It may not have been always pretty, but, in the words of Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, her team just "found a way to get it done."
The Dukes earned their third victory in history against a ranked team Wednesday night, upsetting No. 17 Delaware, 51-47, at A.J. Palumbo Center.
The Blue Hens were playing without All-American senior Elena Delle Donne, who was NCAA Division I scoring leader a year ago with 28.1 points per game. Delle Donne has missed Delaware's first three games this season battling the effects of Lyme Disease.
"'I'll take it," McConnell-Serio said. "It's a good win against a quality team, even without Elena Delle Donne. This team is very skilled."
Neither team seemed to get in much of a flow offensively, but the Dukes were able to get enough second-chance points and force enough turnovers to get the win. Duquesne forward Wumi Agunbiade led all scorers with 17 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.
"It feels great," Agunbiade said. "I don't think I'm back to myself 100 percent, but I'm satisfied with my performance today."
Duquesne jumped to a quick lead in the first half behind its aggressive press defense, which forced the Blue Hens into 14 first-half turnovers. McConnell-Serio specifically pointed to the defensive performance of Jocelyn Floyd, who finished with seven steals.
The Dukes were ahead, 26-18, at the break, but McConnell-Serio warned her team in the locker room that there was still plenty of work to be done and room for improvement.
Sure enough, the Blue Hens came out firing in the second half, picking up the tempo and ripping off a quick 6-0 run to cut Duquesne's lead to two and force McConnell-Serio to call a timeout.
"We expected it, coach warned us," Agunbiade said. "We came out and just didn't really respond the right way, I guess."
Delaware eventually tied the score, 33-33, on a driving layup from Lauren Carra with 11:38 to play. The teams were never separated by more than four points from that point on, and Delaware finally took its first lead with 5:13 left.
With just under 20 seconds to play and Duquesne holding a 48-47 lead, the Dukes needed a basket to ice the game. McConnell-Serio said the first plan was to go inside to Agunbiade, but that option was taken away. Instead, Belma Nurkic set a perimeter screen for Orsi Szeci, who converted a contested 3-pointer from the left wing that gave the Dukes a 51-47 lead.
Not even five seconds later, Szeci drew a charge on Carra that gave the ball back to Duquesne and all but sealed the win.
"It was simply clutch," Agunbiade said.
The win wrapped up the Preseason Women's NIT for the Dukes. They won against Liberty and lost at North Carolina in the first two games. Though victory Wednesday could be a big boost for the Dukes when it comes to NCAA tournament selection time, McConnell-Serio cautioned that there's still plenty of basketball to be played.
"This win could be great for us, this win could mean nothing at the end of the season," she said. "It depends how we do the rest of the season."
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @SWernerPG. First Published November 15, 2012 5:00 AM