WILMINGTON —Duquesne took on St. Joseph’s in the second round of the A-10 Women’s Basketball Tournament Thursday afternoon in hopes of extending their season and potentially making a dream run to the NCAA Tournament. Those hopes were shattered during the game as a bad shooting display from Duquesne in the first half put them far behind St. Joseph’s and ended in a 66-49 defeat at Chase Center in Wilmington, D.E.
The Dukes (11-18 overall) couldn’t stop the Hawks (12-16 overall) first-year duo of forwards of Laila Fair and A-10 Rookie of the Year Talya Bruger, who each scored 20 points in the win. The 20 points for Fair tied a career-high and for Bruger set a new career-high for points in a game. This loss for the Dukes comes off a loss to Hawks last Saturday at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, which was a much closer game, 73-68, that came down to the wire.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well in the first quarter or the first half,” Duquesne head coach Dan Burt said. “We dug ourselves a big hole with not being able to put the ball in the basket and then we got beat defensively several times. Credit to Saint Joe’s. I think their coaching staff did an excellent job preparing them for us these last two games. We fought hard, but anytime we got a basket they answered and it’s a credit to them.”
The first half for Duquesne saw them shoot poorly, settling for outside shots as they couldn’t penetrate the paint due to St. Joseph’s stingy man-to-man defense. This resulted in 4-for-25, 16% shooting from the field and 1-for-14, 7.1% from 3-point range in the first half. Starters, Sophomore guard Amaya Hamilton missed all seven of her attempts from the field and first-year guard Tess Myers shot 1 for 7 from the field.
“As coach said our shots just weren’t falling,” Myers said on Duquesne’s first half shooting. “I think we got a lot of good looks and we just have to make shots and fight through.”
The Hawks took advantage of that lackluster shooting performance and found ways to work around the Dukes’ defense. To combat the man-to-man defense of the Dukes, the Hawks used screens to set up pick-and rolls, as well as working it into the paint to get a shot at the basket.
Fair led her team with 13 points in the first half on 4-for-7 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line. As a team, St. Joseph’s scored 16 points in the paint in the first half, with 12 points coming in the first quarter.
The Hawks finished on a 13-2 run over the final 4:41 of the second quarter and broke out to a double-digit, 31-14 lead at halftime.
“I think we got really good shots in transition, they just weren’t falling,” first-year guard Megan McConnell said on the Dukes’ first half offense. “When they’re not falling and we can’t get stops that’s how their lead was built…The first half was more one-vs-one and I think we needed to play more together. In the locker room [at halftime] we harped on talking on defense. We weren’t talking enough and we were getting beat on screens and they were getting wide open looks. I think we lacked communication tonight and we didn’t play as a team.
Duquesne finally got going offensively in the third quarter, shooting 7 for 15, 46.7% from the field and making four of their five 3-point attempts. Myers led Duquesne with eight points on two 3-pointers and a pull-up mid-range jumper.
St. Joseph’s countered this by also shooting 7 for 15 from the floor in the third period. Brugler led St. Joseph’s with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, including a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. Fair scored seven points in the period to bring her up to 20 in the game, making two of her three shots from the floor and all three of her free throw shots.
The Dukes outscored the Hawks in the fourth quarter, but only a marginal 17-12, nowhere near enough to break into the big lead.
The Hawks shot an impressive, 19-for-22 from the line in the game as a whole, including an 8-for-9 free throw shooting display by Fair.
With the season ending, Duquesne has six seniors graduating, which includes graduate guards, Libby Bazelak, Fatou Pouye, Amanda Kalin and Halle Bovell, senior guard Diamond Bragg and graduate center Laia Sole. Burt will work this offseason on the recruiting trail, bringing 3-5 players in the late signing period to Duquesne. He will work with his core of players including sophomore center Precious Johnson, Hamilton and also Myers and McConnell after a two-week break to get ready for the next season.
“When I walk out of this news conference, next season starts for me, Burt said. It’s probably a hair emotional, but it really does start for me and that’s reevaluating everything in our program. For myself, all the way down, to whatever it may be. We are not accustomed to having a season like this. We have not had a season like this in my 15 years at Duquesne. And we won’t, again.”