Duquesne Women's Basketball
Inside the Dukes: Connectivity Peaking At Right Time
Normally Megan McConnell is focused on the court with her trademark smile, but Saturday afternoon was different as each positive play saw her look up towards a specific portion of the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
McConnell’s family are consistently at her games, but this special occasion saw both her brothers, Matty and Indiana Pacer TJ present as well.
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It was almost as if little sister was making sure her older brothers were noticing what she was doing, helping lead the Duquesne Women’s Basketball Team to an 83-69 victory over Richmond.
Considering McConnell set career highs with 23 points and 18 rebounds, in addition to earning eight assists, the potential 5-foot-7 Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection, had good reason to beam with pride, after all she also earned her 500th career board in the triumph.
“It was definitely really high looking up and seeing both of my brothers and T.J. there for the first time,” she said. “I’m happy he was able to come to a game during his all-star break. My family is always there to support, so the blood was rushing for me. The game felt good to me.”
Duquesne played seven on Sunday with each scoring at least three points, grabbing a rebound and six recorded an assist.
This performance came a game after the team set a program record with 20 three-point baskets.
“Everybody contributing and seeing the ball go in the hoop gives us lots of confidence,” stated McConnell. “It lets us know the game is going our way and to keep shooting. It felt really good to see the ball go in the basket for everyone. It makes us feel more connected as a team.”
Duquesne committed 11 turnovers in the first half, to Richmond’s one, but were able to lock down defensively in the final quarter, while refining the offensive principles, to the point that coach Dan Burt praised his offensive coordinator for her best game.
Perhaps that was a reflection upon the team as well as Burt took it one step further when he opined that this game may have been Duquesne’s most complete all season.
Now Duquesne is starting to peak with two games remaining in the regular season, before heading to Delaware for the A-10 Championship.
Duquesne already has its name etched in the program record books, but Wednesday against Loyola, the Dukes could set another mark, this time for home wins.
It is clear that while potentially accomplishing history, this team is having fun together and that starts at the very top.
“I’ve enjoyed this group tremendously. If you watch this game, you’ll see me smiling probably more than you’ll have seen me smile at any time in my career,” said Burt. “To be at 13 home wins, we want get that 14th on Wednesday, we’re going to do everything we can. We do feel very good with where we are right now.”
TAKE THE PJ TRAIN
Perhaps in the time leading up to midnight following this win, Burt will turn on some smooth jazz as he reflects on such an emphatic team statement.
After all he was not shy to compare basketball to the music genre, spotting parallels, but also bringing it back to his team.
“You have to be able to improvise and create for yourself a little bit,” he offered. “That improvising happened a little bit tonight, but it happened under control and within the context and flow of the offense.”
Duquesne was sluggish in spots in the first quarter, and Burt believed that was because his team needed to establish more of a post presence.
Burt views maintaining post presence as sweeping the floor with hands to create being low without shoulders going over knees, to create an anchor.
This attitude started with Precious Johnson, who returned to the court after missing the St. Bonaventure game.
Johnson perhaps channeled some of that aggression from not being able to compete onto the block, where she firmly established position in the second quarter, to the point of either scoring or drawing a foul with each touch.
“I think just playing freely, not forcing anything but being confident in knowing what I can do,” Johnson explained. “That is setting screens, attacking the rim hard and getting rebounds. I put myself up for the challenge.”
Duquesne consistently found Johnson in the post, setting up the offense and also forcing Richmond to surrender space towards Dukes guards, who sank 12 threes throughout the afternoon, something which only makes the post want to work harder, so others can have those higher-percentage opportunities.
“PJ is such a dangerous weapon that we have on the block because if you play her one-on-one, she’s going to score on you,” said McConnell. “You have to double her and if you do, we’ve got shooters on the floor. PJ has so many moves to her game and when we run 41 or run one, which is our high-ball screen, it sets PJ up to be in the best position to score.”
HE SAID IT
“Amaya was stronger as the game went on, she figured out where her shots were coming from, she figured out with a good, strong foot-fake jab going right, she had the left lane always open and available to her. She felt short of the triple double, but she also had a couple of blocks and three steals, that might have been the most-complete game she has played in a Duquesne uniform.” – Burt on Amaya Hamilton’s 15-point, seven-rebound, eight-assist game