The annual Women’s City Game between Duquesne and Pitt has an extra edge to it this year, as Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio faces her former team for the first time.
But for McConnell-Serio and Duquesne coach Dan Burt, it is business as usual.
“I’m treating it as another game,” McConnell-Serio said. “I have no idea what it will be like showing up that day, but heading into it, my job is to prepare our team.”
“In a lot of ways, it’s just another game. A lot of people have tried to make it a little bit more emotional than we consider it to be,” Burt said. “It’s a game that’s important, but I’ve tried to not put any more emotion into it.”
The meeting Sunday is the 32nd between the Dukes and Panthers, with Pitt leading the series, 19-12.
Despite the all-time advantage, Pitt will attempt to defeat Duquesne for the first time since 2008 before moving into Atlantic Coast Conference play. Pitt failed to win a conference game the past two seasons as a member of the Big East.
“I think this would be a good win for us. Duquesne is a very good team,” McConnell-Serio said. “For us to come away with a win, it would give us a great deal of confidence going into the ACC because I would expect Duquesne to do very well in the Atlantic 10.”
The Dukes look to continue their dominance against Pitt as the team prepares for a tough stretch in the Atlantic 10, beginning Jan. 1 against St. Bonaventure.
“This is a springboard for us to start and hopefully get a nice run going and get several wins in a row. It’s always a big game when you play your crosstown rival,” Burt said. “It sounds like there’s going to be a really good crowd there and we’re excited about playing the game.”
While the coaches have downplayed the significance of facing each other, there is still no love lost between these rivals.
“I think our kids are very motivated for every game, but with this being the City Game, it’s always a little extra motivation,” Burt said. “There are some friendships among both teams. For this day, I think friendships are suspended and everybody likes to get after it.”
One key to Duquesne’s success will be limiting junior guard Brianna Kiesel, who leads the Panthers with 16.5 points per game and 4.1 assists per game. Pitt also possesses a sizable frontcourt that creates matchup problems inside.
“Kiesel is a very good basketball player, but I do think they have other players on their team that are very good players,” Burt said. “You have to hit the boards. You have to be able to contain penetration and contain the boards.”
A balanced scoring attack featuring five players who average more than 10 points per game has led to great success for Duquesne.
“They run some of the sets we’ve run in the past,” McConnell-Serio said. “They do some of the same things defensively, but putting their own spin and their own touch on this team.”
There might be a little added emphasis on those patrolling the sideline before the game, but once the clock starts, it is all about the battle on the floor.
“We have a group of young women that are hungry and looking forward to the challenge of playing Pitt,” Burt said.
“I think if history repeats itself, there’s a lot of emotion. It’s a highly competitive game,” McConnell-Serio said. “Once the tip goes up, you’re just coaching your team.”
Jordan Greer: firstname.lastname@example.org.