Sean McKean | Staff Writer
It was a day of milestones on Sunday, as the Duquesne women’s basketball team defeated Loyola Chicago with a final score of 73-57. In the victory, senior Ayanna Townsend scored the 1,000th point of her career, and Head Coach Dan Burt secured his 200th win on the job.
Duquesne jumped out to a hot start, with Townsend’s and Precious Johnson’s prowess in the paint and 3-pointers from Megan McConnell and Lauren Wasylson springing the Dukes to a 20-12 lead after one quarter.
Johnson explained that offensive success came from a game plan that preyed upon the Ramblers’ aggressive tendencies.
“We knew they could score both inside and outside with shooters, attackers. They have a good combination. We were switching [players] throughout the game so they couldn’t get comfortable in any sense.”
Townsend furthered that sentiment.
“Coach told us before the game that they would play with grit. We know it was going to be a more physical game than normal,” she said. “I think that played into it a lot, as we had to match the physicality, even if we did a little bit too much [fouls], but enough to keep them away.”
She had secured her place in Duquesne history when she drained a jump shot with barely a minute to go before halftime.
“It wasn’t a focus. I definitely knew prior I was close, but I just wanted to keep playing,” she said. “I’m proud of myself for this milestone.”
In what might be a preview of Townsend’s future, the program’s Hall of Fame inductees were announced at halftime.
With the third player of the season reaching the quadruple-digits mark, spirits were high for the Dukes heading into the second half. It was Megan McConnell that came out the strongest, highlighting her opening with a three and two layups. However, as has been the theme, fouls continued to be a problem for Duquesne, with Burt having to sub out key players like Amaya Hamilton to avoid accumulating too many fouls.
Though the Ramblers were within arm’s reach of them, the Dukes flexed their muscles for the final quarter of the game. Despite successful shots from two Ramblers, a series of three consecutive 3-pointers from Nae Bernard and Tess Myers extended the Dukes’ lead. The final nail for the Ramblers was a series of shots – a jumper from Bernard and another three from Myers – that landed, solidifying the Dukes’ victory 73-57.
“We shortened our rotation,” Burt said. “We found success with Precious [Johnson] and Ayanna Townsend to dominate in the post. Combined, they were 11 to 17 and at one point 10 to 12, and doing it with players all over the place, they had great amounts of success by keeping it simple.”
Meanwhile, Burt got his 200th win just a few days after his 100th conference victory. Needing to string another acceptance speech together, Burt went deeper into the path he took.
“I am really proud. I grew up playing basketball in a barn, and I was an assistant coach for 15 years. I can just remember driving everywhere to go watch players play,” he said.
“Whether it was in Serbia, Macedonia or West Virginia. I always thought about what I would do if I was a head coach, and I said ‘if I became a coach, I would go down with the ship, but the kids were going to like me and respect me.”
Burt’s journey even included stops as a referee, and he admired that irony.
“When I was a child, I never thought this was going to happen. When I was 23 to 24, I was a college basketball referee, so one of those people I yell at all the time, I was one of them,” he joked. “To make the jump at age 27 and make the career I’ve had, I’m incredibly lucky.”
On Wednesday, though, the Duquesne Dukes fell to the VCU Rams, 64-51.
Looking to extend their winning streak to five, Hamilton led the Dukes in points, putting up 10 in the first quarter. However, the Rams were ready for their challenges, with Lucia Sotelo Miguez and Timaya Lewis-Eutsey leading them with eight points each.
The Dukes put on a strong rally in the third quarter, outscoring the Rams 14-7. They were led by Townsend – who scored threes and a jumper – and Jerni Kiaku, who scored from a fast break and at the free throw line.
Ultimately, Duquesne came up short in the fourth quarter, outscored by VCU 27-17. The Rams were decisively led by Sarah Te-Biasu, who scored 26 points throughout the game.
Duquesne returns to action at home on Saturday, when they host Rhode Island.