Waslyson leads Dukes to miracle comeback

Ava Rieger | Staff Photographer | Lauren Wasylson's nine points in a 30-second span helped Duquesne to a miraculous comeback over Monmouth in the Round of 32 of the WNIT.

Rowan DuBois | Staff Writer

Lauren Wasylson’s last-minute heroics helped propel Duquesne to a thrilling overtime victory against Monmouth University in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, 69-65, on Monday night.

After failing to get going on offense for most of the night, especially from the 3-point line, the Dukes found themselves trailing the Hawks 59-51 with just over a minute remaining. Lauren Wasylson was finally able to break the deadlock from behind the arc as she knocked down a 3. The Dukes continued to feed the hot hand in Wasylson, and she was fouled twice while shooting 3-pointers. Wasylson proceeded to knock down six consecutive free throws, sending the game to overtime, 60-60. According to ESPN, Duquesne had just a 0.2% chance at winning with 63 seconds remaining in the game.

“We practice free throws every day,” Wasylson said, “Coach [Rick] Bell tells us to put yourself in a scenario that might happen in a game-like situation, and that’s what happened today.”

The Dukes carried that momentum into overtime, and Amaya Hamilton would go on to make the game-winning shot as she collected her own rebound and laid it up to give the Dukes the edge with 21 seconds remaining. Wasylson came up big in overtime too, sinking two more free throws to extend Duquesne’s lead to 4 and securing the victory.

The comeback Wasylson led on Monday was nearly as improbable as the one that brought her back onto a basketball court after tearing her ACL and needing treatment for blood clots.

“I didn’t think I was going to put on a jersey again,” Wasylson said, “All my life I have proved people wrong. And I especially did that today, and I am very proud of myself.”

It also took big efforts from Precious Johnson and Megan McConnell to push the Dukes toward the win. Johnson had 15 points and seven rebounds, while McConnell had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Both teams played solid defense throughout the game, as both forced double digit turnovers, while also limiting offensive rebounds to under 10. Duquesne was able to hold Monmouth to only 34% shooting on the night, however, Monmouth kept a narrow lead for a large majority of regulation.

“We defended very well,” said Head Coach Dan Burt, “But anytime we could get a 2-point lead, they answered that.”

The Hawks were led by Jania Hall, with 16 points, and Ariana Vanderhoop, who was the game’s highest scorer with 18. Monmouth stifled the Duke’s offense for a substantial portion of the game, as the Dukes shot a woeful three-of-16 from the 3-point line. These struggles may have been due to an unusual amount of time off for the Dukes, as their last game came 16 days ago in the A10 tournament.

“We had 16 days of rust. We knew that we were going to have this rust. It was just how quickly can we get through it,” Burt said. “I was hoping it would take a quarter, maybe three minutes. It took us about 35 minutes.”

The Dukes were cheered on by a large crowd in Cooper Fieldhouse on Monday night, to which Burt and the players expressed immense gratitude.

“It was a boring game, but man those fans got behind us and it was in an electric atmosphere once we got into that fourth quarter,” Burt said, “We gave them something to cheer for, certainly in the last couple of minutes.”

Duquesne has never progressed beyond the ‘Super 16’ in the WNIT but will have the chance to do so on Thursday, traveling to face the Purdue Boilermakers. That game takes place on Thursday, March 28, at 7 p.m.