Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer
Feb. 24, 2022
Despite strong offensive performances from Duquesne’s Amaya Hamilton and Libby Bazelak, a basket from La Salle’s Claire Jacobs with 0.2 seconds remaining helped the Explorers sneak past the Dukes 67-66 in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening.
On Jan. 30, Duquesne played what Head Coach Dan Burt considered to be one of its best games of the season in a home win over La Salle. The success was driven by allowing just 49 points to a team in the Atlantic 10 Conference’s upper half.
While the defense remained strong on Wednesday, it was nothing near what they showed just under a month ago.
Offensively, the Explorers relied heavily on Kayla Spruill, who was perhaps the largest difference maker between the two meetings. After being held to just seven points in the Jan. 30 matchup, she scored 17 points in Wednesday’s contest.
“Defensively, we played much tougher against them at home,” Bazelak told The Duke following the game. “They just hit some timely shots, and it came down to the last possession.”
Bazelak, who had a triple-double when the teams met in Pittsburgh, scored 10 of the Dukes’ 25 first-half points on Wednesday, while the rest of the team shot just 6-of-17 from the field.
In need of an offensive spark, the Dukes were aided by Hamilton. She exploded for 14 points in the second half, seemingly trading buckets with Bazelak.
“[Hamilton] has been working on her game a lot, and it’s really showing,” Bazelak said.
The teams would remain in a tight battle for the majority of the game, with a key moment coming just over three minutes into the fourth quarter, when Megan McConnell found Hamilton for a 3-pointer in the corner that gave Duquesne a five-point lead (55-50). Bazelak hit a jumper with 4:37 left to put Duquesne’s lead at six (59-53).
However, the Explorers hung around and found a way to climb back into the game. With 1:17 to go, Jacobs completed a three-point play to give the Explorers the lead.
Bazelak, who fouled Jacobs on the prior possession, drove to the rim, drew a foul from Jacobs, and made the shot with 59 seconds remaining. The basket put Bazelak’s point total at 25, which set a new career high for her.
However, she missed the free-throw. Despite entering the game shooting 70% from the charity stripe, Duquesne finished just 8-of-15 from the line.
La Salle’s Molly Masciantonio drew a foul with 19 seconds left and connected on both free throws to give the Explorers a one-point edge.
On the ensuing possession, rather than attacking with Hamilton or Bazelak, McConnell looked inside and found Precious Johnson, who shed her defender and hit a go-ahead shot with just seven seconds to go.
However, La Salle and Jacobs had one last breath in them.
After a missed 3-pointer in the corner, Jacobs snatched the rebound and, in the same motion put the ball back up. The ball momentarily lingered on the rim before dropping through the hoop.
Duquesne will have one more game prior to the A-10 tournament, when it hosts Saint Joseph’s on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ll focus now on our last game and the tourney,” Bazelak said. “We know we can beat any team in the league, so we are confident [that] we can make a run.”