Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor
In their first live action of the 2013-2014 season, the women’s basketball team faced highly under matched Davis & Elkins at the A.J. Palumbo Center Friday night in their first and final exhibition game before the Maggie Dixon Classic in Chicago this weekend.
Five players scored in double digits en route to a 112-72 rout in the team’s first live action under new head coach Dan Burt. Senior forward Wumi Agunbiade, sophomore point guard April Robinson and junior shooting guard Belma Nurkic each scored 18 points, while senior guard Oddite Odisho and freshman forward added 13 and 12, respectively.
Though they led 67-32 at half on their way to a 40-point victory, Burt said the game wasn’t necessarily what the Dukes needed heading to Chicago this weekend.
“This was not an ideal game for us to be prepared for Cal Poly next Friday, but it allowed us to play some people that may not have gotten minutes in a regular season to see what they can do,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised by some of them,” including Angela Heinz, a freshman who Burt says knows the team’s system as well as anyone.
Though it was a blowout from the start, this Dukes’ defensive excellence, a cornerstone of last year’s squad, was on full display in this one. They forced grabbed 25 steals and forced 38 turnovers, scoring 42 points off Davis & Elkins’ mistakes.
That said, Burt thinks this year’s team is different than last year’s squad that finished second in the nation in steals.
“We’re different than what we were last year,” he said. “We’re taller, we’re longer, maybe not quite as quick but we still have kids that are very instinctive in our guard core in the backcourt.”
The teams combined for 61 fouls over the course of the game, indicative of the changes the NCAA has mandated in the way games will be officiated this year.
“That is an example of the way women’s basketball is going to be officiated for at least the first month or two,” Burt said. “There is an initiative to clean up handchecking and physical play, and we knew going in that there was going to be a lot of fouls called. It’s not ideal and it’s something that is going to be very interesting how they address this going forward.”
In all, the game gave the Dukes a glimpse of the way officiating will change last year as well as an opportunity to play some of their freshman who Burt said probably would not see time in a more competitive matchup moving forward. But he said the Red and Blue still have a lot of work to do this week before they face Cal Poly, a team that won the Big West Conference last season.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Burt said. “We’ll have to sure up our taking care of the basketball, making good decisions with the basketball. We have to value the ball and take care of the ball more. I hope that we can defensively continue to do what we do, but we still have to work on our man [to man defense] in the half court.”
Senior forward Raegan Moore, a player Burt has high expectations for this year, mentioned that she’s excited to finally get the ball rolling this year.
“It’s something that we’ve had to work really hard for,” she said. “For me being a senior in my last year, the way I thought about it was, there’s no next year so I might as well put in 110 percent this year and see what comes out of it.”