By David Borne | Staff Writer
After a season full of ups and downs, the Duquesne Dukes women’s basketball team received a WNIT bid on Monday night and will play at Drexel in the tournament’s opening round.
The season featured big out-of-conference wins over teams like St. John’s and crosstown rival Pittsburgh. Duquesne also took down top Atlantic 10 talents like Saint Louis, George Washington and La Salle, but the Dukes struggled to find any sort of consistency during the regular season. In between those big wins came disappointing losses against teams at the bottom of the conference such as St.Bonaventure, UMass and Rhode Island.
However, once A-10 postseason play started, Duquesne caught fire and proved they are capable of performing like many expected them to when they were selected to finish tied for second in the conference in preseason polls.
The Dukes upset defending champion George Washington in the quarterfinal and breezed past No. 3 Saint Joseph’s in the semifinal with a 78-63 victory.
Duquesne finished the season with an 18-15 record, and won four out of their last five. Their only defeat came in the A-10 Championship, a 70-56 defeat to a very good Dayton team.
Dayton’s size created problems on both sides of the court for Duquesne, and the Flyers held the Dukes to just 5-19 shooting performance from three point range. Coach Dan Burt expects his team to get back to their normal shooting ways against Drexel.
“I think we’ll be fresh,” Burt said. “Playing three games in three days was a lot. Everybody had to do it to win the championship, but you can attribute a bit of that 5-19 to tired legs.”
Drexel (21-10) enters the contest losing four of its last five, but found success against some of Duquesne’s A-10 competitors earlier this season. The Dragons registered wins over Saint Joseph’s, George Mason and UMass. They also managed to take down No. 11 Syracuse at home in their biggest win of the season.
Games in March always come with a whole lot of pressure, and that pressure can often be difficult for young teams like Duquesne to deal with, but after their run in the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Dukes have plenty of experience with “do or die” situations. Burt’s team has yet to show any signs of nerves, but he expects them to be extra motivated for their seniors Amadea Szamosi and Brianna Thomas.
“The kids are certainly going to give their very best effort,” Burt said. “They do every time they’re on the floor, but I think the focus will be much greater because they understand that a bad outing will be their last opportunity to put on a uniform.”
The WNIT bid marks the ninth straight postseason appearance for Duquesne. It will also be the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Dukes will look to use any momentum they built in the A-10 Tournament, and hope to prolong not only their season, but their senior’s basketball careers at the university.