Michael O’Grady and Austin Hansen | Staff Writers
It was another week of ups and downs for The Dukes, who took a rough loss to Saint Joseph’s on Saturday, before besting St. Bonaventure, 76-67 on Wednesday night.
After playing a tight first half, the Dukes were looking to upset the Hawks, who were the second-ranked team in the conference preseason poll. Precious Johnson subbed into the game for the Dukes and hit two quick layups and a Tess Myers mid-range shot off of her own rebound helped spark an early 11-0 run from the Dukes and gave them a 14-5 lead more than halfway through the first quarter.
However, Saint Joseph’s came out flying in the second half with a 16-0 run. The Hawks leading scorers of the game, Laura Ziegler, who scored a season-high 25 points, Talya Brugler and Mackenzie Smith led the charge to put the game away, sending Duquesne home with a 15-point loss on Hawk Hill.
The Dukes had no answer for Saint Joesph’s outside shots during the run, which included a 3 from Ziegler and back-to-back 3s from Smith. In the interior, Brugler had a 3-point play which would be the Hawks final point of Duquesne’s scoreless drought.
“It was us playing good defense for 20-plus seconds on each possession and then [Saint Joseph’s] hitting shots,” said Duquesne Head Coach Dan Burt.
A lead of 16 would be too much for the Dukes, even when they used a smaller lineup to crawl within 6.
Hamilton went 2-of-4 from long range while Myers went 3-of-5 from distance. The 3-pointer would be Duquesne’s most efficient scoring of the day as they went 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Dukes were outrebounded by the Hawks 32-23, and this is a focal point for Burt’s squad going forward.
“We have to box out a lot stronger and be more aggressive boxing out,” Burt said.
It was a much better result at Cooper Fieldhouse on Wednesday, especially on the boards. The Dukes outrebounded the Bonnies 36-29 in the victory.
Though Duquesne never trailed, the night was punctuated by their hot starts to both halves, with 24 points in the first quarter and 26 in the third. Megan McConnell led the way with her fifth double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and picking up 13 rebounds while playing the full 40 minutes. Ayanna Townsend was right behind her, dropping a season-high 15 points. Defensively, the Dukes often forced the Bonnies into bad shots, keeping St. Bonaventure to just 34% combined shooting.
“Coach [Rick] Bell always harps on just not letting our opponents be comfortable,” McConnell said. “I think just playing where we’re supposed to be and playing our role is what helps us defensively, and if we do that, good things will happen.”
Duquesne’s energy was high from tip-off. With constant cuts to the bucket and the defense forcing poor Bonnie shots from the outside, the Dukes led 16-3 before five minutes had elapsed, and finished the first quarter leading by 11. It was a much more tense second quarter, as the Dukes went cold and St. Bonaventure capitalized on all eight of their free-throw attempts to go with six field goals. At one point, a very animated Bell could be heard screaming “Keep them off the line!” from the Duquesne bench.
Until a McConnell layup right at the end of the quarter, the Dukes hadn’t scored for nearly five minutes and ended the half leading by just 5.
They would start the second half having regained their edge en route to a dominant third quarter at both ends of the floor. With 26 points, seven offensive rebounds and holding the Bonnies to just 2 points for most of the frame, the Dukes were firing on all cylinders.
“We went into the locker room, we talked about some things, we fixed some things, and we went out and had a strong third quarter,” McConnell said.
St. Bonaventure finally started hitting tough shots in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to catch Duquesne, who have now won 13 of their last 14 against the western New Yorkers. Duquesne moves to 9-8 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
Perhaps with the volatility of his team’s games in mind, Burt emphasized an improvement-based approach.
“We have to be better at everything, every facet of the game,” he said. “I’m not gonna be satisfied with winning, but we’ll be happy until midnight, and then we’re gonna move forward.”
Up next is a trip down to Davidson Sunday before taking on first-place Richmond at home Wednesday night.