The West Virginia women's basketball team held the lead for 31 minutes but was unable to overcome a late run, falling 61-55 at Duquesne, Saturday afternoon.
"Suzie (McConnell-Serio) does a great job," coach Mike Carey said. "They're well coached. Give them a lot of credit. They never quit and kept battling. I'm just frustrated because we had the game won, up 15 late in the second half, and got rattled. Give her credit. She changed up the defense and we started turning it over and they started scoring."
The Mountaineers (7-3) pulled away from a 49-49 tie to lead by four with just over three minutes to play when the Dukes (9-1) used a 7-0 run capped by an Orsi Szecsi three to take the final lead with just over a minute to play. Forced to foul, Duquesne converted 6-of-7 final free throws to come away with the win.
WVU came out of a 24-18 halftime lead and stretched the deficit to as many as 17 at the 14:33 mark (40-23), but a combination of turnovers, fouls and missed shots allowed the Dukes to make a comeback with a 14-0 run down to the final minutes.
"They did a simple 2-2-1 and our guards just panicked and started turning the ball over and they started scoring," coach Mike Carey said. "They got the momentum and we just never could recover. We worked on that for about two months. I'm very frustrated. I kept putting guards in and explaining what we needed to do, but our guards just didn't adjust to their 2-2-1. We just quit attacking and got tentative. We've seen it all year, but we just got rattled for some reason."
The Mountaineers held the Dukes to only five first-half field goals with 16.7 percent shooting (5-30), including limiting Duquesne's leading scorer Alex Gensler to zero first-half points. Duquesne improved its shooting to 40.6 percent (13-32) in the second half to finish 29 percent from the floor.
WVU came out shooting 40 percent (10-25) but cooled down a little in the second half, shooting 35.5 percent and finished 37.5 percent (21-56) from the floor.
Both teams were cold from 3-point range in the first half as the Mountaineers couldn't get a single three to fall (0-8) and Duquesne made 25 percent (2-8). The Dukes used four threes in the second half to finish out 31.6 percent (6-19) from 3-point range and WVU shot a mere 6.7 percent (1-15).
"We missed a lot of easy shots, but they did too," Carey said. "They out-hustled us."
Duquesne earned 19 points off free throws as it shot 65.5 percent (19-29) and WVU made 75 percent of its free throws, converting 12-of-16. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 19 times, while Duquesne limited its turnovers to 11.
Asya Bussie led WVU with 21 points and nine rebounds. Behind Bussie, freshmen Linda Stepney and Akilah Bethel each put in seven points, while Ayana Dunning pulled down another eight rebounds.
The Dukes had three players in double figures with Wumi Agunbiade leading the way with 14 points. Szecsi and Gensler each had 11 points. Gensler had three 3-pointers, all in the second half. Vanessa Abel and Carly Vendemia each chipped in nine points. Ahjah Hall led the Dukes to a 46-44 rebounding advantage with eight boards.
The Mountaineers return home to play host to Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.