Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor
Duquesne needed every play along the way, but survived a last-minute rally to beat Pitt 56-55 in the City Game.
“You can’t ask for anything better than what you saw, especially in the second half tonight,” said Duquesne Head Coach Dan Burt. “Drama, excitement and two teams that really battled it out.”
“I honestly have no words,” said guard Megan McConnell. “I started crying once the horn went off.”
The game began at a high pace, but neither team could buy a bucket. The squads combined to start 2-for-19 from the field. Eventually, Duquesne was able to rely on 3-point shots from Nae Bernard and McConnell to keep them alive. The duo each had a pair of long-range baskets that accounted for 12 of Duquesne’s 13 first-quarter points.
That evolved into a theme for the Dukes, who lived and died by the 3 all afternoon. Duquesne spun the ball around the offensive end with ease, but were bothered by Pitt’s zone defense, and never settled inside. Instead, open looks from deep made up the majority of their attempts. By the final buzzer, nearly 70% of Duquesne shot attempts were for 3.
At the forefront of that was McConnell, whose hot hand finished four-of-six from beyond the arc.
The Panthers picked up some momentum in the third quarter, jumping out to a 37-30 lead, before Jerni Kiaku reversed that trend with a strong layup despite being fouled on the play. From that moment, Duquesne went on a 24-8 run.
The Dukes entered the fourth quarter trailing 44-40, but before the Panthers could blink, Kiandra Browne hit two free throws, and a McConnell 3 gave the Dukes their first lead since the second quarter.
Then, starting guard Tess Myers awakened from an abnormally slow start. Having just 3 points in the first 35 minutes, she drained a pair of 3-pointers that gave Duquesne an 8-point lead.
The Dukes wound up needing every bit of it, as Pitt brought the game back to 53-52 with 12.4 seconds left. Amaya Townsend made one of two free-throws, giving the Panthers one last possession. With less than four seconds remaining, Pitt made what looked like a game-tying shot but was called for a travel. Browne then hit a pair of free throws gave Duquesne a two-possession lead that sealed their third victory of the season.
McConnell said that the opponent made the win so much sweeter.
“There’s a lot of disrespect on our name,” McConnell said. “I think we’ve just proven to everybody what we’re made of.”
Burt lauded Browne’s ability to step up in the second half, especially given the fact that she had played sparingly in the team’s first three games.
“She was very physical,” Burt said. “She set the tone for the remainder of the [victory].”
Finally, he complimented the energy brought by the 2,555 fans in attendance.
“Maybe the best crowd since I’ve been here,” Burt said. “I think we made a lot of fans of girls basketball in this region.”
Duquesne hopes that such an emotional victory is the foundation for future successes.
“I think this is the beginning of something great,” Browne said. “The sky is the limit for this team.”
Its Duquesne’s first win over their cross-town rivals since 2019. Since the men’s City Game isn’t being played, Pittsburgh hardwood belongs to the Dukes in 2023.