WBB fends off Saint Louis in A-10 win

Brentaro Yamane | Staff Photographer | Duquesne’s Megan McConnell dribbles against Saint Louis’ Kennedy Calhoun in the Dukes’ 68-63 home victory over the Billikens Wednesday night.

Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief

Jan. 19, 2023

Megan McConnell posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds — as well as five assists — as the Duquesne women’s basketball team fought off a furious comeback from Saint Louis in a 68-63 win at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse Wednesday night.

The victory helped the Dukes secure their 11th win in 12 tries on their home court this season, with the only defeat coming in a non-conference contest against Tulsa Dec. 1.

Although Duquesne held a 26-8 edge at the end of the first quarter and a 39-18 lead at halftime, the Billikens outscored the Dukes 45-29 in the second half.

Head Coach Dan Burt said that there’s two ways to look at the game, and he’s opting for one over the other.

“You can look at it as a tale of two halves, and you can look at it as we’re 11-1 at home,” Burt said. “And I’ll stick with the 11-1 at home against a scrappy team that’s really taken on the persona of their head coach.

Burt described the game as being “very physical” and one “where we had a lot of cuts on our hands and arms.”

“We withstood a push in those third and fourth quarters to come away with a decisive victory,” Burt said. “We had the lead for over 38 minutes, and so that’s always a good thing. You’re in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and so you’re going to have games like this every single night. The way we came out was outstanding, and the way we finished wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.”

Burt said that one area of weakness was giving up too many offensive rebounds. The Billikens grabbed 25 offensive boards, while the Dukes collected just 13.

“Can’t let that happen, and we did that tonight,” Burt said. “We have to be more aggressive in our box-outs and pursuing the ball.”

When asked whether the hot start in Wednesday’s game could be connected to frustration stemming from Saturday’s 83-62 loss at Fordham, Burt said that it “took [him] a second to realize who [they] even played in the last game.”

“When the last game ends, we move forward, after we do our postgame grading chart and watch film,” Burt said. “And so that was multiple days ago, and that really didn’t have an impact on this game.”

Burt said that what made an impact was a tweak to the team’s practice schedule, adding that the team “practiced the worst that [they] have practiced the last two days prior.”

“Monday and Tuesday, we practiced very poorly,” Burt said. “Our kids have said that they’re tired, their legs are dead … I cut practice early yesterday, and then our shootaround today was 30 minutes, and it’s typically an hour.

“It was crisp. It was on-point. It was very close to perfect execution. And that’s all I really asked of them in this game tonight.”

The double-double was McConnell’s ninth in 19 games so far this season. With 10 points and nine rebounds, Amaya Hamilton was one board short of a double-double of her own. Hamilton had a game-high six assists.

Hamilton noted that their opponent was very aggressive and presented a formidable challenge.

“They had so many people coming off the bench,” Hamilton said. “They were always very fresh and were in attack mode the whole game. Obviously, it was overwhelming and scrappy, but at the end of the day, we had 15 turnovers, could’ve been worse. We just had to stay strong with the ball. It was rough out there.”

McConnell said that she could notice the Billikens getting frustrated.

“I think we did a really good job defensively, except for the offensive rebounds,” McConnell said. “But I think that came from their frustration, and so they were fouling pretty hard. A bunch of us ended up bleeding and [with] scratches, but we’ll be good.”

Hamilton said that, amid situations like Saint Louis’ comeback effort, the Duquesne coaching staff emphasizes that defense is the key to winning games.

“We know that we can score the ball at the end of the day,” Hamilton said. “But getting stops is very important. And then just making sure that, no matter how big of a run they go on, that we just have to stop it at some point.”

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett and some of his former University of Pittsburgh teammates were in attendance Wednesday night. One of the teammates present was Lucas Krull, a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, who is dating Amaya Hamilton.

She said that them being present and sitting courtside “brought up the energy” in the arena.

The Dukes’ next game will be against Davidson on Sunday afternoon at the fieldhouse. Burt said that he’s going to enjoy Wednesday’s victory until midnight, and then “sometime [Thursday] afternoon, [he’ll] sit down and crack open the laptop and start watching Davidson.”

“They return a lot of their players from last year, and [Davidson Head Coach Gayle Fulks] does a nice job down there,” Burt said. “And we have a pretty good understanding of what they do. We’ll really start to game plan tomorrow.”

The Dukes have not defeated the Wildcats since Jan. 4, 2018. The last meeting between the teams came on Jan. 15, 2022, when Davidson bested Duquesne 73-67.