings, everything will be examined.
“We will be taking a strong look at everything and getting back in the lab shortly to get better because this is an abhorration and this will not happen again,” said Burt.
POWER OF POSITIVITY
In such a tough season for programs all across the country, the easy thing to do is be negative and perhaps some of what Burt said above could be viewed constructively.
That being said, Burt also was grateful and thankful for the sacrifices made this season, even if the results did not go the way anyone would have wanted.
“Any team that’s 5-11 you can’t use any excuses to justify 5-11 and we won’t, but I think we have a lot of positives to build on,” he said. “We’re excited to see what the future holds. We’re going to put the work in and that’s everyone. We look forward to returning to basketball next year. We’re not beaten down, we’re not distraught. We need a little bit of a break. We have a lot of women that really believe in that locker room and we’re excited to get started again after a couple of weeks.”