RICHMOND, Va.- The Duquesne Dukes rode a solid shooting performance to history, becoming the first team to clinch an Atlantic 10 Championship Game appearance as a seventh seed with a 78-63 triumph over No. 3 Saint Joseph's in the second Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Semifinal Saturday afternoon at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum.
Duquesne (18-14) sprinted out to a 22-10 advantage after one period and led for all but 14 seconds of the contest. The Dukes struggled in the third quarter, making just 2-of-12 shots from the floor, allowing the Hawks to launch a comeback that saw them briefly take the lead at 44-43 with 51 seconds left in the quarter. Over the next 2:38 of play, Duquesne used a 9-0 run to retake the lead for good, and the Hawks never got closer than five points in the fourth quarter.
"Teams have breakdowns on and off the floor, but it's important that we look each other in the eyes and tell each other we can do this, we've been here before," said sophomore guard Conor Richardson who scored 17 points. "We pushed through it. At the end of the day, we're here for a ring, and we'll do whatever we need to do to accomplish that."
Richardson was one of five Duquesne players in double figures as Chassidy Omogrosso led the way with 20 points, while Amadea Szamosi scored 14, and both Julijana Vojinovic and Kadri-Ann Lass added 11.
"Last year, we had a very veteran basketball team with two of the best players in Duquesne history. We were a lot different," noted Duquesne head coach Dan Burt when asked to compare this year's squad to the team that lost in the 2016 Championship to George Washington. "Our experience this year is getting our heads bashed in on the road. We need to be in the present. We need to enjoy this for about an hour, and then we can't dream. We do not have to play a perfect game tomorrow, but we'll have to be very good."
Dayton swept the Dukes in the regular season, winning by 11 and 19 points respectively.
Saint Joseph's (17-14) had three players in double figures, led by Chelsea Woods with 17 points along with 10 rebounds, while Alyssa Monaghan and Amanda Fioravanti added 16 points apiece.
"I thought we had a good run in this tournament, and to be able to play in the semifinal was good for this team in particular, I just wish the results were different," said Saint Joseph's head coach Cindy Griffin. "Our kids went to the glass hard, and there was no lack of effort. Our turnovers were good, we outrebounded, but we just didn't make shots."
21 of the Hawks' 40 rebounds were on the offensive end, led by Fioravanti with six. Saint Joseph's finished the game shooting 31 percent from the field (22-of-71), only converting on 2-of-18 three-point attempts.
The Dukes go for the elusive first Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship Sunday at Noon, trying to sweep the top three seeds in order to clinch the title. The Duquesne/Dayton title game will be televised by ESPNU.