MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 24/20 West Virginia women’s basketball team could not overcome an early deficit, dropping a 62-54 decision to Duquesne on Thursday at the WVU Coliseum.
“Especially in that first 10 minutes, they took it right to us,” coach Mike Carey said. “We were standing around and they were more physical, more aggressive and they took it right to us. When you are not hitting shots that is what happens. We stood around and were a little bit slow.”
The Mountaineers (7-3) shot a season-low 21.4 percent (6-28) in the opening half, while the Dukes (10-1) took a 26-17 halftime lead. Duquesne maintained a nine-point lead until the 14:20 mark in the second half when WVU made a 10-3 run sparked by a Bria Holmes three and capped off with four-consecutive free throws from Crystal Leary and Taylor Palmer to bring the game within only two points, 37-35, and 12:24 remaining. The Dukes answered WVU’s run with a 9-0 run of their own, forcing five turnovers in the stretch, pulling the game back out of reach.
“I thought we played a little bit harder the second half and cut it to two and then went right back to missing shots, missing layups, fouling them and putting them at the foul line,” Carey said. “I give them credit because they played harder than we did. We just have to continue to get better.”
Duquesne had three players score in double figures behind season scoring leader Wumi Agunbiade with a game-leading 15 points. Orsi Szecsi add 12 points, while Vanessa Abel came off the bench for another 10 points. Duquesne shot 34.5 percent (19-55) from the field, was limited to only two 3-pointers (2-7) and capitalized from the free throw line with 81.5 percent (22-27).
“It was great game,” Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “This is obviously a great win for us and to beat a great team like West Virginia is amazing. Every time we play them, we try to prepare the team and one of the things that I have told them is this will be like no other team we will play all year long. The type of defensive pressure that they can put on you, we can’t simulate it.”
The Dukes forced 23 turnovers on the Mountaineers, using 14 team steals with seven from Jocelyn Floyd, who leads the nation in steals.
“We had 23 turnovers against the zone and you are just not going to win many games,” Carey explained. “If you shoot 29 percent and have 23 turnovers, I don’t care who you are playing, you are not going win many games.”
The Mountaineers finished the game shooting 29.8 percent (17-57) from the field, 27.3 percent (3-11) from beyond the arc and 68 percent (17-25) from the free-throw line. WVU was successful in out-rebounding Duquesne 48-37. Averee Fields and Ayana Dunning led the Mountaineers’ rebounding efforts with eight apiece, while Christal Caldwell and Leary each pulled down seven boards.
WVU was led in scoring by Caldwell with 13 points and Dunning with 10. Freshman Darius Faulk provided a spark off the bench with eight points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
Tonight’s loss put a stop to WVU’s four-game win streak and is the first time since 1994 that both the WVU men’s and women’s basketball teams have fallen to Duquesne in the same season.
The Mountaineers return to the court for one final non-conference game against Appalachian State at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28 at the WVU Coliseum. WVU and Appalachian State will meet for the first time in program history.