Second half effort leads WBB to win over Rhode Island

Katia Faroun / Associate Photo Editor | Duquesne's Libby Bazelak (left) scored a team-high 16 points on Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena.
Katia Faroun / Associate Photo Editor | Duquesne’s Libby Bazelak (right) scored a team-high 16 points on Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena.

David Borne | Sports Editor

Feb. 20, 2020

Facing a 40-31 deficit at halftime, Duquesne’s women’s basketball recognized that a serious attitude adjustment needed to be made. The Dukes started the game flat and turned the ball over 11 times in the first two quarters.

A dominant showing in the third quarter brought the Dukes back into the game, and Duquesne ultimately pulled out a 72-62 win Wednesday evening at PPG Paints Arena.

“I think we all realized that we did not play a good first half,” senior forward Paige Cannon said. “We came out kind of slow. I think we had fuel in the second half to know, ‘Ok, we need to pick up our energy’, and play with some aggression. We did that. There was a clear difference in the first and second half.”

Duquesne Head Coach Dan Burt was also displeased with the team’s energy level to start, and vocalized his displeasure during halftime. Once the team brought the intensity he was hoping for, things started to open up on the court.

“I thought the emptiness of playing in an arena this size, with nobody here in the first half, affected us,” Burt said. “I didn’t think we had energy. We had to create our own energy and we did that. Our second half was much, much better. I’m very happy with our team.”

Rhode Island shot the lights out in the first quarter — and that continued throughout the half. The Rams opened up Wednesday’s contest hitting nine of their first 15 shots.

Rhode Island finished the opening half shooting 16-32 from the floor, burying 5-13 attempts from deep.

Their ability to knock down shots tripped up Duquesne’s defense, and impacted the Dukes’ offensive game as well. Cannon noted the opposition’s strong shooting limited Duquesne’s ability to get in transition, and her team struggled to adjust.

“Credit to Rhode Island; they were making a lot of shots. It slows down the transition. [offense],” Cannon said. “Our defense just wasn’t where it needed to be. I think that was the biggest reason for our slow start.”

Everything changed in the third quarter. Duquesne went on an 11-4 run to open the third period of play.

The increased intensity on defense paid dividends. The Dukes held Rhode Island to just one field goal in the quarter. At the end of the 10 minutes, Duquesne led 50-48.

Momentum stayed with the Dukes in the fourth quarter. They continued to shut down Rhode Island’s offense, and kept hitting shots on the other end. With 7:28 left on the clock, Duquesne held an eight-point advantage.

Freshmen Amaya Hamilton and Precious Johnson combined for 16 second half points, lighting the fire beneath Duquesne’s comeback. The Dukes had five players finish in double figures, and were led by a 16-point night from Libby Bazelak.

Rhode Island did manage to cut things close late in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer from Meghan Oberg trimmed Duquesne’s lead to just six with 1:30 left on the clock.

Late game situations have been troublesome for Duquesne throughout the year — but the Dukes stood strong on Wednesday. They nipped Rhode Island’s run in the bud, and held off the Rams for the remaining 90 seconds.

Burt credited his team’s experience for their ability to lock things down as time ticked away. He was impressed by his team’s guards, and how they handled the situation late in the game.

“We have great maturity with our guards,” Burt said. Nina [Aho], Amanda Kalin and Libby might not make every shot, but they’re pretty good with ball security. When it’s time for the moment to shine, I have com- plete faith in all nine kids that play for us. I have faith in any of the nine that we put out on the floor in the last minute or two.”

The win improved Duquesne’s record to 17-9 overall, and 7-6 in conference play. It also pushed them one game ahead of Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 standings.

Just three games remain on the Dukes’ regular season slate. Their ability to host a first round game in the Atlantic 10 Championship tournament depends on the results of the next few games. The Dukes will take on George Washington, Fordham and St. Bonaventure before the regular season concludes.