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Duquesne Women's Basketball

Inside the Dukes: Drawing Closer To End Goals



Courtesy of Peter Boettger (@PeterB.Creative)

When the Duquesne Women’s Team ended its non-conference slate in a state of trying to figure out what was best to reach its goal of becoming a top-four team and a big component of that proved to be the defensive side of the ball.

The Duquesne defense showed its teeth throughout Saturday afternoon’s 57-52 victory over La Salle at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse which was a pivotal outcome for keeping pace towards the aforementioned accomplishment.

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Burt expressed how unhappy he was with the defense in New Orleans citing a lack of spirit, grit or great effort.

“Some of what we were doing probably didn’t fit who were personnel wise,” he said. “We’ve changed a little bit and this game changed also. Previous games we were switching everything with some wrinkles I won’t talk about. Today we didn’t switch, so that probably threw them for a little loop. The bigger thing is the scheme. The scheme is a third of it, about a third of it is really true talent and the other third is, are you committed to your teammates and the game plan to execute it.”

An example of this defensive energy is Nae Bernard’s attention to detail on the defensive end, so much so that Burt believes she is more excited about playing defense than offense.

It has come down to embracing guarding his matchup one-on-one by sitting down, guarding and utilizing a mantra of the low woman winning.

“For a long time with her playing basketball, growing up she probably thought of her height as a detriment in some ways,” stated Burt. “I think it’s the exact opposite, I think it’s a plus. No one wants to get that low and low woman wins a lot of times in basketball. That’s what happened in the Rhode Island game, and I preached it to all of our team. You can cause a lot of havoc being that low to the ground.”

When Bernard was asked about embracing the defense, a smile immediately formed across her face. The guard who had to get pushed out onto the floor to be recognized pregame was more precise upon explaining her mentality.

“I just wanted to help my team a different way,” she offered. “People know me for being a scorer so I really took pride in the defensive side because I want to help my team and show I can impact the game in another way.”

Since conference play, Duquesne has embraced being chameleons defensively. Saturday, the Dukes came out of multiple timeouts into a press and upon being implemented La Salle committed a turnover.

It is just another wrinkle that can help Duquesne potentially change the game.

“Coach (Rick) Bell really puts an emphasis on no team really knowing what we’re going to come out in,” Lauren Wasylson said. “We can come out in no switch, a switch, a zone, we could throw in a press to speed them up. Us being able to go to a multitude of different things really helps us and catches other teams off guard.”

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Earlier in the week, Duquesne became one of five teams in the country to have five players achieve 1,000 career points with Megan McConnell and then Nae Bernard achieving the feat in last Wednesday’s victory over Massachusetts.

This duo joins Amaya Hamilton, Tess Myers and Ayanna Townsend in accomplishing this milestone.

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When Burt was in West Virginia he had four to reach that milestone and he never thought he would see that again. Approximately two games ago this realization hit him, and it allowed for him to reflect.

“It says a lot about our program and them as individuals that in the age of transfer portal and one-year rentals and players playing at three or four schools and have kids spend at least half or the majority of their career here and have stayed and been committed to our program,” he explained. It talks about the health of our program, and I can’t thank them enough for believing in us and our program. They as individuals are incredible women.”

Prior to the La Salle game both McConnell and Bernard were honored.

When it was Bernard’s turn, she did not step out to receive the acknowledgement, so Townsend gave an encouraging push to make sure the moment was fully processed.

“I think that’s what makes our team very special,” explained Bernard. “We’re threats from every position, and it can be anyone’s night at any time. It really makes it special and gives us confidence going into games.”

During the press conference, Burt stated that he expected his guard trio in Bernard, McConnell and Myers to use their COVID year, returning for a final season, with the opportunity to achieve more on-court successes. As for Hamilton and Townsend, the duo will graduate with real-world opportunities whether it be in their desired careers or playing professional basketball.


If five 1,000-point scorers were not enough, Precious Johnson is currently at 942 following a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double against La Salle, her third such game this season.

In each of the past three home games, Johnson has amassed double figures, first against Loyola Chicago, second battling against Rhode Island’s physical post players by surpassing their compete levels and then finding success at multiple levels against the Explorers.

Her Rhode Island performance on the defense end made Burt remark that she “needs to go to cryotherapy right now and probably go again tomorrow.”

Johnson did suffer a bit of a strain in the La Salle game which she did not return from, but according to Burt early returns show she would be fine and available for Wednesday’s contest at St. Bonaventure.

In basketball, every little bit can help a player find a success and her father Stewart recently returned to Pittsburgh from Sweden. After his jersey was retired at Murray State in the end of 2023, he also was inducted in the Pittsburgh Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I joke about that but her dad being here helps,” Burt assessed. “I think Precious knows we haven’t given up on her, but we have expectations and challenges of her that she has to meet if she wants to play. She’s a really good basketball player. Sometimes good players need something little. Might be her dad being here, might be holding her accountable for the little things.”

If Johnson can remain in good health, Duquesne is guaranteed another six games, meaning she would have to average approximately 9.66 points to get there in that sextet of contests. Burt strongly believes she will get there.


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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