Pittsburgh, PA — Duquesne is coming off an emotional 61-42 win over Saint Joseph’s, its first road win at Hagan Arena after 27 consecutive setbacks.
For a Duquesne fan looking at the schedule, they may view this game against St. Bonaventure as a trap game but that cannot be the case.
First off, St. Bonaventure won its home game against Duquesne last season, and has won two of the past three meetings, so regardless of record it cannot be taken lightly.
Secondly, Duquesne is in the middle of a stretch in which it came back to defeat a very much improved George Mason team and then made history at Saint Joseph’s. After this game, Duquesne travels to Dayton Wednesday in a game which could have major implications and then have a road game against a Richmond team which is playing at a faster pace.
This game will be nationally televised on NBCSN with Kate Scott and decorated WNBA player Sue Bird on the call and Duquesne was embarrassed against a team with similar credentials to St. Bonaventure last season.
Duquesne’s margin for error is very small to non-existant given the Atlantic 10’s combined 86-92 nonconference record. Currently Duquesne has the best RPI in the Atlantic 10 at 54 with Dayton close behind at 57.
“Whatever happened on Wednesday is done with, now it’s Bonaventure,” junior forward Kadri-Ann Lass said. “We’re already used to that process and I think we are ready to play another one.”
Taking a look at St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure games into this game with one road win this season, but Coach Jesse Fleming has put his young and undersized team in the right places to win throughout the campaign.
“We have battled through some things this year and have had a small roster,” he said. “Hopefully as the year goes on we become healthier but they’ve been competitiors and a coachable team with good chemistry. We obviously would like to have more wins but I like our mentality and compete level. We’ve done all we can to prepare and I think our players have played up to their talent level. I wish we could guard a little bit better, we haven’t locked into the defensive end as much as previous teams I have been on. I hope we can rectify that down the stretch of Atlantic 10 season.”
Perhaps the most improved player in the Atlantic 10 play is Bona’s Danielle Migliore. Migliore played in 20 games as a freshman last season averaging 1.7 points per game but she has started in each of her team’s 21 games average 11.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg.
“She has worked really hard and rebuilt her confidence,” said Fleming. “She has taken advantage of her opportunities. She definitely has been a bright spot.”
Mariah Ruff is St. Bonaventure’s leading scorer and in her senior season has found ways to improve an already decorated collegiate career.
“Mar has had a really aggressive mindset,” Fleming said. “She had a great stretch to start A-10 play where she was shooting the ball well with confidence, she has continued that. She is playing with some desperation and she wants to end her senior year well. It has really helped us.”
The biggest thing Fleming is looking for with his team is that same desperation Ruff possesses. Whether it is 50-50 balls, coming up with hustle plays or just staying within itself as a team, St. Bonaventure is working on becoming a more consistent team in this area.
“That has been an on-going discussion,” said Fleming. “Fordham for example, beat us to a lot of balls. There hadn’t been a lot of games where there had been a struggle. It’s growing people in their roles and play with desperation 1-5 understanding it’s not somebody else’s job, it’s your job to get the ball, score and distribute. It is something we keep battling and we are looking to get all five playing with desperation.”
Fleming has watched plenty of film and has seen what other teams have been able to effectively run on the defense end against Duquesne. UMass threw several junk defense as Duquesne, Davidson hung with the Dukes until the fourth quarter, George Washington used an effective press and George Mason limited second chance opportunities in the first half.
Still Fleming respects that Duquesne has been good at taking advantage of mismatches when teams switch against them.
When teams have doubled Chassidy Omogrosso or Julijana Vojinovic, other players on the roster have stepped up in their stead. With Duquesne is has been about picking your poison and having a couple of other factors going right.
“I’ve had that thought looking at some of the film, but my thing is that we want to do what we do well,” Fleming said about the looks other teams provided. “We’re still not where we need to be defensively and I want us to get back to having a core defensive philosophy. I don’t know about throwing junk defense at them, we just have to do our job well. Really with Duquesne, to defend them you have to score the ball with them, you have to make them work defensively. You can make get some cheap turnovers with some pressure but with UMass Paige Cannon stepped up and made some big shots against a junk defensive set. They are one of the hardest guards in the conference as far as trying to prep for all of the talent that they have.”
Three keys for Duquesne
1. Do not get frustrated– During the team’s practice Friday, there were some hung heads as the team ran its scout against St. Bonaventure. It is a different scout in terms of preparation and there were a couple of minor instances where it seemed to get the best of Duquesne.
“They run a lot of motion which you have to anticipate anything,” Lass said. “This time it is not memorizing plays, it’s just knowing how to play our principles on defense.”
Fleming did discuss some offensive philosophy as well as how preparing Duquesne has been a frustrating process at times on his end as well.
“We can go small and spread the floor so if we are making threes a lot of times teams will have to take a big off the floor and play differently if we are making our shots,” he said. “With our sets we’re trying to get certain people looks or take advantage of certain offenses. We run a lot of stuff, I give a lot of credit to Dan and his staff, they run great stuff. We are also frustrated guarding their stuff because they run it so fast, so well, and with confidence. I am sure we’re both going through the same thing.”
2. Rebound the basketball– Duquesne will have a size advantage on St. Bonaventure and this season, the Bonnies have been outrebounded by 6.3 rebounds per game, a factor skewed a bit by injury.
Fleming did say before the season his team was going to have to play smaller and hope the increase in foul calls the past couple of seasons could even things out, but thus far that has not been the case as opponents have fouled 347 times to Bona’s 338 total, which does not constitute much of an advantage.
Additionally, it was noted that St. Bonaventure still will have to crash the boards with the guards helping since Cannon and Eniko Kuttor in particular will try to get position early to earn possession.
“We’ve asked our guards to really rebound and our guards have put up solid numbers,” Fleming said. “In the middle of the season we lost our two best rebounders for a big stretch. We have gotten kind of small when we’ve gone through certain things. We can be better than where we’re at right now but it’s been a struggle.”
Duquesne has been able to battle in the trenches and come away with 50-50 balls of late and with this being more of an advantage in that game, Lass understands it is not a given and that the Dukes still will have to earn everything.
“We have been better with boxing out and getting rebounds the past few games,” she said. “It’s a good chance for us to also get second chance points and that’s going to be a big thing if we can not let them get the rebounds. That is something that would frustrate them so it is something we are trying to do.”
3. Have an answer– Duquesne has been able to react if Omogrosso or Vojinovic has been double teamed and have found ways to get to the free throw line when the ball does not go in the basket. Regardless, Duquesne always has to have a backup plan at the ready when St. Bonaventure adjusts or if something goes wrong.
It is easy to forget for some, but St. Bonaventure is also two years removed from an NCAA Tournament berth and is very resourceful. Duquesne has to find ways to beat the Bonnies to the punch.
Photo credit: Duquesne Athletics