Strong start propels Dukes

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In Duquesne's win Sunday against Xavier, the Dukes held a 20-point lead with just over 17 minutes to play. From that point, they let the Musketeers whittle away at the lead before holding on for a two-point win.

Against Saint Louis Wednesday, there was no such letdown.

The Dukes (13-3, 2-0) took a 17-point lead at halftime and never looked back, taking down the Billikens, 68-41, in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at A.J. Palumbo Center.

"It was good to be home," Dukes coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "Our players came out with a lot of energy defensively and I think that set the tone. We matched the sense of urgency Saint Louis played with when they tried to get back in the game."

Forward Wumi Agunbiade scored a season-high 23 points in the win, and Orsi Szecsi added 13 points, 4 blocks and 3 rebounds. It was Szecsi's highest point total since putting up 17 against North Carolina in the second game of the season.

"It's amazing when they [Agunbiade and Szecsi] are contributing the way they do, both offensively and defensively, how much easier the game is for everyone else," McConnell-Serio said.

Szecsi said that, as the team's elder players, it was their responsibility to instill a sense of calm after two losses and the near-collapse against Xavier.

"When we run around like chickens with no heads, we just take the ball and calm down," she said. "That's how we show an example to the freshmen who haven't been in conference games."

For Agunbiade, Wednesday marked a breakout game of sorts. She had a nine-game streak of double-digit scoring earlier in the season, but had been held in single figures for three of the past four games.

Agunbiade said she felt herself gaining some momentum in practice over the past two days and translated that into a good performance Wednesday night, to which Szecsi quipped after the game, "It's about time."

The Dukes came out firing early, jumping to a 6-0 lead and forcing the Billikens (7-10, 1-1) to call an early timeout.

Leading, 18-8, with just under 13 minutes to play, the Dukes ripped off a 12-0 run that would ultimately put the game out of reach. Saint Louis did not score its next basket until 6:54 left in the half.

Still, entering the second half, McConnell-Serio said she reminded her squad of what happened against the Musketeers. She noted that the Billikens had done a better job penetrating the Dukes defense late in the first half, and wanted to seize momentum with some baskets early.

"We just talked about coming out of the locker room and not allowing them to set the tone," she said.

"I thought we matched that in the second half."

NOTE -- The Atlantic 10 Conference released its inaugural Women's Basketball Legends. Of the 16 players on the team, Beth Friday (Bovay) of Upper St. Clair was the only former Duquesne player to make the list. Former Rhode Island guard Dayna Smith, a Penn Hills native, also made the cut.

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter: @SWernerPG.


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