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Duquesne’s adjustments, teamwork pay off in home win

Pittsburgh, PA — It was a silent Palumbo Center as the Duquesne women’s basketball team trailed La Salle 7-2 two minutes into the game and moments later during the media timeout, junior guard Chassidy Omogrosso commanded the huddle with a simple directive.

“We’ve got to get back on defense,” she said.

Though Duquesne had regained the lead between those few minutes, there was the concern that Duquesne was allowing La Salle to run in transition as its leading scorer Amy Griffin netted a couple of easy baskets.

“There was concern but I don’t think there was any paranoia,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “It was early and we recognized in the scout that it was important to get back in defense and stop them in transition. Our starters found that.”

Duquesne ultimately responded with a 23-2 run that stretched into the second quarter, holding La Salle scoreless for 7:37.

The exclamation point came at the end of the first quarter when Amanda Kalin leaped for a rebound, threw an outlet pass to Libby Bazelak, who in transition found an open Eniko Kuttor who converted a layup just prior to the first quarter buzzer sounding.

Despite a slow start, Duquesne was able to record its largest margin of victory this season by a 78-50 count Wednesday night against La Salle.

Duquesne is now 15-3 on the season and improves to 5-0 in Atlantic 10 play, joining Dayton as the lone unbeaten teams in conference action.

“We did what we needed to do tonight to secure a win,” said Burt. “We had moments when we played well and we had moments where we were just okay. We can’t shoot the way we did from the free throw line and we had too many turnovers and that will stick with me.”

Coming into this game, La Salle was a -47 in terms of first quarter point differential, whereas Duquesne was a +60, which were the biggest margins for both teams among the four periods.

La Salle’s quick start had coach Jeff Williams believing that the improved performance in practice would translate in Pittsburgh, but admitted a minute of let-up changed the course of this game.

“We wanted to get off to a good defensive start we’ve been giving up a lot of points in the first quarter and we wanted our defense to kind of key our offense,” he said. “We just tried to push the ball and take care of the ball. We have had a problem with turnovers this year. I thought we got out in transition early and then we just stopped. We stopped defended and started turning the ball over. Duquesne is a very good team. They went on a run and we didn’t respond to their run.”

In La Salle’s case, it is a younger team which has had struggles with putting the ball in the basket and the 50 points Wednesday tied for the second-fewest in a single game on the season. Its huddles consisted of talking about pride, competing and just getting better which are steps towards the team’s goal of hosting an Atlantic 10 Championship first round game.

Those prospects took a hit with this 28-point setback which dropped La Salle to 6-12 overall and 1-4 in the Atlantic 10.

“We have to defend,” said Williams. “With our inability to score at times, we get frustrated at times and we stopped defending. We’re going to try to get on a roll. We’ve been practicing a lot better and I saw some signs.”

Chassidy Omogrosso led Duquesne with 23 points, which allowed her to pass Carol Burchlaw, LynnDee Howell and Maureen Major for 24th in the program’s all-time scoring list, while also adding five assists compared to no turnovers.

Julijana Vojinovic scored 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with La Salle providing some pressure defense.

“She hit really big shots tonight, her play was really good,” Burt said.

No lifeline needed

Paige Cannon was able to pull down a rebound with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter and converted a layup, three seconds later to put Duquesne within one point of La Salle’s lead at the time.

For those watching the moment, it may not have meant much, but this sequence has been something Duquesne has worked for all season.

In addition to being the team’s offensive coordinator Matt Schmidt has had a pet project, at least that is what Burt calls it.

Schmidt has been trying to get Duquesne to win more 50-50 battles, something which was has been a work in progress during this Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule.

Cannon’s rebound was the first true 50-50 ball of this game and Schmidt immediately turned to the bench and explained the importance of that play.

“50-50 balls are momentum changers, that gets us going,” Omogrosso said. “Every time someone gets a loose ball and dives on the floor, that really helps us.”

Throughout the game, Duquesne was diving on the floor for loose balls, fighting for rebounds and doing whatever it could to keep possessions going. It did not matter if the team was down five or up 25, it attacked the basketball in a similar manner.

Two years ago, this was something Duquesne charted and ran drills on, but that has not been the case this season. Burt has been happy with this team’s ability to sacrifice its bodies to try and either earn or maintain possession.

Though Duquesne shot at a 51.7% clip, it still was able to outrebound La Salle 40-30 and 12-9 on the offensive end. Further, La Salle committed 17 turnovers on defense, though it felt like more.

“From game to game it’s just improving the little things because those little things can make a big difference,” said Vojinovic. 

Kalin showing form

When most people go to the stats sheet, Omogrosso and Vojinovic’s efforts likely will be the first thing noted. What may be ignored by some is the impact Amanda Kalin had in this game.

