Duquesne coach Burt says key is not to let UConn ‘dominate your soul’
STORRS, Conn. — There were four minutes left in the third quarter of Duquesne’s opening-round game of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament when diminutive guard Chassidy Omogrosso buried a 3-pointer as the shot clock waned.
Omogrosso proudly strutted down the court, headed toward teammate Deva’Nyar Workman to deliver a high-five. But Workman was having none of the premature celebration. She screamed to the freshman guard to get to the corner to play defense.
It was all business.
Duquesne, which knocked off Seton Hall, 97-76, in the opening round, will have to get back to business and probably play to perfection to extend its season another round. The ninth-seeded Dukes meet undefeated Connecticut on Monday night in the second round of the Bridgeport Regional on the Huskies’ homecourt at 9 p.m.
UConn (33-0) has won 70 straight games, tying its own mark for the second-longest streak in women’s basketball, and is the three-time defending national champion. The Huskies put on a virtual clinic in their opener, disposing of Robert Morris, 101-49, on Saturday.
Led by Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have won 10 national titles. Duquesne, on the other hand, is making its first appearance in the tournament.
UConn raced out to a 41-4 lead in the first quarter against Robert Morris. Duquesne coach Dan Burt knows his team has to weather the early storm.
“The first five minutes of the game are going to determine an incredible amount,” Burt said. “They are going to try to dominate your soul for the first five minutes and break your soul. It is everything that we go and try to match their physicality from the very beginning, and that is what we plan to do.
“If you are composed and confident, every zoo is a petting zoo, when you think about it. What that means is that if we show great composure tomorrow and have great confidence, we’ll see if we can ‘pet the Husky,’ but I don’t know if we will. You can’t be cocky, and we are not that by any stretch, but you lose the game if you don’t think that you can win.”
Workman scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds Saturday in the Dukes’ win. Duquesne used a 15-0 third-quarter run to stretch a six-point halftime lead and put the game away.
“(UConn) can be beaten,” Workman said. “I am not going to get caught up in their greatness. I am going to play to my best of my ability against them. I’m not going to back down at all.”
Duquesne shared the Atlantic 10 regular-season title with Saint Louis and George Washington but needed an at-large bid after losing to GW in the championship game of the conference tournament.
Auriemma, of course, is brimming with confidence heading into Monday’s matchup.
“I get nervous before every game,” Auriemma said. “The thing is, though, once the games begin, all that stuff goes away. Reality sets in. If you are the better team, and you play better, and you execute better, then the outcome is will be what you want it to be.
“If we go out and bring our ‘A’ game, then there’s nothing that the other team can do to change the outcome of that game.”
Bill Cloutier is a freelance writer.