For the second consecutive game, senior center Candice Dupree headed to the bench midway through the second half. The added rest was the benefit of another large lead for the women’s basketball team.
In Sunday’s Atlantic Ten Conference tournament semifinal game, the all-America candidate had done more to contribute to the score before she took the bench.
Paced by Dupree’s career-high-tying 31 points, the Owls rolled to a 76-63 victory over 10th-seeded Duquesne at Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. Dupree hit 11 of her 15 shots just one day after failing to make a field goal in the first half of the Owls’ win over Dayton in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
“I was just making quicker moves than I was [on Saturday],” Dupree said of her differing performances. “Nerves played a big role in a lot of my missed shots [against Dayton], but I think I was more calm [Sunday] and was able to knock down more buckets.”
The win sets up a rematch of last season’s conference final. The third-seeded Owls will go for their third straight A-10 title against top-seeded George Washington Monday at 5 p.m.
Dupree found her shot in this contest. She made her first five field goals and hit 3-of-4 free throws over the game’s first seven minutes, as the Owls (23-7) jumped to a 21-12 lead.
“It made her come in with a little bit more focus on making buckets early and she did that for us,” coach Dawn Staley said of Dupree’s 3-of-12 shooting performance against Dayton.
Junior forward Kamesha Hairston added 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
Hairston and Dupree combined for 33 of the Owls’ first 38 points, as the Owls extended their lead to 38-26 with about four minutes remaining in the first half. By the time Hairston and Dupree had exited the game for good, the frontcourt tandem had accounted for 48 of the Owls’ 63 points.
Their performance proved their placement on the conference’s First Team and its All-Defensive Team. Dupree was also named the A-10’s Most Valuable Player for the second straight season. She will go for her third straight A-10 tournament Most Outstanding Player award against the Colonials on Monday.
Forward Nicole Sinclair’s 14 points led the Dukes (13-17) in a losing effort.
For the second consecutive game, the Owls’ bench players saw extended playing time. Their starters rested for the game’s final eight minutes. This likely won’t be the case when the Owls face the Colonials in the finals.
The Colonials (22-7) have been a nemesis for the Owls all season. The Colonials snapped the Owls’ 23-game A-10 win streak in Washington on Jan. 11. Then the Colonials stole the show on Temple’s senior night on Feb. 24 at the Liacouras Center by erasing their 11-point halftime deficit to eventually win in overtime.
The Owls, having beaten sixth-seeded Dayton and the 10th-seeded Dukes, have waltzed to the finals with two relatively easy wins. The Colonials’ road to the finals has been much more challenging. Richmond stuck with GW for much of the Colonials’ 61-51 quarterfinal win on Saturday, and the Colonials needed all 40 minutes to put away tournament-host St. Joe’s in the semifinal round Sunday.
Although the Owls’ starters will enter Monday’s championship game much more rested than the Colonials, Hairston said that, with a conference championship on the line, both teams will bring their best games.
“It’s tournament time,” Hairston said.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.