It was clear that the Duquesne Women’s Basketball Team had to regroup and admittedly by all accounts, that started at the top with its coach accepting blame and assessing what went wrong.
Step by step, it came down to being consistent with stoppage of play. In that City Game loss, coach Dan Burt assessed that the screening and practices were poor. Burt was also disappointed that there was not enough post entry.
Once in the locker room following the loss, Burt told the team that the defeat was not failure, but rather feedback, and that once midnight passed it was onto Siena.
“What we did was stop (practice) for the next day-and-a-half after that game talking about how to set a proper screen, to not put the ball on top of your head, how to feed the post, which was a major thing,” he said. “We feel like we have an advantage over most teams there. We had to break things down and correct things. We have to instill that discipline on an everyday basis and not let someone get away with something.”
Duquesne was successfully able to follow through on its goals with a 92-73 victory Tuesday night over a Burt believed was a great opponent in Siena.
“Losing the City Game is a big loss obviously, but it doesn’t define us as a basketball team,” junior center Precious Johnson said. “We wanted to take this game to prove that we’re a lot better than what we did that game.
Siena coach Jim Jabir previously coached Dayton to a Final Four several years ago and is approaching 1,000 career games coached and his fire 2-3 defense provides several looks where it attempts to trap an offense, where the goal is the get the ball into the middle of a set and create layups, which were fairly prevalent in this game.
Both players and coaches explained that the plan, which was communicated both in practices and shootaround keyed the victory.
“We know they want us to play fast, so it was about playing our game, not theirs and that really helped us,” said Johnson. “We knew we could dominate inside, so we put more of an emphasis on that in practice and we did a really good job. That’s why I felt like we did well tonight.”
A TRUE TEAM EFFORT
Duquesne was very pleased with the victory, and it is hard to disagree when there are five scorers in double figures, two double doubles, 22 assists, an 18-for-19 evening at the charity stripe and 50 team rebounds.
“Complete is the only way to describe,” Burt explained. “We had a good bounce back. I feel really good about this performance tonight. We kept reminding the players that (Siena’s) coming. We’re coming too, but they’re coming. They attacked us and fortunately we played really well, especially on the offensive end.”
Amaya Hamilton earned her second career double-double, with her 11 rebounds representing a personal best.
“It was a matter of slowing it down mentally,” offered Hamilton. “Sometimes I can get overwhelmed and try to do too much but when I try to focus on the basics and the little things, it goes a long way. It really helped me out tonight.”
Playing anywhere on the court is something Hamilton understood to be part of her role, but in previous seasons that was a struggle, when it came to finding her place.
Now she is confident in herself in taking the ball off the dribble, posting up guards and being a leader of this team.
Johnson put up season highs in points and rebounds in this game, while all season long she has become an improved defender that has been able to stay on the court for consistently longer periods.
“PJ has practiced very well and we still haven’t found her in transition, she’s running the floor really well,” said Burt. “She’s running with confidence, right now she has that confidence. Her ability to face up and shoot, you have to guard her from the three-point line and she’s becoming a complete player and to be able to play her, Yanni and Amaya at times all together gives you a nice lineup with size.”
Naelle Bernard put up season highs with her 18 points and five assists, something Hamilton stated is much deserved because of her tireless work ethic in the gym.
“We’ve known she’s had that in her since she’s gotten here,” she said. “She deserves that, and you will see a lot more of that this season. This is more of a breakout game for her I think but that’s just her, the player that she is.”
Burt was pleased with how Bernard kept the ball in her hands and attacked double teams. Her ability to reset was noticeable throughout her time on the court.
Megan McConnell posted her third double-double of the season and this is clearly now the expectation for her. As Burt put it following the victory, McConnell has transformed from the best rebounding guard in the Atlantic 10, to being one of the best rebounders in the conference.
Even though Tess Myers did not find her shot in this game, Burt still noted she was able to finish with nine points and seven rebounds, still contributing both statistically and mentally as her shooting ability had to be respected, which provided additional looks for her teammates.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Since assistant coach Rick Bell moved from the team’s offensive to defensive coordinator, Duquesne has been using a Pack Line defensive style, something mentioned earlier in the season.
It is clear that this defensive style suits Duquesne and gives it an identity that has been missing.
“In the past I don’t think we took as much pride in our defense and this year we’re emphasizing it,” Hamilton remarked. “Him just getting on us and encouraging us when we do things well has made a huge difference for us. Our defense has improved so much this year.”
When Duquesne was up double digits in the second, Bell’s voice could be heard from all across the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse consistently shouting two words.
Burt appreciates Bell continuing to coach this team defensively so it can become more of a consistent force on that end of the court, and it shows that there is still work to be done.
“We’re not a complete team yet,” said Burt. “We still miss assignments and missed some tonight, but overall, a good night. When you coach you want to play a perfect game, so you’re constantly going to remind players of what to do in the game. I’m going to be really excited when I don’t hear Rick scream because they are doing everything correctly and when that happens it would be a perfect game.”
Regardless, it is clear through these five games that this Duquesne team has a belief in each other and that this season can be a successful one.
“We’ve been working all summer and trying to adapt to each other,” Johnson summarized. “We’re finally starting to get that balance of knowing each other and combining that together.”