Duquesne women breeze to 106-69 victory against Rhode Island in first round of A-10 Tournament | TribLIVE.com
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Jerry DiPaola

Dan Burt pointed out his team didn’t play defense up to his standards in the first quarter Tuesday night.

He wasn’t happy when his Duquesne women’s basketball team came up with — by his count — only about half of the loose balls.

Then, there was the rebounding. Rhode Island had one more than the Dukes (17-16) in the first half.

In the end, Burt easily learned to live with his team’s few imperfections after the Dukes destroyed Rhode Island, 106-69, in their Atlantic 10 Tournament first-round game at Palumbo Center.

The tournament returns to Palumbo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with No. 3 seed Duquesne (18-12) meeting No. 6 Saint Louis (15-15) at 7 p.m. Friday in the last of four quarterfinal games. The semifinals are Saturday, and the championship is at noon Sunday for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“I yelled at them at halftime about the rebounds,” Burt said. “But when you’re shooting 70 percent (actually 77.8), you’re not going to have the opportunity to rebound very often.”

The Dukes set school records for points in the first quarter (42) and first half (66) and shooting percentage under Burt (63.5). The 106 point total was the second most in program history, falling short of the 1990 team’s 116 against Valparaiso.

In all seriousness, Burt said, “We take away a lot of positives from tonight. We’re playing well at the right time.”

His favorite stat was the 28 assists. “That says a lot about our team.”

He also was pleased his reserves had nearly as many points (61) as No. 14 Rhode Island (8-21).

“We are going to need the depth as we go into Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

Senior Chassidy Omogrosso (Blackhawk) led all scorers with 22 points, hitting 8 of 12 from the field (5 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc). Senior Conor Richardson (Carlynton), who didn’t start added 20 in only 13 minutes on the court.

“When you make the first punch, it’s easy to keep rolling,” Richardson said.

Earlier this season, the Dukes failed to live up to their and others’ lofty expectations, losing seven of 13 non-conference games.

With a roster that includes five experienced seniors, they rallied to finish third in the A-10. But those early struggles mean Burt doesn’t have to worry about his team feeling too confident after such an easy victory.

“I think with the veteran group we have and what we have gone through personally this year,” he said, “with such high accolades at the beginning of the season and not living up to them, they are very grounded and very focused.”

After losing 12 games, the Dukes know there is no postseason without an A-10 championship.

Instead of playing under a shadow of desperation, Burt said his team merely is playing with confidence.

“They don’t want this to be their last game,” he said. “We’re playing for our lives.”

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