Kalin had slowly seen an increase not just minutes but an increase in game importance for when she is put into the game.

Wednesday, Kalin played 16 minutes, her highest total of the season since Dec. 22 against UConn when minutes were easier to come by given the game’s score.

These minutes were earned and show that both her confidence in addition to the coaches both have risen.

Kalin may have had two points, but she grabbed a career-high seven rebounds, two of which were offensive, and each of her 16 minutes mattered.

“It’s hard for Amanda because she was going really well before the injury and turning that corner again,” Burt said. “She can shoot the three, can finish around the rim, there is some Dev Workman in her. I don’t know if she can create the way Dev Workman did with the ball in her hands, but she rebounds just as well and she can shoot the three. Amanda Kalin is going to be a good basketball player for us and we’re going to have to count on her as we get into February.”

Each of the three freshmen (Bazelak and Helmi Tulonen the other two) have played beyond their class this season and have been able to feed off each other to achieve success.

Towards the end of this game, Kalin also was running the point guard position with the reserves on the court. Her 100% effort has been noticed from everyone on the team.

“She just jumped and ran so hard, she wasn’t giving that ball up,” said Vojinovic. “She’s a hustle player but she always listens and I listen to her too. She just gives a lot to our team, she’s great.”

Five things

1. The bench came to play– As a coach, it warms your heart when everyone comes in and not just that but registers both a shot attempt and a rebound.

That is exactly what happened Wednesday and it brought a smile to Burt’s face.

“I am a softie, I was that kid who didn’t get to play many minutes,” he said. “I was a lot like Kiersten, though she was a lot better than I was. I want to see them have success.”

Burt does take blame for the situations the reserves were placed in since they have had to run the scout team and have not received as much opportunity in practice to run Duquesne’s sets. He did state that he wanted this to change in practice.

2. Cheer up Dan Burt– A fan in the stands said something to Burt which obviously seems to have stuck, since he mentioned it during his postgame press conference.

“I had a fan ask if I was okay because he believes I have been down in our press conferences,” he said. “Shoot we’re 13-1 in our last 14 games, I guess I should be happier, but I know what’s coming up. The teeth of our schedule is coming and it’s coming soon.”

That teeth of the schedule begins Sunday against a much-improved George Mason, continues on the road at Saint Joseph’s which has been a tough place for Duquesne to play, resumes with a potential trap home game against St. Bonaventure and ends with two road games against a challenging Dayton team and a faster-paced Richmond.

It is why Burt was smarting over the 8-for-16 mark on free throws and 12 turnovers, even in the above answer.

3. The Oscar goes to Juca– Move over Moonlight, you have competition and it certainly is not La La Land, that ship has sailed.

Rather it is Vojinovic’s theatrics, which were on full display in the third quarter.

First, Vojinovic was open for a three-point shot in the left corner, got a shot cleanly before La Salle’s Ashanti Freeland made some contact with her in the act of shooting. The shot went in and the foul was called. Vojinovic remained on the ground for effect for a good 10 seconds.

“I’m like I am shooting it and it’s going in,” Vojinovic said. “That’s my shot. I just concentrated more on the shot and saw the defender was on me.”

Just over a minute later, Vojinovic nearly had an encore performance draining a mid-range two-point shot from the top of the key and was fouled by Deja King.

Thus stretch allowed Duquesne to open up a 25-point lead.

“She’s got that European flop to her a little bit,” said Burt. “A little bit of contact for some reason Juca tends to be on the floor or tends to look like she is going to the emergency room. She’s very good at exaggerating contact and tonight she got those calls.”

4. Chassidy’s minutes– It is to no one’s surprise that Omogrosso is competitive and a gamer. She wants to be out on the court at all times and her minutes certainly reflect that.

Coming into Wednesday, Omogrosso ranked sixth in the Atlantic 10 with 35.3 minutes played per game and in conference play, she is tied for fifth with 36.8.

In this game, Omogrosso was held to 29 minutes, just her third time this season below 30 minutes. This was due to emptying the bench and allowing Omogrosso to get some rest, something which could be a benefit as the season continues.

“I am a competitor so i never want to be on the bench but it is important to take care of your body,” Omogrosso said. “It is a long season, so getting rest is huge and people stepped up.”

5. Sisterly love– When Judith Sole is in the game, watching her sister Laia react is almost as exciting as the contest itself.

Laia transferred over to Duquesne from Maine and is sitting out this year, though she is just as much part of the team as everyone else.

When Judith Sole attempted a layup, the younger Sole quickly rose up from her seat on the bench, ready to yell in excitement for her sister, but the shot did not fall and she sat back down, a smile still on her face.

