Late surge of 3-pointers keeps title of best women's basketball team in Pittsburgh on 'The Bluff'
Pitt's Brianna Kiesel, left, fights for the ball along the baseline with Duquesne's Jose-Ann Johnson in the first half Saturday at the Palumbo Center.
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For the fourth year in a row, Duquesne made it clear which team is the best in women's basketball in Pittsburgh.
Pitt made it close this time around, but the Dukes earned their fourth consecutive Women's City Game victory Saturday, topping the Panthers, 70-61, at the Palumbo Center.
"Our players came out right from the beginning ready to play. There was a focus, offensively [and] defensively," Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "We knew Pitt was going to come in here with a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. It's a rivalry, it brings out the best in people."
Pitt (6-3) closed the gap to two points with 6:22 left and trailed by five with 3:06 to play, but the Dukes (8-1) came through with big shots when they needed them.
After a layup from Pitt's Asia Logan made it 60-55, April Robinson and Belma Nurkic made back-to-back 3-pointers that extended Duquesne's lead to 66-57 and essentially ended any hope of a Pitt comeback.
"The first 3 was a dagger," Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said, "but the second 3, to me, was a nail in the coffin."
Nurkic led all scorers with 18 points, and she shot 5 of 8 from 3-point range. She said the key for hot shooting days such as Saturday was just keeping things simple.
"I try not to think about it," she said. "Thinking is a big problem for me. I tend to over-think things sometimes."
Three other Dukes scored in double figures, and guard Jocelyn Floyd chipped in 11 rebounds and four steals.
"Every single player that played in the second half made big plays," McConnell-Serio said.
Pitt actually jumped to an early lead in the first half, taking an 11-2 advantage three minutes into the game. Duquesne stayed calm though, and went on a 17-2 run to claim a 19-13 lead five minutes later.
McConnell-Serio said the biggest adjustment her team had to make was locking down on point guard Brianna Kiesel, who scored eight of Pitt's first 11 points. Kiesel had 14 points in the first half but just three in the second.
"You come to know your players over the course of coaching them. I don't like to panic early and, ironically, this is probably the first game we got off to a slow start," McConnell-Serio said. "I thought we got great looks to start the game. I thought our players would settle down, and that's what happened."
On the defensive end, Duquesne used a 2-2-1 press to fluster the Panthers and create some easy opportunities in transition. The Dukes had 12 steals, including eight in the first half.
"We just wanted to slow them down," McConnell-Serio said. "We felt that if they had too much time to execute in the half-court [game] and run their offense, they're more effective."
Kiesel said Pitt adjusted at halftime to try to take advantage of opportunities breaking the press, and the Panthers did get some easy buckets in the second half.
"We had to push the ball," Kiesel said. "We were stagnant, so we weren't moving the ball up the floor. I think we did a good job in the second half."
Kiesel's 17 points led the Panthers, and Logan recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Logan was undersized going up against Duquesne's Wumi Agunbiade down low, but still held her own.
"Playing man down low, I'm a little quicker," Logan said. "I've just got to utilize my speed more."
Both teams have over a week off before returning to action Dec. 16, when Pitt will play Rider and Duquesne will take on James Madison.
Until next year's game, though, the Dukes are the champions of Pittsburgh.
"It was a great game," Berenato said. "Unfortunately we came out on the short end of the stick."
First Published December 9, 2012 12:00 am