Miami’s Duffy after WNIT defeat: ‘It’s been a tremendous first year’

Miami University’s Kendall McCoy (40) is locked in on the basket as Duquesne’s Helmi Tulonen (23) provides the defense in Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Miami University’s Kendall McCoy (40) is locked in on the basket as Duquesne’s Helmi Tulonen (23) provides the defense in Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

It was the bounce-back season that Miami University’s women’s basketball program has been craving.

That contributed to the pain Thursday night.

The RedHawks got bounced in the first round of the WNIT by visiting Duquesne, ending their first postseason appearance since 2013 with a 69-56 defeat at Millett Hall.

PHOTOS: Nick Graham’s gallery from Millett Hall

“It’s hard to put into words that you’re not going to be practicing tomorrow,” said Miami coach Megan Duffy, whose squad finished 21-11 in her first year at the helm.

“This is going to sting for a little bit as a competitor. But it’s been a tremendous first year, a ton of positive things, and hopefully it’s not just a one-and-done. We’re going to keep moving this program in the right direction.”

Savannah Kluesner and Kendall McCoy both scored 17 points for the RedHawks, who went 11-21 last year and 35-87 during the four-season tenure of Cleve Wright. Kluesner grabbed 10 rebounds, while Lauren Dickerson chipped in 12 points.

Thursday marked the end for four Miami seniors: Kayla Brown, Megan Galloway, Molly McDonagh and Jazz Smith.

Miami University coach Megan Duffy instructs her team during Thursday night’s WNIT loss to Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Miami University coach Megan Duffy instructs her team during Thursday night’s WNIT loss to Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“The progress that we’ve had is phenomenal,” said Kluesner, a sophomore forward. “Where we came from last year, all the hard work that we put in, it really showed. I want to thank our seniors. They were a huge part of it, buying in with only one year left. It was incredible. They were the leaders of the whole movement.”

Duquesne (24-7) triumphed by winning the second half 42-28, rallying from a 28-27 halftime deficit. Chassidy Omogrosso opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and the Dukes never trailed again, outpointing the hosts 20-10 over the last seven minutes.

Omogrosso, a 5-foot-4 junior guard, was the gold-level performer of the night for Duquesne. She piled up a career-high 31 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists, scoring 13 points in the final period.

“That’s Chassidy,” said Dukes assistant coach Matt Schmidt, running the show in the absence of suspended head coach Dan Burt. “Chassidy’s been killing it since the seventh grade. The kid’s a winner through and through in everything that she does. We have a bunch of kids on our team that are winners, so I’m really proud of the group.”

The RedHawks’ defense found much less success in the second half, while their shooting touch also went south. Miami shot 27.3 percent from the field in the fourth stanza and sank 2 of 18 shots from beyond the arc.

Kluesner’s 7-of-12 field-goal performance made her the only RedHawk to shoot 50 percent or better. The rest of the team was just 16 of 57 (28.1 percent).

“They turned up their defensive pressure a little bit,” Duffy said of Duquesne’s second-half effort. “I thought we lost our composure a little bit. We messed up on a couple sets we’ve been running all year and just some uncharacteristic things that we had worked really hard to be all about here.

“I told them in every timeout, ‘This is still going to be a game if you keep defending,’ and that’s when Omogrosso kind of went loose. We didn’t have an answer for her. I thought she was the difference maker.”

Miami University’s Savannah Kluesner (32) and Duquesne’s Helmi Tulonen (23) battle for the ball during Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Miami University’s Savannah Kluesner (32) and Duquesne’s Helmi Tulonen (23) battle for the ball during Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Kluesner’s point total was 3 short of her career high. She said she’s gained confidence in recent games and carried it into the WNIT.

And Miami’s defense? Kluesner said it simply wasn’t good enough.

“There were definitely defensive breakdowns that we could’ve gotten better,” she said. “We knew it was going to take every single ounce of energy we had, every ounce of effort that we could give, in order to win it on the defensive end. We just came up a little short.”

The Dukes got 14 points from Paige Cannon and 10 from Conor Richardson, and Omogrosso had five of their six 3-pointers. Freshman Libby Bazelak, an Alter High School graduate, added 4 points and five rebounds.

Duquesne’s Chassidy Omogrosso (2) fires a 3-pointer over Miami University’s Leah Purvis (21) during Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Duquesne’s Chassidy Omogrosso (2) fires a 3-pointer over Miami University’s Leah Purvis (21) during Thursday night’s WNIT game at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“I thought Miami disrupted a lot of things,” Schmidt said. “They did a great job of really slowing down our pick-and-roll action, so hats off to them. Until we figured it out, we struggled with that.

“We started trying to get the ball out of our guards’ hands a little bit quicker and get a little bit more ball movement in the second half. Once we got some movement, I don’t want to say we got any shot we wanted, but we got some really good looks at the basket compared to the first half.”

Schmidt’s term as head coach lasted just one game. Burt was suspended by the Atlantic 10 Conference for critical comments about the officiating at the A-10 tournament, but he’ll be back on the sideline when Duquesne faces either Georgetown or Delaware in the WNIT’s second round.

“During every game, I call every play anyway — I just went from sitting to standing and a little bit more pressure tonight,” said Schmidt, a former head coach at Armstrong Atlantic State University. “We’ll get back to normal the next game with Dan on the bench and life goes on.”

Miami University president Greg Crawford shows his spirit at Thursday night’s WNIT loss to Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Miami University president Greg Crawford shows his spirit at Thursday night’s WNIT loss to Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

McCoy contributed seven boards and four steals for Miami. Dickerson had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Duffy said the RedHawks’ departing seniors are a special group deserving of praise. She’s hoping to stay in touch with them long after they’ve left Miami.

As for the future of the program, Duffy believes even better days are coming.

“I think this place and our administration have exceeded my expectations in the first year,” she said. “Our staff’s been going really, really hard for almost a year now, and it’s paying off. I’ve got a tremendous group of people around me.

Miami University’s Kayla Brown puts up a shot during Thursday night’s WNIT game against Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Miami University’s Kayla Brown puts up a shot during Thursday night’s WNIT game against Duquesne at Millett Hall in Oxford. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“Nothing’s going to be guaranteed next year. If you don’t win the thing, you’ve got to look back and say, ‘What pieces to the puzzle do we need to make our team better?’ So we’re going to do that. We’re going to get on the road recruiting, and in a couple weeks we’ll have a banquet to celebrate our seniors more than anything.”

Duquesne 10-17-19-23—69

Miami 12-16-15-13—56

DUQUESNE (24-7): Paige Cannon 6 1 14, Kadri-Ann Lass 1 0 2, Chassidy Omogrosso 9 8 31, Julijana Vojinovic 1 0 2, Conor Richardson 3 4 10, Libby Bazelak 1 2 4, Helmi Tulonen 2 0 4, Amanda Kalin 1 0 2. Totals: 24-15-69

MIAMI (21-11): Savannah Kluesner 7 3 17, Kendall McCoy 8 0 17, Lauren Dickerson 5 1 12, Kayla Brown 2 2 6, Leah Purvis 1 1 3, Molly McDonagh 0 1 1. Totals: 23-8-56

3-pointers: D 6 (Omogrosso 5, Cannon), M 2 (McCoy, Dickerson)