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Duquesne Women's Basketball

Inside the Dukes: All-Around Effort With Plenty To Improve

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The third quarter buzzer had already sounded in the Duquesne Women’s Basketball season opener Monday evening against Point Park and point guard Megan McConnell halfheartedly took a half-court shot which, like all six of her field goals in the contest, hit nothing but net.

McConnell, seemingly shocked herself turned and offered a wide smile as she went back into the huddle.

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Tess Myers missed her first five three-point shots, a season after burying 90 a season ago, but the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Third Team pick, buried a triple prior to the end of the second quarter, and offered a relieving smile.

Duquesne doubled up a Point Park opponent which resides a mile away, winning 94-47 against the NAIA program.

“It was definitely a great team win to start up,” McConnell said. “It really got our confidence and energy going, because in previous years we weren’t able to get that win in the beginning of the year.”

According to Duquesne’s coach Dan Burt, his team did exactly what it was expected to do, win in a commanding way, though cautioned that this was far from a perfect game.

Even so, it was one which brought excitement to attending fans and also previewed the nine-player rotation Burt alluded to in the preseason in McConnell, Myers, Naelle Bernard, Amaya Hamilton, Precious Johnson, Reilly Sunday, Ayanna Townsend, Aniya Walker and Lauren Wasylson.

With that being said, both Olivia Westphal and Singo Lekeuneu each made positive plays in their respective time on the court, with the former burying a three-point basket.

“We wanted to play this game for several reasons,” said Burt. “The big reason is we have a lot of players with inexperience who have not played a lot of minutes. We have combinations that we have not played in a real game. I’m happy with our performance tonight, we will have to get better as we continue to move onto Brown Friday.”

HORNS DOWN

One of the things Duquesne was able to find success with was its obvious size advantage, but it was finding consistencies with that in action that allowed for 54 points to be scored in the paint.

Duquesne was able to effectively utilize its horns down offensive set which features a post entry, where the other post player dives in front of her defender and then is able to assert will through size and scoe on top of that.

The results were quite successful.

“They couldn’t stop our horns action, so we just kept throwing it in the post,” said McConnell. “Obviously Yanni (Townsend) and PJ were unstoppable, so why run away from it? We just kept going after it and getting in the post.”

Burt opined that there was an adjustment on Duquesne’s end to play against a smaller opponent. Given the team regularly practices against male practice players sized six-foot-five and taller, it had to make the adjustment from walling up to using the body on the lower half.

He was quick to mention the nine missed first-half layups but did express that this improved in the second half.

“You run it until they stop you and we did that for a fair amount tonight,” he stated. “We still weren’t perfect with it. We’re not going to get perfection, but we wanted to be a little better with it than we were this evening.”

One of the beneficiaries of this action was Ayanna Townsend, a Xavier transfer who was playing her first game as a Duke.

It was a nervous start for the Dukes post player, but she developed a rhythm and proved Burt’s assessment as a walking double double true after one game with her 16-point, 10-rebound effort.

“I was a little nervous because it was my first game,” said Townsend. “Everyone said, ‘you’ve been playing for five years,’ and I said ‘I know but not here.’ Honestly I enjoyed every moment of it.”

PRACTICE HABITS RING TRUE

Often times the adage states that what you are in practice reflects on the court, and if Monday was any inclination, McConnell believes this effort was a good starting point in displaying that.

Several Duquesne players were on the floor diving for loose balls, playing through whistles, refusing to be satisfied until it got the desired result.

“This team has a lot of grit,” she said. “We go hard every day in practice. We dive on the floor and get after it but that makes our team special. Every single time we got the 50-50 balls and we were there so that just explains how our practices have been.”

Duquesne had 35 points off of turnovers in this game and McConnell in particular benefitted, as she saw Point Park’s inability to stop the ball, which was viewed as green-light opportunities.

Even with the transition dominance, Burt felt that there was not enough movement from those who did not have the ball in their hands.

He supported this belief with the idea of people running down the same side of the court in direct proximity, allowing one Pioneers player to simultaneously watch two Dukes.

Burt also viewed this as fixable and why a game such as this was played.

Defensively, Duquesne executed its pack line between being in gaps and on help side for each other, where the post players could reduce the amount of routine baskets.

For a first game, Duquesne held its opponent to 47 points, though Burt believes more focus will need to be placed on limiting dribble penetration and ball watching.

When you put all of the pieces together from Monday, Duquesne had four double-figure scorers, two double doubles, some promising debuts and Amaya Hamilton found herself as a distributor setting a career high of seven assists.

“Confidence is a big part of this game tonight also,” Burt concluded. “The group we have here we wanted to give them as much confidence as we could in the non-conference and come away with a decisive win like we did this weekend.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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