The best week in Kamesha Hairston’s young career only got better Sunday.
Hairston had 18 points to lead the No. 22 women’s basketball team to a 75-53 win over Duquesne. The sophomore forward also had nine rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Hairston’s performance came seven days after a career offensive game against Xavier on Jan. 30. She scored 31 points against the Musketeers, who had been unbeaten in Atlantic Ten Conference play.
But unlike the Xavier game, Hairston wasn’t doing it alone Sunday. Junior center Candice Dupree scored 12 points and senior guard Cynthia Jordan had 10 to join Hairston as double-digit scorers. Dupree, who leads the A-10 in blocks per game (2.3), added five more rejections to bring her season total to 48. Dupree’s five blocks versus the Dukes were a season high.
The win marked the Owls’ 15th consecutive victory, continuing their run through the A-10. The Owls (18-3, 10-0) are the only undefeated team in the conference. The last time the Owls tasted defeat was more than two months ago, suffering a 77-58 loss to Florida on Dec. 4. The win pulled the Owls into a tie for the nation’s longest current win streak.
The Owls played their most complete defensive game of the season, forcing 21 turnovers, 13 steals and eight blocks while hauling in a season-high 21 defensive rebounds. On the season, they surrender just 54.8 points per game, currently ranking them 22nd in the nation.
Saint Joseph’s visits the Liacouras Center on Thursday for the Owls’ first home game in nearly two weeks. The Hawks (5-17, 3-7), who graduated four starters after last season, have struggled to string wins together. They don’t have a single starter averaging double-digit point totals this season.
St. Joe’s only threat lies in its backcourt with Erica Pollock, a redshirted freshman center. Pollock is the Hawks only consistent scoring threat, averaging 9.0 points per game while hitting 42 percent of her shots from the field. She is also among the conference leaders in offensive rebounds and blocks per game.
The Hawks have additional offensive support in junior guards Maura McBryan and Christine Roth, two of the A-10’s best three-point shooters. McBryan and Roth are among the top five in the conference in three-point field goal percentage and three-pointers made per game.
Last season, the Owls lost eight of their 11 non-conference games, which put them at risk of not earning an at-large bid. The Owls won the A-10 Tournament to solidify an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
This season has been quite the opposite. The Owls went 8-3 in their non-conference schedule, losing only to then-No. 1 Tennessee, current No. 1 LSU, and Florida, who began the season ranked.
If the Owls win the rest of their regular-season games and the A-10 Tournament, they will likely clinch a much higher NCAA seed than they did last season. The Owls, a No. 11 seed in the West bracket last year, lost their first-round matchup to TCU at the Liacouras Center.
Despite their streak, the Owls could still suffer a setback in the latest national rankings released today. Their game at Duquesne was the Owls’ only game this week. And ranked No. 22, the Owls are probably not yet deep enough into the top 25 to prevent a drop in the rankings.
The saving grace for Staley’s squad comes in the losses suffered by teams ranked beneath them. No. 23 Penn State, No. 24 Florida State, and No. 25 Iowa each lost at least one game this week to unranked opponents.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.