Duquesne women brace for pivotal Atlantic 10 stretch
February 13, 2013 5:00 AM
A key two-game stretch against conference foes Saint Joseph's and Dayton awaits the Duquesne women and coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A quick glance at Duquesne's series history against Saint Joseph's is all it takes to understand how the rivalry has gone in recent years.
It is a long string of "L"s for the Dukes, punctuated by a lone "W" in 2009.
Of the teams' past 10 meetings, the Hawks have won nine. None of the current players on the Duquesne roster have beaten Saint Joseph's.
The Hawks come into A.J. Palumbo Center tonight for what Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio admitted was "one of the biggest games of the year" in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Dukes (19-4, 8-1) hold a half-game lead over St. Joseph's (16-6, 7-1) in the conference standings. One team will leave Palumbo Center with two losses, though, putting it at a distinct disadvantage in the race for seeding in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Matchup: Duquesne (19-4, 8-1 Atlantic 10) vs. Saint Joseph's (16-6, 7-1), 7 p.m. today, A.J. Palumbo Center.
Duquesne: Coming off a 59-54 win Sunday against Richmond. ... Ranks eighth in Division I in scoring defense, holding opponents to 50.4 ppg. ... Freshman G April Robinson was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week last week.
Saint Joseph's: Coming off a 71-66 loss Sunday at Charlotte. ... Senior G Ashley Prim returned Sunday after missing two games with a head injury. ... Leads the Atlantic 10 in fewest turnovers per game (13.7).
Hidden stat: Duquesne G Vanessa Abel has scored in double-figures in every game but one since Jan. 20.
"It's a must-win, but we're not putting too much pressure on ourselves," Duquesne guard Vanessa Abel said. "It would be a great win if we could pull it out."
Coming off a disappointing loss Feb. 3 at Charlotte, the Dukes appeared to right the ship with back-to-back home wins against St. Bonaventure and Richmond.
Forward Orsi Szecsi missed the Charlotte game with a separated shoulder, but returned for the next two and is expected to play tonight.
The game tonight marks the first of two important back-to-back games for Duquesne, which travels to Dayton Monday to play the conference-leading Flyers.
While a two-game sweep of the Hawks and Flyers would be a tall order, it would go a long way toward solidifying the program's first NCAA tournament bid. It also likely would push the Dukes from the "others receiving votes" category into the Associated Press Top 25.
McConnell-Serio is a coach who constantly preaches staying focused on the next game, next opponent. So while those big-picture ideas don't enter her or her team's mindset, she did acknowledge the importance of the game tonight.
"We really haven't been talking about the NCAA tournament. We're not talking about getting votes or top 25, we don't really discuss anything like that," she said. "Right now, though, we have talked about the importance of this game and the seeding of the Atlantic 10 tournament and where we stand."
The top four seeds receive byes in the conference tournament, and a second loss would put either the Dukes or the Hawks right on that fringe.
A Duquesne win tonight would be a major reversal in a series that stands at 37-5 in favor of the Hawks. McConnell-Serio let her team know that this week.
"I didn't even realize until coach pointed it out [Monday,]" junior forward Wumi Agunbiade said. "That kind of slapped me in the face because I've been here for three years, and that means I've lost to them my first two years. I have no intentions of losing to them again."