Judith once again had a chance at the foul line but both shots danced around the rim without falling much to Laia’s chagrin. Her emotion was again very visible.

With 41 seconds remaining in regulation, Judith converted a layup, redeeming herself and getting Laia out of her seat, the smile easily seen from any seat.

Having two sisters play for the same team is a unique circumstance as both have gone through highs and lows together, but always have the other to talk to.

Watching this sequence just showed the love these two have for each other and it was powerful to watch.

Atlantic 10 scoreboard

George Mason 77 Richmond 56– George Mason won the second quarter 18-2 to pull away in this game. Natalie Butler recorded her 18th consecutive double-double in the first half and later on pulled down her 1,000th career rebound. Sophomore Sarah Kaminski added 10 points and tied career-highs with seven rebounds and four assists. Camryn Musgrave provided a spark off the bench with her nine points. Richmond was held to 29.7% shooting from the field.

George Washington 53 Davidson 48– George Washington held Davidson to 11 first half points, leading by 16 at halftime, but then trailed by five points before closing the game on a 16-6 run to secure this win. GW’s defense won the day and it started with Davidson shooting 0-for-15 in the first quarter. Brianna Cummings had 20 points and eight rebounds for GW, while Kelli Prange scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in her third game back from a concussion.

St. Bonaventure 81 Rhode Island 70– St. Bonaventure achieved a season-high in points with this game. Both Mariah Ruff and Emily Calabrese scored 19 points with the latter achieving a career-high with this figure. Ruff also added 11 rebounds, recording her first double-double of the season while providing six assists. St. Bonaventure used an 18-3 run which lasted from the end of the first quarter and into the second. Rhianna Council also scored nine points which matched a career-high.

Dayton 63 Fordham 62– Coming into the night, these two teams were tied atop the Atlantic 10 standings but a strong defensive stand from the Flyers with 14.5 seconds left in regulation preserved this win. Fordham led coming into the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Bre Cavanaugh whose 34 points were the second-highest total ever by a freshman in program history. G’mrice Davis also contributed earning her 16th double-double this season. Dayton was led by JaVonna Layfield’s career-high of 26 points while also adding 13 rebounds. Layfield’s 10 fourth quarter points were a big part of Dayton’s comeback. Despite Davis’s efforts, Dayton was able to outrebound Fordham 37-35.

Men’s basketball suffers road loss

Duquesne men’s basketball fell 76-63 in Mike Lewis II’s homecoming game of sorts at Saint Louis Wednesday night.

The Billikens were led by Jordan Goodwin who recorded a triple double of 13 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in addition to teammate D.J. Foreman’s career-high 21 points.

“We just didn’t quite have it,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot. “We ran uphill most of the night. That’s how basketball is, you have to learn to win when you are not playing your best. We were in it for a minute but that charge call made us lose our focus. Mentally we weren’t quite there. Physically we knew we had to win in the trenches and they did the same thing to us. I knew they would come at us hard physically, we just didn’t react very well.”

Duquesne was led by Rene Castro-Caneddy’s 21 points and Eric Williams recorded a late double-double, his eight of the season, with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but three players in Williams, Chas Brown and Tydus Verhoeven all fouled out.

Additionally, Duquesne was outscored 38-18 in the paint, 16-2 on fast break opportunities and had six assists on 19 made field goals.

“I was a little surprised we got handled like that,” said Dambrot. “We didn’t do a good job of keeping it out of there and we paid the price.”

Duquesne now falls to 13-6 overall and 4-2 in the Atlantic 10, while scoring its lowest point total since a Nov. 19 defeat against Robert Morris.

Saturday Duquesne will return home to host George Mason in a game televised by NBC Sports Network and set for a 4:30 p.m tip.

Up next

Duquesne will face George Mason Sunday afternoon. The game has a time change as it will now tip off at 12 p.m instead of the originally scheduled 2 p.m start.

George Mason is off to its best start in decades at 15-4, a total which is the most amount of victories since 2011-12 season. The last time George Mason had 15 wins prior to these two seasons was 2003-04.

Natalie Butler has been a walking double-double recording 18 in a row, while freshman Nicole Cardaño-Hillary has matched Butler with 18.2 points per game and has shown no fear in putting shots up. Sophomore Jacy Bolton will come into the game averaging 9.9 points per game and has been the top returning player.

George Mason is coached by Nyla Milleson who in her fifth season has built the program which has earned headlines in the Washington Post among other publications.

Duquesne last faced George Mason in the Atlantic 10 Championship first round contest played at the Palumbo Center. The home team won that contest by a 66-55 score. Duquesne leads the overall series 6-2 and has won each of the past five meetings.

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