Duquesne and guard Belma Nurkic are looking for a crucial home victory against Atlantic 10 foe Saint Louis.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As a general rule of college basketball, a conference road win is no easy feat.
Even the most overmatched opponent can raise its game at home and strike down a reeling favorite.
Coming off two consecutive losses, Duquesne's 56-54 victory Sunday at Xavier might have been just the antidote the Dukes needed for the doldrums that plagued them in back-to-back losses against Delaware and Miami (Ohio).
Duquesne hopes to parlay that road win into a two-game winning streak tonight in its Atlantic 10 home schedule when the Dukes face Saint Louis.
"We kind of set the tone early [against Xavier] defensively and were able to get scores off of our defense and disrupt what Xavier was trying to do," Dukes coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "We made plays on both ends of the floor."
McConnell-Serio's squad had to hold on late against the Musketeers, who mounted a furious second-half rally to cut a 20-point lead to two.
Matchup: Saint Louis (7-9, 1-0 Atlantic 10) at Duquesne (12-3, 1-0), 7 p.m. today, Palumbo Center.
Duquesne: Coming off a 56-54 win Sunday at Xavier. ... Junior forward Wumi Agunbiade (12.2 points per game) and freshman guard April Robinson (10.1) lead team in scoring. ... Rank fifth in Division I in steals per game (13.7) and turnover margin (plus 7.33/game).
Saint Louis: Coming off 60-46 win Saturday against VCU. ... Junior forward Lorreal Jones leads team in scoring (12.5 per game) and rebounding (8.0 per game). ... Senior point guard Jacy Bradley has had more assists than turnovers in 13 of 16 games this season.
Hidden stat: Saint Louis' previous 2-0 start in conference play was 2008, when the Billikens beat Duquesne for their second conference win.
"Every game for us is a learning experience," McConnell-Serio said. "We have a starting point guard who's a freshman [April Robinson], some other young players gaining experience. Players are in roles now where they're depended on more this year than they were a year ago."
One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround, as McConnell-Serio noted, was an increased defensive tenacity.
In the losses to the Blue Hens and RedHawks, Duquesne recorded 9 and 12 steals, both below the Dukes' season average of 13.7. Against Xavier, the Dukes had 16.
Senior Jocelyn Floyd leads Division I with 5.2 steals per game.
The Billikens have had their share of troubles holding on to the basketball. Saint Louis averages a minus 3.6 turnover margin and ranks in the bottom third of Division I.
The Dukes will be seeking revenge, too. The Billikens beat Duquesne, 56-55, in St. Louis in the teams' only meeting last year.
"Our players are familiar, obviously, with [Saint Louis'] situation with them coming in," McConnell-Serio said.
"They have basically everybody back, a lot of players back from a year ago."
If the win against Xavier was about grabbing some momentum, tonight's game is about holding serve at home.
After a strong non-conference season, there has been a lot of talk about the Dukes possibly making the NCAA tournament this season.
"You hear a lot of people say you've got to win the games at home and steal the games on the road," McConnell-Serio said. "Obviously, being home is key. We need to protect our homecourt.
"If we want to be the team we think we can be and accomplish the things we want to accomplish, we have to take care of the games at home."