Addison Smith | Opinions Editor
Jose-Ann Johnson began to tear up during the postgame conference after the Duquesne women’s basketball team lost to the University of Dayton Flyers 74-60 in the Dukes’ first visit to the Atlantic 10 Championship semifinals since 2006 on Saturday in Richmond.
The Dukes, the 3-seed in the tournament, lost to the second seeded Flyers for the sixth time in six games against them in the past five years.
“We wanted to make it a fist fight, a very physical game, a tough game,” coach Dan Burt said. “I thought we did that. I thought we played with a lot of grit and a lot of toughness, and I think they matched that. Dayton is a very great basketball team … and tonight it was pick your poison … when defending. That being said, I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
For the second night in a row, the Red & Blue were led by Johnson and Deva’Nyar Workman, who combined for 56 points over the quarterfinal game against the University of Rhode Island and the semifinal game against Dayton.
Johnson, a senior playing in her last A-10 tournament, said she was pleased with the effort exerted by herself and her teammates.
“I don’t like losing anything. Anything,” Johnson said, her voice catching as she tried to laugh it off. “I must say we did put up a fight until the end. I thought we worked hard … Overall, we put up a good effort.”
Now, the Dukes are looking towards Monday, when teams selected to play in the NCAA Tournament will be announced. Many, including ESPN and insiders in the A-10, are expecting only two A-10 teams to make the cut: Dayton and George Washington University, who received an automatic bid after winning the A-10 Championship Sunday.
Burt said he knows his team will play in the postseason. He is just unsure of whether it will be the NCAA Tournament or the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
“Our RPI is 46th or 47th in the country,” Burt said. “We’re on a nice streak. I think we’ve won nine of our last 11. We beat some quality teams throughout the year and had a challenging schedule … Two, three years ago we were 39th in the RPI and beat West Virginia by double-digits in West Virginia and we thought we were in for sure, and we were left out. I don’t get my hopes up too high, because I won’t know and I don’t know if anyone knows. I do think we are deserving.”
However, Dayton Coach Jim Jabir said after the game on Saturday that he thinks Duquesne is a tournament worthy team based on their performance over the season.
“I think they’re a very good team,” Jabir said. “I think they have size, their point guard play is very good. I think they have scorers. They play hard, and I think they’ve improved steadily as the season has gone on. I think the A-10 is a strong conference … If they were the three seed, then I think they should be in because it’s a hell of a conference. My feeling is that if you look across the country at the teams vying for those spots, [Duquesne has] every opportunity to be in it. They should be in there. I think they belong there.”
ESPN will broadcast a live feed of Selection Sunday at 7 p.m. on Monday In recent years, because they haven’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, the Dukes found themselves on the outside looking in of the Big Dance. They seemed to have their best chance to advance last year with Wumi Agunbiade and Orsi Szecsi leading the way, but the Red & Blue ripped off a fantastic campaign this year, finishing 21-6 overall and 12-4 in the A-10 in Dan Burt’s second year as head coach.