Duquesne women beat VCU, advance to semis

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PHILADELPHIA -- Duquesne women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio will be in a familiar place against a familiar foe this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament when the Dukes play Saint Joseph's in the Hawks' Hagan Arena with the winner perhaps moving closer to a place in the NCAA tournament.

Back in the late 1980s when Penn State was in the conference and McConnell-Serio was enjoying an All-American career as the Lady Lions' stellar point guard, her battles with Saint Joseph's Debbie Black were one of the league's great attractions.

Now she is on the sideline, having built Duquesne into a credible program, but the battles continue such as the one last month in which Saint Joseph's outlasted the Dukes in overtime in Pittsburgh.

The outcome became the tiebreaker that gave the Hawks the fourth seed and a day of rest while Duquesne placed No. 5 and had to take the floor Friday against 12th-seeded VCU, the last team to make the cutoff for the postseason tournament in the 16-team league.

The Rams, despite an earlier loss to McConnell-Serio's bunch in Richmond, gave the Dukes quite the workout until Duquesne's defensive prowess asserted itself for a 64-58 win and the chance to gain some revenge against Saint Joseph's.

"We knew coming in it was going to be a hard-fought game, VCU is so dangerous having played them once," McConnell-Serio said. "We knew they were going to cause a lot of problems so we worked on them two days -- three, actually -- getting ready for it, but it's tough to simulate when they do it every day."

VCU, an Atlantic 10 newcomer this season along with sixth-seeded Butler, bolted to an eight-point lead late in the first half before the Dukes (23-6) rallied to take a 30-29 lead at the break.

Then after dropping behind a point at the outset of the second half, Duquesne cashed in on four consecutive steals for a nine-point lead.

Though VCU (11-19), which seemed to keep answering, rallied for a 44-44 tie with 10:23 left, the Dukes' Orsi Szecsi scored five quick points and Duquesne was able to stay ahead the rest of the way.

Jocelyn Floyd, the Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year who leads Division I in steals, had seven thefts in a Duquesne defensive effort that hounded the Rams into 20 turnovers.

On the offensive end, Szecsi finished with 15 points, April Robinson scored 13 and Wumi Agunbiade scored 12.

VCU's Robyn Parks, the conference's leading scorer, had 23 points, and Jessica Pellechio scored 14.

"Duquesne was incredible, in particular in the second half," said VCU coach Marlene Stollings, who is in her first year with the Rams. "I thought both teams played their hearts out. We turned the ball over a few times at the start of the second half, which I thought was the difference. But all the credit to Duquesne. They're an NCAA tournament team in my opinion."

Other games

• George Washington 59, Richmond 53: Eighth-seeded George Washington (14-15) beat ninth-seeded Richmond (16-15) as the Colonials, under new coach Jonathan Tispis, won their first Atlantic 10 postseason game since 2008. Danni Jackson scored 13 points to pace George Washington, which advanced to play top-seeded Dayton.

• Temple 52, Xavier 45: No. 10 Temple (13-17) snapped a five-game losing streak from the end of the regular season and upset No. 7 Xavier (13-16) to advance to play third-seeded Charlotte. The Musketeers might have played their final game in the A-10 with reports that the school is likely to join the Catholic 7 group that is breaking away from the Big East. Rateska Brown led the Owls with 14 points and six steals, and Ashley Wanninger scored 13 points to pace the Musketeers.

• Saint Louis 44, Butler 41: No. 11 seed Saint Louis (12-18) upset sixth-seeded Butler (17-13), advancing to face No. 3 Fordham in the quarterfinals.

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