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Duquesne women hoping for long postseason run

| Sunday, March 3, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
Duquesne women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio and Vanessa Abel embrace in the closing moments of a 59-43 victory over Butler March 1, 2013 at the AJ Palumbo Center. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

The Duquesne women finished the 2012-13 regular season with a 59-43 win over Butler at the Palumbo Center on Sunday and set a new mark for most wins in the Atlantic 10 in program history at 11-3.

With their sights now on the conference tournament, the Dukes hope that's not the only piece of history they'll make.

“Everyone wants to play their best basketball around this time, so we're expecting everyone to come at us, but we're also expecting to win it all,” said junior forward Wumi Agunbiade, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double this season.

Added senior Vanessa Abel: “We really want to win the A-10 Tournament. That's our first goal.”

No. 5 Duquesne will face No. 12 VCU (11-18, 4-10) in a first-round game on Friday in Philadelphia. If they win, they will advance to face No. 4 Saint Joseph's on their home court in the quarterfinals. The Dukes beat VCU, 73-51, on Jan. 23.

Sunday, both teams started slowly, and although the Dukes stayed a step ahead throughout the first half, Butler answered virtually every basket they made.

They didn't have a chance to counter Duquesne's last basket of the half, however, as Abel hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to give the Dukes a 26-21 lead. That tied their biggest lead of the game to that point.

Duquesne (22-6) shot 57 percent (8 of 14) in the first eight minutes of the second half to open up a 44-27 lead. Butler, which was 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) from the field in the first half, got no closer than 13 from that point.

“Going into the locker room with the three Vanessa hit was huge; it gave us momentum,” coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said.

Oditte Odisho tied a career-high with 14 points off the bench to lead Duquesne.

“She's stepped up her game since Orsi (Szecsi) went down (with a shoulder injury),” Abel said of Odisho. “She's been more of a scoring threat and doing a wonderful job on defense.”

Duquesne dominated inside, outrebounding Butler, 47-33, and outscoring the Bulldogs in the paint, 37-24.

Daress McClung lead Butler with 14 points, and Taylor Schippers added 13. The Bulldogs got just four points from their bench compared to 23 for Duquesne.

Sunday was the first meeting between the two teams since Butler made the game-winning shot with 2.2 seconds left in the first round of the WNIT Tournament on March 17, 2009. It was Duquesne's first postseason game.

Sunday's game was also the last at home for the senior class, including Jocelyn Floyd, who had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, Abel, Ahjah Hall, and Carly Vendemia, who has been injured all season.

“It was a great way to send our seniors out,” said McConnell-Serio, who took Floyd, Abel and Hall out one at a time toward the end of the game. “I couldn't be more proud of how they finished (Sunday) and what they've accomplished, and I know that in their minds and in our minds we're not finished yet.”

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