WVU defeats Duquesne for 10th straight win


Duquesne Dukes guard Olivia Bresnahan played for the first time in nearly two years and scored 19 points in defeat. Photo by Zachary Weiss

The West Virginia women’s basketball team owned a 35-9 series lead over Duquesne, however having won the last two meetings, the Dukes came into the home contest with the series momentum.

The Mountaineers led by 26 in the second half and despite a Duquesne comeback, it was WVU that came out on top 88-80 Saturday at the A.J. Palumbo Center.

“We definitely couldn’t lose three in a row,” West Virginia center Asya Bussie said.

West Virginia got off to a quick start early as Duquesne adjusted to the whistles. They committed six fouls in the first four minutes and had 15 fouls in the first half. By game’s end there were 51 fouls and 71 free throws, while Raegan Moore fouled out and five Dukes had four fouls.

The constant foul calls made it hard for the Dukes to keep players consistently on the floor. It also put West Virginia on the free throw line and the Mountaineers capitalized going 15-15 in the first half after shooting 69 percent as a team this season.

With Moore, Belma Nurkic and Jose-Ann Johnson all getting in foul trouble early, Coach Dan Burt turned to Olivia Bresnahan. This was Bresnahan’s first game after transfering from Florida State following the 2011-12 season.

“It felt great to be back on the court, it’s been so long,” Bresnahan said. “I’ve been practicing with them for the last year, so it’s nice to get on the court, actually contribute and get in the mix.”

Bresnahan would finish with 19 points which included 9 of 10 from the free throw line.

“We feel like we have as strong of a backcourt as anyone with Olivia, Raegan, April and you can throw Belma in there too,” Coach Dan Burt said. “Liv played a very good game for her first game back and she’s certainly going to impact our team. I feel very good about her moving forward.”

The Dukes lone lead of the game was when April Robinson made a three point shot to give the Dukes a 3-2 lead with 19:14 remaining in the first half.

Robinson would score a career high 20 points in the loss.

Duquesne did get Bussie into foul trouble which was a key going into the game and she was subbed out after playing seven first half minutes.

This made WVU a quicker team and they controlled the pace for much of the half. As a result they shot slightly under five percent better than the Dukes and led the whole way.

Linda Stepney put the Mountaineers up 10 with two free throws, however Robinson and the Dukes cut the lead to four. From there, WVU hit a three point shot to build the lead up to 38-30 at the half.

WVU started the second half by scoring the first eight points of the half forcing a Duquesne timeout. The Dukes continued to stay flat and with 11:57 left to play, the Mountaineers led 61-35.

The Dukes comeback started because of the offensive rebounds from Moore and Nurkic. Moore had a career high seven rebounds to go with 11 points. Both had three rebounds and that dropped the Duquesne deficit to 20.

Wumi Agunbiade scored 17 in the game and moved to sixth all-time in team scoring. Her lay-up with 7:27 to play made the WVU advantage 65-49.

The comeback hit a speed bump when Bussie made a lay up and completed a three point play at the free throw line. On the next possession Orsi Szecsi matched Bussie to bring the game back to 16 points.

With 4:28 remaining in the second half, Bresnahan was between free throws when she tried to get Nurkic fired up, clearly saying ‘let’s go’ to her.

“We were in such a big deficit… you just have to keep your spirits up and keep motivating each other,” Bresnahan said. “Looking at the scoreboard and looking at that big number we were down by, sometimes you can just lower your head and just wait for the game to end. We really fought back and came together.”

Less than a minute later, Moore drained a three and the lead was down to single digits for the first time since halftime.

“We went up 26 and disappointed how we played when we were up by 26, but they [Duquesne], played harder than we did the last 12 minutes,” WVU Coach Mike Carey said.

A Robinson lay-up brought it down to seven, but when Taylor Palmer drained a three pointer, the Mountaineers led by double digits again.

Time appeared to be running out on the Dukes, down 11 with 47 seconds to play. Robinson drilled a three but Palmer made two free throws. Agunbiade made a lay-up and WVU split free throws. When Bresnahan made a three, Duquesne was down six.

West Virginia then split free throws again and Bresnahan sank another three point shot to cut the lead to four, she quickly fouled, but Brooke Hampton made both free throws to make the score 86-80 with eight seconds remaining. A steal by Stepney ended the game and the Dukes ran out of time in their comeback bid.

“We put up a valiant effort in the last 10 minutes of the game,” Burt said. “We came out in the second half and frankly they punched us in the face and we did not answer as quick as we needed to, that’s how you get yourself down 26. You can’t get down to a team like West Virginia and expect to come back.”

The Dukes have four days off before resuming practice in preparation for the annual ‘City Game’ against Pitt which will be Dec. 29 at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers are 7-6 on the season with a 1,000 point scorer in Brianna Kiesel. Duquesne won 70-61 last season. Many familiar faces are a part of the Panthers. In addition to the teams playing each other in summer leagues, the entire coaching staff including Suzie McConnell-Serio were at Duquesne last season. Burt was to be a part of McConnell-Serio’s staff before accepting the Duquesne job.