Duquesne women’s basketball ‘in a good place’ heading into A-10 tourney

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Standout freshman guard Megan McConnell handles the ball against Dayton Jan. 3.

Luke B. Henne | Asst. Sports Editor

March 11, 2021

If there’s one thing that Duquesne women’s basketball Head Coach Dan Burt is certain of, it is that any success his squad has in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament would not surprise him.

“We don’t look at it as improbable at all. We’re a program that has historically been one of the better programs in the Atlantic 10,” Burt told The Duke Wednesday. “When we step on the floor, we’re not a team that people take for granted. I think people recognize the abilities we have.”

After a season in which the Dukes endured a month-long COVID shutdown and an abundance of schedule quirks – including an 11-day layoff prior to the conference tournament – Burt’s group is set to take on La Salle in the tournament’s second round on Thursday. He knows that – especially at this time of year – anything is possible.

“We could go out and lose [versus La Salle], or we could win the whole thing,” Burt said. “There is no one in this league that can’t beat anyone else. If we beat La Salle and can steal one from Dayton, we’re playing with house money from there.”

Burt is treating this tournament as a “third season.” The first season was halted in mid-January and the second season did not resume until mid-February due to the aforementioned shutdown. In six games since returning from the pause, the Dukes played to a 3-3 record, bringing their overall record to 5-10 (4-7 in A-10 competition).

There were some high points, such as a 71-63 victory over Rhode Island on Feb. 18 in the team’s first-ever game at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. There were also some low points, like a Feb. 28 defeat at Saint Joseph’s in which the team scored zero third-quarter points, something Burt described as having “never seen in [his] 24 years of coaching.”

“We had some disappointment and some real positives,” Burt said, “but I think we’re in a good place. I know our kids are relaxed and ready to play.”

The Dukes’ most recent victory came over the Explorers on Feb. 26 by a 74-70 score. The game was tied after three quarters, but Duquesne outscored La Salle 25-21 in the final frame to earn the victory.

If Duquesne were to beat La Salle in Thursday’s second round, that would set the team up for a date with top-seeded Dayton in the quarterfinals.

The Flyers, who finished the regular season with a 13-2 overall record and a 12-1 mark in conference play, defeated Duquesne by a 64-48 tally on Jan. 3 at UD Arena. The two teams were scheduled to meet again on Jan. 29 in Pittsburgh, but the game was wiped out by the Dukes’ shutdown.

Burt said that he plans to give his team “more offensive freedom” and plans to get them to shoot the three earlier in the shot clock, things that will assuredly be key ingredients for success. The Dukes are shooting just 29.3% from deep on the season compared to a 37.0% mark by their opposition.

Burt is well aware that the conference has “tremendous parity throughout it.” As many of us know, parity has a tendency to prevail in the month of March.