Nurkic lifts Duquesne on Education Day at Palumbo

Claire Murray / Photo Editor
Claire Murray / Photo Editor

Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke

Fresh off winning the Ball State Federal Credit Union Classic in Muncie, Indiana over the second weekend of Thanksgiving break, the Duquesne women’s basketball team welcomed the Kent State Golden Flashes to the Palumbo Center Wednesday afternoon. After losing to Princeton and Syracuse before the break at Palumbo, the Dukes were looking for their first home win of the season. Kids from around the area packed the stands for the program’s annual Education Day, and the Red & Blue did not disappoint, rolling over the Golden Flashes 86-60.

The Dukes move to 4-3 on the season, while Kent State dropped to 1-6 overall.

Coach Dan Burt applauded his team for their tremendous effort after the game.

“I’m pleased with the way we played offense and the way we attack them and their press,” Burt said. “I felt we were very balanced in our scoring inside and out and I thought our post play was outstanding on the offense end.”

Thanks to the energized group of youngsters, the Dukes were in control of this one from the opening tipoff. The Dukes raced out to a 7-1 lead two and a half minutes into the contest that forced Kent State to call a timeout. Though the timeout calmed the rambunctious crowd, it could not solve the woes of the Golden Flashes. In the first half alone, the Dukes forced 10 turnovers, thanks to the efforts of senior guard Belma Nurkic, whose fast hands forced four steals. Nurkic also had a team-high 17 points in the first half, finishing with a season-high 21. Burt jokingly chuckled that motivation behind her latest scoring barrage is because she hates him.

“I don’t know if it’s a joke with Belma,” Burt laughed. “I told her on the bench when I took her out if you keep on hating me and playing like this you can hate me for the rest of your career.” Burt did add that Nurkic just played the best game of her career.

Nurkic admitted the “hate” is caused by Coach Burt’s tough love.

“He has been tough on me in the mental aspect of basketball,” Nurkic said. “In life somebody’s going to be there that you might not agree with what they’re doing and stuff. But it is what it is.”

Despite dominating the action in the first half, the Dukes only led by 10. But as the second half began, the Dukes put the game out of reach. The Red & Blue outscored the Golden Flashes by 16. Coach Burt unloaded the bench with minutes remaining, giving unproven reserves a chance to play.

Currently, the Dukes are riding the waves of a four-game win streak. The Dukes started the season facing three of the top teams in the country in Princeton, Syracuse and Green Bay. Burt emphasized that playing tough teams can only help a program.

“We want to play teams like this because it benefits our RPI and a young team like we have like this year,” Burt said.

The Red & Blue will face crosstown rival Pitt in the annual City Game this Sunday at 2 pm at the Palumbo Center. The Panthers are led by former Dukes coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. McConnell-Serio spent six years at the helm for the Dukes, guiding the program to five straight WNIT appearances. Last season, the Panthers took down the Dukes 67-57 at the Peterson Event Center. Senior guard April Robinson, who scored 11 points in the win over Kent State, played down the hype of the upcoming rivalry game.

“It is just another game to us,” Robinson said.

After their matchup with Pitt, the Dukes will travel to face West Virginia and Robert Morris on the road next week. They will return to Palumbo to face St. Francis (PA) on Dec. 18.