Midway through the third quarter, the Duquesne Women’s Basketball team attempted a press breaker with Fatou Pouye wide open, but the pass was well off target and wildly sailed out of bounds as confused looks were exchanged by those on the court.
Immediately, Megan McConnell gestured with her hands and immediately told her team to “calm down” and slowly Duquesne started to come together.
Duquesne has been a part of several close games this season, but more often than not, has been on the losing end. That would not be the case Thursday night as Duquesne bested George Mason by a 67-55 count at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
Now, Duquesne has won two consecutive games for the first time in Atlantic 10 play and in those 80 minutes had contained its miscues to 13 turnovers.
“It feels a little bit different,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “We’re not playing perfectly, but we’re in a situation where we are taking positive steps forward. Those positive steps are listening and then executing the game plan. It’s starting to feel a little different.”
It was a strong start to the fourth quarter that allowed Duquesne to create some separation, but really the momentum carried over from the end of the third period when Tess Myers sank a three-point shot to put Duquesne back in front.
That basket appeared to change the demeanor of the huddle and allowed Duquesne to focus on closing out this game and not allow George Mason to escape with a road victory.
“We just came together and knew we needed to play hard as a team to be able to win this game,” forward Pouye said. “I feel like that’s what we did.”
Center Precious Johnson started the fourth quarter with a couple of deflections which led to turnovers and offensively Duquesne passed with purpose, often to the six-foot-four Swede who started to get down low in the post and found an advantage which led to eight points.
Throughout the second half, Burt’s huddles consisted of a request for energy and effort and Duquesne was starting to do that. Now, the Dukes cut in their sets with vigor, and it opened up the offense.
“It was finding our flow,” said Johnson. “Other games we’ve been really close and there have been games that we’ve lost. We know what we have to do in order to end the game now. We know that defense is a big factor and we put a big focus on that. That’s what made us win the game.”
As Duquesne faced adversity in the third quarter, it was able to snap out of it. There was a feeling that when the Dukes found success, they were daring George Mason to keep up with the pace, which it was unable to do.
Before these positive steps may have been masked by tough losses, but now Duquesne has put it together for two consecutive games with belief that these behaviors are here to stay.
“We weren’t playing well and to come out of that gives you belief and energy,” said Burt. “It’s another small step and a bigger step that continues to breed success.”
KING RISES TO THE OCCASION
For the first time this season, Burt gave video production manager lead responsibility of the team’s scouting report.
Burt typically allows his assistants to rotate with its scouting reports against opponents, but this time he decided to share that task with King who graduated from Duquesne in 2015 and now is in her second season on staff.
Stasia’s analytically driven mind elevated her to this current position and allows her to break down film with purpose while setting the framework for the assistant coaches to put together their respective scouting reports.
“She knows how to find solutions for us to have success,” Burt said. “I really like her in that role and it’s going to make her a really good coach. We probably won’t be able to keep her really long because she’s going to find an on-court role soon. It’s great to have alumni in those roles.”
It was very clear during the postgame press conference how proud Burt was of King’s progress, which he clearly believes is far from done.
“The person she was working with was a slug, he didn’t get as much done, that being me,” said Burt. “This (scout) was one she could own, and she did a great job with it.”