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Duquesne gets physical win in women's City Game

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 5:54 p.m.
PItt's Cora McManus shoots over Duquesne's Jese-Ann Johnson at A.J. Palumbo Center Dec. 08. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Duquesne's Wumi Agunblade blocks the first-half shot of Pitt's Brianna Kiesel on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at A.J. Palumbo Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Orsi Szecsi scores past Pitt's Asia Logan on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at A.J. Palumbo Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Jocelyn Floyd fights with Pitt's Marquel Davis for the ball on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at A.J. Palumbo Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Pitt's Cora McManus defends against Duquesne's Wumi Agunbiade on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at A.J. Palumbo Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
PItt's Ashlee Anderson drives past Duquesne's Jocelyn Floyd on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at A.J. Palumbo Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

The women's edition of the City Game was physical enough that no fewer than three Pitt players gingerly left the court due to injury during play.

Although dinged up, all three ultimately returned. It wasn't until a pair of late 3-pointers that Duquesne delivered a knockout blow.

“Those,” Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said, “were backbreakers.”

The final three of Belma Nurkic's game-high 18 points came with 2:13 left, a shot Berenato would call “the nail in the coffin” of a 70-61 Dukes' win Saturday afternoon at Palumbo Center.

Duquesne (8-1) won its seventh consecutive game, never trailing after the 15:19 mark of the first half. But the Dukes had trouble pulling away from their crosstown rivals that they've beaten four straight times.

The Panthers (6-3) cut the deficit to 60-55 on an Asia Logan layup with 3:06 to play. Pitt then extended Duquesne to the end of the shot clock on its next possession before April Robinson sunk a 3-pointer from the left baseline as time expired.

On the next possession, Nurkic hit her fifth 3-pointer of the game.

“Those were the difference-makers,” Berenato said. “The first 3 was a dagger, but the second 3 was the nail in the coffin.”

Nurkic was one point short of her career high.

Also for the Dukes, NCAA steals leader Jocelyn Ford had a game-high four as Duquesne's pressure forced 20 Pitt turnovers. Ford added game-highs in rebounds (11) and assists (six).

Brianna Kiesel had 17 points and Logan 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who still hold a 19-12 edge in the all-time City Game series but have lost 12 of the past 18 meetings.

Be it city pride or the familiarity of opponents who regularly meet for pickup games and summer league play, the game took on a bruising, rugged tone.

“I felt like this was the most physical game I've played in this year,” said Duquesne's Wumi Agunbiade, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.

Pitt charged out to an 11-2 lead, but Duquesne answered with a 17-2 run for a lead it would never relinquish.

“I don't like to panic early ... and it was too early to panic,” Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell Serio said.

Nurkic's first 3-pointer 4:41 in tied the score for the first time, 13-13. She tied a career-high in 3-pointers made.

“I try not to think about it because thinking is a big problem for me,” Nurkic said. “That's a shooter's mentality.”

Before the game, Duquesne announced that Vanessa Abel was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Abel, a Southmoreland graduate, played in 15 games last season before being sidelined due to a stress fracture of the patella.

Abel was given a warm ovation when she entered seven minutes in.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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