Dukes continue to roll
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The Duquesne women continue to pad a resume that could send the Dukes to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
The Dukes have shaken off a midseason malaise and regained their stride with their third consecutive victory, a 65-45 thumping of long-time nemesis Temple Sunday in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at A.J. Palumbo Center.
Forward Wumi Agunbiade, a 6-foot-2 junior, tied a season high with 23 points -- she had 23 in Duquesne's previous game -- and pulled down eight rebounds as the Dukes (14-3, 3-0) raced to a 9-0 lead and never looked back against the Owls (7-10, 1-2). Temple, which had won the previous five meetings and 15 of 16, now leads the series, 32-12. The victory was even more impressive because it came without Jocelyn Floyd (shoulder injury), who leads Division I with 5.3 steals per game. Vanessa Abel, making her first start of the season since receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA in December, picked up the slack with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.
"It's great to see her feeling good about herself," Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said of Abel, who had two surgeries on her left kneecap after a January 2011 injury. "There's a difference in starting a game or coming in off the bench. To be depended on right from the beginning gave her confidence.
"Temple traditionally is one of the best teams in our conference, that's why this is such a significance win for us."
Duquesne got major contributions from its reserves -- Ahjah Hall (6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Oditte Odisho (six points), Stasia King (four points) and Raegan Moore (five points).
"We didn't skip a beat with different combinations on the floor,' Serio-McConnell said. "We were defending. It was fun to watch. Defense is our bread and butter."
The Dukes led, 34-14, at halftime, holding the Owls to the lowest point total of an opponent in a half this season.
"Every game we focus on defense," Abel said. "Our offense comes from our defense."
Duquesne's swarming, relentless defensive pressure created 15 steals, forced 25 turnovers and held Temple to 2 of 15 on 3-point attempts. The Dukes rank fourth in Division I in steals (13.8 per game) and 3-point percentage defense (23.8 percent), while allowing an average of 50.2 points per game.
"We lost a lot without Jocelyn so it was important for all of us to step up," said Hall, a senior. "I've just got to give it everything because this is my last go-around."
Agunbiade was asked to explain her recent scoring outbursts after a slump in December. "I'm playing more with my instincts," she said. "I've put more focus on preparing mentally."
McConnell-Serio picked up the theme. " It's a mindset for Wumi," she said. "She's calling for the basketball, she's more assertive on the boards and she's reading defenses better. I know she was frustrated with herself before."
First Published January 21, 2013 12:00 am