Washington, DC — After working hard to build a double digit lead on the road, the Duquesne women’s basketball allowed a 14-2 run in 4:33 to tie the game.
After a timeout Duquesne junior guard Chassidy Omogrosso sat at the top of the key with the ball for what felt like an eternity before driving to the hole. As she put up her shot, referee Nykesha Thompson her whistle and after a pause, called George Washington’s Kelsi Mahoney for a shooting foul.
Omogrosso, a 77.6% free throw shooter this season missed the first of two shots and almost immediately after backed off in disgust.
She quickly regathered herself and sank the second causing GW to call a timeout, advancing the ball to the far right side of the court with 3.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
GW tried to get the ball to leading scorer Brianna Cummings, but she could not clean possess the ball. Teammate Chima Latimer got a clean shot up with Duquesne’s Kadri-Ann Lass closing in, but GW’s scoring effort was not successful.
“In the last three seconds we want them to catch the ball out towards half court, you want to deny hard but you don’t want to get beat on a slip and you certainly don’t want to foul anyone,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “We felt like we did a pretty good job of that. The last minute it was all about taking a deep breath. Every was fine, everything was calm, we still had the lead and we would figure this out. By golly we did.”
Duquesne has now won three consecutive games against George Washington with its 54-53 road win Saturday afternoon at the Charles E. Smith Center.
“To get a victory against one of the best coaches in America in Jen Rizzotti, in a game where she did a great job,” said Burt. “She completely out-coached me, there is no question about that. I’m so happy that our kids were able to dig down and find a way to win. Our confidence was a little shook there for a while and that is uncharacteristic for us.”
Duquesne has now improved to 14-3 and is one of three teams to open Atlantic 10 play with a blemish-free 4-0 record. Duquesne is also the only A-10 program to win three conference road games, which was done in succession.
From a GW perspective, this game certainly was a winnable one in several different respects.
For one, the Colonials came in shooting 79.7% from the free throw line as a team which was the sixth-best mark in the NCAA. In this game, GW had no problem getting to the foul line but shot 9-18.
Additionally GW had several offensive dry spells, with the most notable coming in the second quarter where the team went exactly seven minutes without a basket.
“Well that was a tough one to come out on the losing end of,” GW coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I said in the locker room there were just too many things that happened before that last four-and-a-half minutes that were in our control that we didn’t do a good job of whether it was a missed free throw or 50-50 ball. Any team can be good for stretches it’s the teams that can do it for 40 minutes that win championships.”
Despite a quiet second quarter, GW remained in the fight holding Duquesne in similar shooting woes. These two teams were the two most efficient defenses in Atlantic 10 play and this contains held true to that.
Duquesne was held to 24 points and George Washington went to the locker room making two field goals from the field and holding for an extended defensive stand.
“They scored 24 points in the first half, so anytime we do that, it puts us in a good position to win the game,” GW senior guard Brianna Cummings said. “Defensively, we had a lot of mistakes but we held them under 60 but unfortunately we didn’t make enough good plays, too many mistakes to pull it out.”
The nature of the loss stung GW as it came up just short of avenging its conference tournament defeat to this same Duquesne team, which likely ended its NCAA Tournament hopes.
This setback still provided some learning lessons that will need to be taken to the road as GW faces both Davidson and Dayton away from the Smith Center.
“No one likes to lose, this is a tough one, we could have competed all 40 minutes but the third quarter didn’t go as well as we wanted it to, we didn’t start off strong and that didn’t set the tone for us,” junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista said. “Taking this loss, we learned today we have to compete all of the time. At the end of March we can look back and say we learned from that so we’re going to take that and walk with that.”
Stop the presses
The box score will show a one-point win for Duquesne, and Burt certainly will take that, but he was not pleased in any way with how his team closed Saturday’s game.
“We certainly did not play well and a lot of that credit goes to George Washington and their coaching staff,” he said. “They had a game plan for us that nearly worked. Their press was very effective against us and we certainly didn’t close out the game the way we wanted.”
But why did the press work? Well it was a combination of things.
“I think we panicked a lot of the time,” junior forward Kadri-Ann Lass said. “It would have been much easier if we had been more wide, we tended to be very close together in the press so it is easy for them to guard us with only one or two people.”
Burt believes that the team’s 15 turnovers, and GW’s 14 steals certainly played a role as well.
“A little of that could have been confidence,” said Burt. “We turned it over a couple of times and instead of the tide turning in a positive way for us, we lacked a little bit of confidence holding onto the ball. We’ll address that and hopefully not having that issue moving forwards.”
Rizzotti initiated the press when Duquesne first opened up its fourth quarter double-digit lead and it certainly had the desired effect.
“It definitely was helpful in creating some offense because we were struggling in the half-court to get shots we wanted,” she said. “Sometimes it is easier to press when the other team is trying to protect the lead, they tend to get tentative, so at the end of the game, that is kind of an ideal situation when you are down but not something you can do for 40 minutes. We have to continue to evolve in the half-court so we’re not in a position to press down 10.”
Duquesne’s turnovers and miscues were not for a lack of preparation, rather it knew this was a possibility, practicing it throughout the week in preparation for this game.
Though she originally returned against VCU, Kelli Prange saw her first real extended minutes in this game, playing 13 but having an 0-for-4 night from the field with a rebound and two turnovers.
Prange had missed six weeks with a concussion and is still getting her timing down on the court.
In this kind of game there always is a fine line with getting a player back on their feet and winning this game. With this game coming to down to minor details, but Rizzotti went with her senior who tirelessly worked all offseason to improve. That was the image in her mind all Saturday afternoon.
It was also weighing this mid-January game with March and trying to make her team as competitive as possible in the long run.
“She never really got in a groove today, she made some mistakes, but that’s not something you can overcome in practice, she’s got to be out there and I’ve got give her those game minutes because I know what she is capable of and I know we’re going to be better when she gets back to playing like her old self,” she said. “It is making sure she gets her reps but also not putting us in a position where we can’t win because we’re playing her too much. I’m not going to count today as a bump in the road and I would rather see her play her first game in March than her first game after six weeks off.”
Feeling the love
Julijana Vojinovic led Duquesne with 17 points, though Burt was quick to mention her five turnovers. Still this was a day for celebrating as Vojinovic was enjoying her 22nd birthday.
Though Burt did offer that constructive criticism, he immediately said to his guard, who was sitting mere feet away that he loved her.
The response back was quiet, but immediate.
“I love you too,” she said.
Atlantic 10 scoreboard
La Salle 66 St. Bonaventure 63– Finding itself down 61-52 with 3:49 remaining in regulation, La Salle closed this game on a 14-2 win, culminated by Shaquana Edwards’ 3-point shot with 56 seconds to play that proved to be the game winner.
Here's a look at the game-winning three by Shaq Edwards!!!! pic.twitter.com/BoJl2thul6
— La Salle Athletics (@GoExplorers) January 13, 2018
Saint Joseph’s 84 UMass 79 -Saint Joseph’s was down six points at the half, but outscored UMass 25-12 in the third quarter to seize control. UMass was able to cut the deficit to four points, but the Hawks played with a true team effort and won the rebounding battle by a 41-24 score
Duquesne returns to the Palumbo Center to host La Salle. La Salle is coached by Jeff Williams was last season was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.
La Salle was picked to place seventh in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Media Day poll with Amy Griffin being named to the All-Conference Preseason First Team. She leads the team with 15.6 points per game, 44 assists and 88 rebounds.
Duquesne is 18-18 lifetime against La Salle but have won the past four meetings.