Sean McKean & Jack Morgan | Staff Writers
Duquesne bounced back from a blowout loss to Delaware on Sunday by earning their first win of the Atlantic-10 Conference season over Fordham on Tuesday.
Against Delaware, Nae Bernard’s 3-pointers and Precious Johnson’s close-range shots showcased the Dukes’ offensive prowess as they kept pace with the Blue Hens early on. However, despite their efforts, the Blue Hens’ defensive endurance kept them ahead, and the Dukes found themselves trailing by 1, ending the quarter 21-20.
The second quarter was a nightmare for the Dukes. Bernard was the period’s only scorer, as they were outscored 19-3. At halftime, the Dukes faced a substantial deficit, trailing 40-23. Delaware, led by Tara Cousins with 14 points, Klarke Sconiers with 11 and Sydney Boone with 6, dominated the scoreboard.
A spirited comeback emerged in the third quarter as the Dukes outscored Delaware 19-15. However, the increase in fouls by the Dukes handed Delaware numerous opportunities at the free-throw line, re-opening the gap. The score at the end of the third quarter favored Delaware at 55-42.
The fourth quarter saw the Dukes fighting to regain momentum with fast-break points, but players fouling out thwarted their efforts. Despite their energy, Duquesne ultimately succumbed to Delaware, 74-57.
Duquesne Head Coach Dan Burt expressed disappointment, emphasizing the need for improvement in effort, coaching and toughness.
“I felt that Delaware played harder than we did, and they were a very physical, well-coached team,” Burt said. “We were not ready for their physicality or toughness, and you could tell that – with the different lineup changes throughout the game – I was searching for any solutions I could find.”
While acknowledging standout efforts from players like Ayanna Townsend, Burt lamented missed opportunities and a frustrating loss.
“I think Townsend played like a warrior today,” he said. “Even though the ball just never went into the basket for her, her effort was outstanding … I thought Kiandra Browne and Townsend did that, and Megan McConnell. Still, a bitterly disappointing loss despite our effort today.”
Top scorers for Duquesne included Bernard with 13 points, McConnell with 8 and Amaya Hamilton with 8. No scorer was able to put together a performance that jumped off the scoresheet, something Burt lamented after the game.
It wasn’t just a contested basket the Dukes struggled with. They went a combined 8-of-21 from the free-throw line over the two games.
“When you miss 10 open layups and wide-open threes in the second quarter, I don’t know what more I could do. I can’t put the ball in the basket for them,” Burt said. “There is a lot of work for us to do, especially when we bring Fordham in for our first Atlantic-10 game, who are a similar team in terms of toughness and playing hard.”
It was a different story from Burt after Tuesday’s win. He felt this may not be where they need to be when it comes to their performance from the tip to the final horn, but a 75-73 overtime win in their conference opener was an undoubtedly good way to regain momentum. The Dukes survived a couple of late rallies from Fordham to secure the 45-minute victory.
Duquesne outscored Fordham 29-14 in the third quarter. This included an 18-4 run in the final 4:20 of the quarter. The duo of Tess Myers and McConnell shined bright during that run, contributing 12 of those 18 points. The two also made two three-pointers apiece as well, and it seemed like once they got going, there was no stopping them.
“I think we always play off each other,” McConnell said. “I know as soon as Tess sees her first three go in, we have to keep feeding her.
“As a shooter, you see one go in, you want the ball more,” she said.
That third-quarter surge was quickly stemmed by Fordham, who erased a 16-point deficit in the fourth. With 45 seconds left in regulation, the Rams’ Emy Hayford hit Maranda Nyborg with a clean pass, and she laid the ball up and in to tie the game at 65. The Dukes and Rams traded empty possessions to end regulation, signaling an extra five minutes of basketball.
In the overtime period, both sides traded buckets until the 2-minute mark. With the game tied at 70, Kiandra Browne added to her nine-point night with two more off of a layup inside. On the next possession, she hit Tess Myers on a back cut to give the Dukes a 4-point lead. Along with the nine points, Browne had 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“[Browne] plays harder than everybody on the floor,” Burt said. “There’s a sense of desperation when she plays. I mean, the kid’s on the floor, every third or fourth possession it feels like, either taking a charge or fouling someone. She makes things happen.”
The Dukes almost lost control of the game again in overtime. With 20 seconds left and the Dukes up by four, Fordham’s Mandy McGurk was fouled on a three-point attempt by Bernard. McGurk stepped up and calmly converted on all three free throws. Bernard would get fouled after that with 19 seconds to go, but she missed both free throws. However, Hamilton came up with her fifth offensive rebound of the night. Bernard got the ball again and drew the intentional foul. She made one-of-two on that trip to the line, but Fordham had the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. With no timeouts and 10 seconds to go, the Rams raced down the court. Taylor Donaldson got off a clean look from midrange, but it hit off the back iron and bounced out to give Duquesne the win.
The Dukes will continue their homestand on Sunday against Kent State at 2 pm.