Duquesne eliminates Saint Louis, 72-51, breezes into A-10 semifinals
Dan Burt didn’t expect sleep to come easily Friday night.
“I’m sure the adrenaline will keep me up,” Duquesne’s women’s coach said.
But after the Dukes pounded Saint Louis, 72-51, in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal before 1,009 at Palumbo Center, Burt can be sure of this:
“When you play like this and you feel really good about where your team is, you sleep with a clear conscience.”
The No. 3 seeded Dukes (19-12) are in a good — and familiar — place after reaching the A-10 semifinals for the third time in four seasons with consecutive dominant victories. Duquesne, which defeated Rhode Island, 106-69, on Tuesday night in a first-round game, will play No. 2 Fordham (23-8) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Palumbo.
“They play fast. They shoot fast. They score fast,” said Saint Louis coach Lisa Stone, whose team beat the Dukes on Feb. 13 at Palumbo, 67-63. “We ran into a buzzsaw. They’re figuring it out at the right time.”
Duquesne led only 29-27 early in the third quarter before the Dukes turned the game over to 5-foot-4 senior guard Chassidy Omogrosso (Blackhawk), who scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in a span of 1 minute, 44 seconds. By the end of the third quarter, Duquesne led 56-34.
“When you’re small, you have to play big, and she plays big all the time,” Stone said. “She doesn’t get tired.”
Omogrosso said the victory was “payback time,” referring to Saint Louis’ victories last month and a year ago when the Billikens knocked the Dukes out of the A-10 tournament. “We had to prove a point,” she said.
Funny thing, none of that motivation came from Burt.
“I never said a word about it,” he said. “It was definitely more player-oriented. I don’t feel like we get motivated that way, at least when it’s coming from me.”
No matter where it originated, the margin of victory was important because it allowed Burt to rest his regulars. No one played more than 28 minutes. It was especially helpful to senior Conor Richardson (Carlynton), who has two bad knees and a fused back. She had back surgery in high school, knee surgery in November and doesn’t practice. But she played 17 minutes — two more than Burt had hoped — and scored 12 points with four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
“She’s a beat-up kid. She walks like an old man,” Burt said. “But if she has to play 30 (minutes Saturday), she has to play 30.”
After the game, Burt made sure all of his players went to the massage therapist and got enough fluids and sent them home with their iPads to study Fordham before lights out at 11:30.
“We’ve built a culture where are kids are going to go back and watch the (Fordham) film,” Burt said. “We don’t even have to tell them. They probably watch them more than we require.”
Every little bit of knowledge might help the Dukes, who lost Feb. 3 at Fordham, 57-46.
“Fordham probably plays the hardest (of any team) in the league,” Burt said. “Stephanie (coach Gaitley) is our best X’s and O’s coach in our league.”
Gaitley, whose son, Dutch, is an assistant coach with the Charlotte Hornets, has won 631 games in 33 years at five schools.
“They’re not going to re-invent the wheel overnight to play us,” Burt said. “They’re going to want a low-possession game, and we’re not.”
Armed with a seven-game winning streak and plenty of confidence after two decisive victories, Burt had a good feeling about his team on the eve of its biggest game of the season.
“Right now, we’re playing our best basketball,” he said.
Doesn’t matter, though, because he planned to be awake long after his players had dozed off.
“I’ll be watching film and trying to relax,” he said.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .