By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
There was no time to fool around for the Duquesne women’s basketball team on Tuesday night, and the group showed it was all business as it stormed out to an 8-0 run to begin the game. In fact, the Dukes led by double digits for every second of the contest following the 6:48 mark in the second quarter.
The Dukes (15-14, 8-8) came out with the exact fire one would expect after losing to a previously winless team in conference play, the Rhode Island Rams, and took it out on the visiting Bonnies (9-19, 4-12) of St. Bonaventure University — winning 83-61. Any 22-point win to finish off the regular season is a confidence-booster, but especially when it consists of 12 players seeing court time and 10 etching their names into the scoring column.
“Well, that felt pretty good — a really nice team victory for us,” Burt said. “It was very complete in terms of getting production from a lot of different people, playing a lot of different combinations and really having our two seniors give us a lot of quality minutes.”
Sophomore guard Chassidy Omogrosso led the Dukes with 19 points, but she had support from all around. Senior Amadea Szamosi came just two assists shy of a triple-double to go along with 14 points and 16 rebounds. It was her 11th double-double of the season.
After scoring just two points in the first half on 1 of 7 shooting, the final member of the Dukes’ scoring trio, sophomore guard Julijana Vojinovic, found her stroke and finished with 15 points and a career-high eight assists to go along with six boards.
The way they got their teammates involved with the 17 combined assists between the three was definitely an encouraging sign. The entire team averaged 14.3 assists per game over the course of the season, whereas the Dukes dished out a total of 24 assists versus the Bonnies.
But enough about the big three; their performances were not really out the ordinary. It was the play of the rest of Burt’s squad that made this win so significant.
Starting senior Brianna Thomas and starting sophomore Conor Richardson supplemented Omogrosso, Szamosi and Vojinovic with a combined 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Even more notable, the Dukes were plus 20 with Richardson on the court, which was second highest plus/minus on the team next to Vojinovic (+21).
Freshman guard Nina Aho and and sophomore forward Kadri-Ann Lass each provided a promising lift off the bench supplying a combined 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a whole lot of hustle. According to Burt, both of these players have suffered from a lack of confidence at certain points during this season, but a game like this should have them riding high heading into the Atlantic 10 tournament, which will be vital to the success of the team.
“We have to play with great competitiveness,” Burt said. “But as we go through the conference tournament, we’ve got to be the most competitive team out there. We don’t necessarily have to make the perfect plays, but we must be the most competitive team out there.”
Burt’s players have certainly taken his message to heart and are happy to put forth the extra effort. It was evident in the passion they brought to the floor on Tuesday night, which guided them to an 8-0 lead to begin the game. It also helped them close out the first quarter on a 9-1 run, propelling them to a rather comfortable win.
“Coach always says, ‘Dive on the floor,’” Omogrosso said. “Fifty-fifty balls are ours, so we keep that in the back of our head, and if not, you will hear our teammates, bench, him yelling, ‘Get on the floor.’”
All game long, the Dukes were diving on the ground for loose balls, boxing out well on the glass, getting back in transition and snatching away steals. The hustle and intensity was there for the opening whistle through the final buzzer, and that is a big reason why they never trailed.
Burt named competitiveness as the most important ingredient to his team’s success in the postseason. If the Dukes can get that competitiveness and fire in combination with a total team effort like the one displayed in the regular season finale, it could be a long run for the tournament’s No. 7 seed. Ultimately, when it comes to tournament time, often the deepest teams are the best teams.
The Dukes will begin their run by hosting the George Mason Patriots on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the A.J. Palumbo Center. The winner will advance to Richmond for the subsequent rounds.
As Burt reiterated in his postgame press conference, “It is do or die.”