Grade-A showing puts Dukes past GWU

Christian Diakeler | Staff Photographer | Sophomore Jerni Kiaku dashes down the court.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

In front of what Head Coach Dan Burt called a “championship environment,” the Duquesne women’s basketball team gutted out a 79-69 win over George Washington on Wednesday afternoon. It was the team’s sixth straight victory, and they’ve won 10 of their last 11.

The “Education Day” crowd was the largest in program history, and it saw a team performance Burt gave an “A.”

“I wish I could say I enjoyed that more,” Burt said. “I could not be more proud of how we played today.”

Duquesne survived a 29-point performance from the Revolutionaries’ Nya Robertson, the Atlantic-10 Conference’s fourth-leading scorer. She started five-of-seven from the field, pacing the offensive track meet that defined the first quarter. Both teams shot 60% in the frame, trading runs to a 26-22 GW lead at the break.

After that hot start, however, Duquesne forced tougher shots from Robertson, and she went five-of-14 the rest of the way, and one-of-five over the final minutes.

“She’s going to get hers,” said guard Jerni Kiaku. “You just got to make it difficult.”

“[Robertson] and I made eyes after she made one 3,” Burt said. “And I just went ‘whoof, you’re as hot as could be,’ and she gave me a look back of respect.”

Matching her at the guard position was Duquesne’s Megan McConnell, who led the Dukes with 18 points. Both she and Robertson played all 40 minutes.

After the sides traded runs in the first half, they went stride for stride later on. Duquesne finally clinched the contest by outscoring their opponent 22-13 in the fourth quarter. The turning point came with just over three minutes left. Robertson had hit a 3-pointer to cut the Dukes lead to 66-64. On the ensuing possession, Kiaku and Precious Johnson snagged offensive rebounds, allowing the clock to shorten between each shot. Johnson ended the possession with a bucket off the glass, and George Washington wouldn’t come within a possession again.

“The little stuff, getting offensive rebounds and etc. are the stuff that really gets us going,” Johnson said, “and I think we really needed that momentum to stay in the game and get the win.”

What allowed McConnell and the Dukes to overcome Robertson’s Revolutionaries was her supporting cast.

Duquesne wound up with five players reaching double figures, and Nae Bernard on the doorstep with 9. George Washington only had a pair of players score more than 7.

“We don’t have anybody scoring 29,” Burt said. “Everybody eats, and we have balanced scoring.”

The bulk of Duquesne’s points came from outstanding post play. Ayanna Townsend was a massive force early on, lighting up the crowd with impressive, physical buckets in the first quarter. Johnson had` similar success, as the pair scored 12 and 10, respectively. They made up a perfectly balanced tandem, combining for exactly 40 minutes of playing time.

Those two, as well as Amaya Hamilton, were either scoring at the rack, or getting to the free-throw line and converting from there. The trio went 14-17 from the line, where Duquesne outscored the Revs 21-7.

They were fed inside by passes from the guards, and Burt was especially complimentary of their care for the ball after two straight games of 20-plus turnovers.

“I think our passing into the post was very good,” Burt said. “To only have nine turnovers against an athletic, long team that pressures you is very good, and our post touches were excellent.”

The bigs also showed up even when it wasn’t clear on the stat sheet. 5-foot-7-inch Kiaku notched a season-high seven rebounds but wouldn’t take any of the credit afterward.

“The bigs boxed out so I could get the ball,” she laughed. “That’s what made it [possible].”

Duquesne won’t hit the hardwood again until next Wednesday when they travel to Richmond. Burt emphasized the importance of maintaining their momentum through the bye week but said that two days off before returning to practice on Saturday will be physically and mentally valuable.

Both of Duquesne’s remaining matchups come against the Atlantic-10 Conference’s two best sides. Duquesne is tied for second place in the win column with Saint Joseph’s, and is 1.5 games back of the Spiders. The final games will determine how that order shakes out for the conference tournament.