Maybe this will be the season the Duquesne women's basketball team finally reaches the NCAA tournament.
Duquesne's players think so. So does Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia.
Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio is cautiously confident they will.
These views were made after Duquesne's 61-47 victory Sunday against Robert Morris at Sewall Center in a game that was more highly contested than the final score would indicate. The Dukes (6-1) led throughout for their fifth consecutive win, but they had to weather a spirited late rally by the Colonials (0-7), who trailed by seven with six minutes remaining.
"I would be surprised if they don't make it [to the NCAA tournament]," Buscaglia said of the Dukes, who have won at least 20 games and participated in the WNIT in each of the past four seasons. "I really believe this is the team to do it. They only thing they lack is great size. They have a lot of parts to their team."
Duquesne was led by Jocelyn Floyd, a senior guard from Washington High School. Floyd, who had 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, leads Division I with 6.2 steals per game.
"I really don't look for steals," she said. "I read the ballhandler's eyes."
Wumi Agunbiade, a 6-foot-2 junior, had 13 points and 5 rebounds.
"I think this is our best team," she said. "I think this is going to be our year."
McConnell-Serio picked up the theme.
"They've raised the level of expectations. I see it in their demeanor," she said. "This team is very capable [of reaching the NCAA tournament]. We talked about that at the beginning of the year. We don't talk about it now."
While Duquesne is soaring, Robert Morris is sinking to its lowest point since the Colonials went 3-24 in Buscaglia's first season as coach 10 years ago. The Colonials, who have won 20 games in a season five times and been to the NCAA tournament twice and the WNIT once in the past decade, have been decimated by injuries and the transfer of three players. The lone returning starter is 6-foot-2 junior Artemis Spanou, a candidate for player of the year in the Northeast Conference. She had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 4 steals despite relentless defensive pressure applied by the Dukes.
"We're down to seven healthy players and one player with a cast on her thumb," Buscaglia said.
Senior point guard Jasmine Tate injured her left knee late in the game and will have an MRI today.
Duquesne plays host to Saint Francis (Pa.) 11 a.m. Wednesday) and Pitt 2 p.m. Saturday at A.J. Palumbo Center.
The Dukes play at West Virginia later this month to complete their games against district teams.
They are 13-8 against those teams since McConnell-Serio's arrival.
"Those games are for pride." Floyd said. "But those are games we expect to win just like we expect to win every time we play."