Pittsburgh, PA — On a cold Thursday night, the traditionally blue-and-gold seated Petersen Events Center had plenty of red-and-blue attached to it.
In a City Game rivalry, Duquesne’s fans and teams passed up the Pittsburgh Steelers game to watch its women’s basketball team take on Pitt.
Duquesne’s volleyball and men’s basketball teams both were in attendance, as was coach Keith Dambrot as well as several Duquesne students.
It would not be unfair to say that there appeared to be more Duquesne fans than Pitt.
Duquesne fed off that energy and for a fourth consecutive season, it bested Pitt, this time by a 66-53.
“We had a big pro-Duquesne crowd tonight,” coach Dan Burt said. “We heard the Red and Blue Crew in the end zone and that’s going to get your players jacked up and excited. This is the City Game and I don’t care what anyone says, it matters and it is a little bit more important.”
In the contest, Duquesne was led by junior Julijana Vojinovic who scored 23 points, two off her career-high and bettered her 19 point effort in last season’s City Game. Junior Chassidy Omogrosso scored nine points and added a career-high eight rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Eniko Kuttor also set a career-high with her 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of play.
“I told Eni before the year began that she would lead the Atlantic 10 in rebounds and if you can get 10 rebounds you are going to play,” said Burt. “I thanked her for redshirting to get better as a basketball player and when you can get 10 boards in 24 minutes, you’ve got to be really happy with that. She was pretty good defensively tonight, offensively she needs to get sharper. Eniko has given us a lot of good minutes and we’re kind of by committee in the post this season. When we have more games we’ll be better off because only Kadri-Ann Lass has really played minutes for us.”
Pitt senior Yacine Diop scored 22 points while teammate Kalista Walter added 21 points on 9-14 shooting and added nine rebounds.
This game represents the earliest the City Game has ever been played on the schedule and in some respects that showed from both teams perspectives.
Duquesne missed shots it typically makes and Pitt missed several open shots, namely on its 3-point shots of which it was 4-18 on the night.
“We’re happy that we got the victory in the City Game, we as a team are happy to get a win,” Burt said. “We had a lot of mistakes tonight that need cleaned up. That being said I’m pleased with how Juca played with great confidence tonight and really shot the ball very well.”
A rivalry game
It may have been a Thursday night in which there was a home Pittsburgh Steelers game, but 1,410 fans, decided to attend this basketball game, an important fact for women’s basketball in the city.
Still the game could have been better attended for two teams who put their hearts and all into it.
“We’re not happy with where the game was scheduled,” Burt said. “We think this game should be a jewel and it should be played on a weeknight where there is not a Steelers game and there is more media coverage. We want to increase girl’s and women’s basketball in Western Pennsylvania. We would prefer to play this on a Friday or Saturday evening or a Sunday afternoon a little later in the afternoon when both teams are going to be better.”
Coming from Serbia, Vojinovic was not as aware of this game and considered it just another non-conference game, but that mentality quickly changed.
“I see my American teammates and they are all hyped for every game but this game means so much to them,” she said. “Being with them and the coaches I just experienced the same as them so it is nice to beat them.”
The Pitt players also acknowledged this game is a rivalry in every sense, something which makes the disappoint of falling short for four consecutive years and eight of the past nine, a harder pill to swallow.
“This is our City Game so it is kind of personal,” said Walters. “It really hurts when you take that loss but we didn’t do the things we needed to do to get the win.”
Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio had a different vantage point of sorts, still viewing the loss as a disappointment, but for a different reason.
“It’s just another game on the schedule,” she said. “It really is a tough situation and I am sure the men would feel the same way. We are a BCS school and they are not, so when they beat us it’s a big deal. It’s a tough situation when you play a team like this because of the perception.”
Three and out
1.While Diop had success in terms of the amount of points scored, she had to work for many of them. This was partially because of who Burt had guard her.
Burt tasked Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Defensive Team junior Conor Richardson guard Diop but also tasked freshman Amanda Kalin with that assignment.
“Yacine is their best offensive player and she makes them go,” Burt said. “We wanted to give her Conor and Amanda because they are our two best on-ball defenders. Conor needed a break and picked up two fouls at some point so you know Amanda is going to be that first guard off the bench right now.”
In the first half, this was largely effective as Diop did not get many good looks and her misses became contagious as Pitt’s offense largely revolved around two players for most of the night, something McConnell-Serio conceded may have led to the loss.
Diop did improve in the second half when she tried to slow her play down.
2. Duquesne needs to get more offense moving in the post. Getting outscored 32-10 in the post is not all that great. Some of it is as Burt said above a lack of experience at the post position. Kadri-Ann Lass does have plenty of post experience, but Paige Cannon is coming off a season with limited minutes, Kuttor a redshirt season, Helmi Tulonen is a freshman, Angela Staffileno was unavailable to play in this game and when Judith Sole did play last season, she was coming off a major injury.
As non-conference play does resume, there should be more answers than questions with the post play, something which excites Burt.
3. Once again, the fourth quarter provided some nervous moments for Duquesne fans as Pitt cut what seemed a safe lead down to eight points with 3:28 to play.
Duquesne a tough opening game on the road to Charlotte because it did not nail fourth quarter shots and this was something which plagued last year’s team at times as well.
In an effort to calm his team down, Burt told his players “the clock is our friend” as Duquesne waited until the final seconds on the shot clock when Vojinovic sank a shot which put Duquesne up 15 with 1:49 to play and essentially ended the game.
Duquesne will be tested in a similar way several times this season and it will be up to them to find ways to pull out these games.
Duquesne will travel for its fourth consecutive road game when it faces Eastern Tennessee State Sunday afternoon. At the time of this recap, ETSU was 2-1 on the season.
Pitt will host Towson Sunday afternoon. Towson is 0-2 on the season after losing 66-43 at home to George Washington.