David Borne | Staff Writer
Returning nearly all of its talent from another 20-plus win season last year, Duquesne women’s basketball is ready for another season of success in 2018-19. With lofty Atlantic 10 expectations to fulfill, Head Coach Dan Burt has made sure that his team will be ready for conference play when the time comes.
Burt has made one thing very clear about how he organizes a non-conference schedule.
He is willing to play any team, anywhere.
This season’s schedule proves no different, and the Dukes’ non-conference slate is loaded with big name opponents.
The first test, though, is a matchup with TCU down in Fort Worth, Texas.
TCU is coming off of an impressive 2017-18 season, one that culminated in a WNIT semifinal run. It was the program’s third postseason appearance in just four seasons under the direction of Head Coach Raegan Pebley. They finished with an overall record of 23-13, going 13-5 on their home court.
Amy Okonkwo and Jordan Moore, the team’s two leading scorers from last year’s squad, return this season. The duo combined for 27.4 points per game last season, shooting .501 and .560 from the field, respectively.
Okonkwo, a 6-foot-2 forward, carries a versatile offensive skill set. Not only is she a force in the paint, but her ability to knock down the deep ball opens up the floor for the Horned Frogs’ offense. She knocked down 28 shots from deep last season, finishing with a three-point field goal percentage of 38.9.
Moore, 6’3, plays more of a traditional post-player’s role. She ranked fourth in the Big 12 last season in field goal percentage, rounding out the year at an impressive 56 percent. She also is a strong interior defender, and led her team in blocks last season with 65.
Coach Pebley has new toys to play with as well.
Jaycee Bradley, a grad transfer from South Dakota, has bolstered their depth at guard. Bradley is a knock down three-point shooter and received All-Summit League Honorable Mention honors last season.
Additionally, TCU brings in ESPN’s No. 74 ranked recruit from the class of 2018, Yo’myris Morris. Morris, 6’1, also considered Arkansas, Florida, and Mississippi State during the recruiting process. She averaged 13.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as a senior at North Little Rock High School.
In an open media session on Wednesday, Burt mentioned that with Duquesne’s recent success, it has been becoming increasingly more challenging to find Power 5 opponents. For that reason, and with his team and TCU finishing in similar positions in last year’s RPI poll, he is excited for the matchup.
“It is a game for us to be able to get. To play someone with a similar RPI, we’re really happy that they agreed to play us,” Burt said.
He also mentioned that while his ultimate focus is the Horned Frogs, he first has to figure out what to do with his own team before worrying about others.
“My focus has been more so on our team, and really trying to figure out who is going to start. Because I don’t know who that’s going to be just yet, at least at guard.”
As well as all of their primary contributors from last season, the Dukes have reinforcements ready to make their debut against TCU.
Laia Sole, a transfer from Maine, is eligible to play after sitting out last season. With Angela Staffileno and Eniko Kuttor battling injury to start the season, Sole will be a huge facet of Duquesne’s post game.
Burt described the redshirt sophomore as the best offensive post player he has ever coached.
“She absolutely cannot be stopped if she catches the ball with her back to the basket,” Burt said of Sole. “She is not only an effective scorer with either hand, and can shoot the hook shot with either hand to about the free throw line, but she can also pass the ball very well. I think you’re going to see a very exciting brand of basketball when she’s in the game,” he added.
The combination of Sole and Kadri-Ann Lass gives Duquesne dangerous post scoring options. Their post-play, along with their ability to bury shots from deep, opens up an already loaded Duquesne offense.
Taking on the strong interior defense that TCU brings will be a huge test right off the bat for Duquesne’s talented group of forwards.
First tip for the contest against the Horned Frogs will come at 1:00 p.m. EST on Nov. 6.
It will be the first leg of a two-game Texas road trip, as the Dukes will head to the University of Texas to take on the Longhorns on Nov. 8.