Duquesne women advance to A-10 championship game with 56-52 win over Saint Louis
March 6, 2016 12:12 AM
Mitchell Leff/Atlantic 10 Conference
Duquesne beat Saint Louis, 56-52, in the semifinals.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
RICHMOND, Va. — Over the course of her four-year career at Duquesne, point guard April Robinson has taken precisely 1,377 shots for the Dukes.
The 1,377th may have been her biggest one yet.
Robinson hit a 3-pointer from the corner — right in front of Duquesne’s bench — with 22.3 seconds left to propel the Dukes to a 56-52 win Saturday in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament semifinals against Saint Louis.
“I wasn’t sure whether to shoot it or not, but I knocked it down,” Robinson said. “That was just the mentality: Hit the shot.”
That 3 gave the Dukes a 54-50 lead in a tight game that hadn’t seen a margin of more than three points since early in the fourth quarter. Two free throws from Deva’Nyar Workman sealed the win.
Duquesne coach Dan Burt, standing right behind Robinson when she went up for the shot, admitted his first thoughts likely wouldn’t be appropriate for the postgame news conference. But he also said he flashed back to other big shots Robinson had made in the past.
“April and I have been down the road, we’ve seen a lot of things,” Burt said. “One time, somebody asked about the ups and the downs. There haven’t been many downs.”
The Dukes (27-4) already have made program history by having the most wins in a season, sharing their first regular-season conference championship and, when the field is announced March 14, they assuredly will earn their first NCAA tournament bid.
Saturday, they added another by advancing to the first conference title game in team history.
“It’s surreal,” Robinson said. “All 14 girls were so ecstatic in that locker room. That’s probably the loudest I’ve heard them all year — and they’re a loud bunch of girls.”
It was almost a very quiet locker room.
Duquesne jumped to an early 9-0 lead on the Billikens, but went ice-cold in the second quarter, missing their final 11 field-goal attempts of the first half. Burt said they were being too passive, settling for jump shots rather than attacking the rim.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Dukes didn’t let Saint Louis (24-7) pull away and trailed, 25-21, at halftime. Duquesne kept things close in the third, but couldn’t quite get over the hump until a jumper from Robinson gave her team a 36-35 lead with 1:24 left in the third. The Dukes briefly pulled ahead by five early in the fourth, but the final eight minutes were played within a three-point margin until Robinson’s decisive shot.
Robinson had 12 points and four assists, while freshman Kadri-Ann Lass scored a team-high 15 points.
The Dukes’ task will get even tougher in the championship today against George Washington, which beat VCU, 72-58, in the first semifinal. The top-seeded Colonials beat the Dukes, 70-52, Jan. 17 at Palumbo Center and are led by Jonquel Jones, who averaged 16.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game this season.
Jones is still recovering from midseason shoulder injury, but played 21 minutes Saturday in the semifinals, scoring 11 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
Still, Burt and his players look forward to the challenge.
“The kids aren’t dumb, they know what’s at stake,” he said. “We hang another banner. We get to play a team that beat us earlier, who is a very good basketball team, very well-coached and, to me, has a top-five draft pick.
“What greater challenge could you have at this time of the year?”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.
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