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Lancers guts out 77-76 win over Duquesne

A season-high 28 points from Kyla McMakin, a near double-double from Akila Smith, and a defensive stand in the final seconds of the fourth quarter propelled Longwood Women’s Basketball to a 77-76 win over Duquesne Wednesday afternoon in Willett Hall.

McMakin’s 28 points marked her second 20-point game of the season and laid the foundation for a one-point win that was the Lancers’ first victory of the season. The two-time All-Big South first-team guard scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead free throws with 1:23 remaining, to help Longwood (1-2) outlast Duquesne’s fourth-quarter comeback.

“Those two free throws she hit down the stretch were huge,” said head coach Rebecca Tillett. “We did challenge Kyla, TraDayja and Akila, that you know, you three have to play like the veterans you are. You have to manage this game, make big plays, and I think all three of them did that.”

The victory over the Dukes marks the first time the Lancers have topped an Atlantic 10 opponent since beating George Mason in the 2008-09 season.

“I am so excited for our women. We worked so hard for a win, and we had to make a lot of plays down the stretch to preserve it, and they did just that,” said Tillett. “I think we needed this one early on in the season to remind yourself what type of team you are.”

Meanwhile, Smith stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks in the latest follow-up to her Big South Defensive Player of the Year and All-Big South first-team campaign last season. Adriana Shipp also scored 14 points, with 10 of those coming in the first half.

“Our point guards, together I think had 14 assists. The way they can probe and find you open is great, but to know which player is on fire and make it work is so good,” said Kyla McMakin.

Longwood’s multi-headed offense built a lead as large as 19 points early in the third quarter, but the Dukes (1-3) mounted a rally of their own in the second half to take their first lead with 5:07 left in the game. Included in that second-half surge was a 12-2 run in the third quarter and a 12-0 run in the fourth, with the latter culminating in Fatou Pouye’s go-ahead three-pointer that gave Duquesne its first lead at 71-70.

Pouye, a graduate transfer from Western Kentucky, led the Dukes with 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and spearheaded that comeback effort with 13 points in the fourth quarter. Her layup with 1:43 remaining gave Duquesne a 76-75 lead, but McMakin responded by drawing a foul on the other end of the court and sinking both free throws to give the Lancers the lead for good.

“Our leaders on the court really had to focus us down the stretch, and manage everyone on the court so they know the game isn’t really over until its over,” said McMakin. “Every play counts.” 

Duquesne had two scoring opportunities in the final minute, but McMakin stole the ball from Megan McConnell on the first of those, and McConnell missed a potential go-ahead jumper in the closing seconds to seal Longwood’s victory. Longwood freshman guard Kennedy Calhoun also secured a key offensive rebound on Longwood’s final possession that allowed the Lancers to shave an additional 15 seconds off the clock.

Longwood is headed off for a grueling stretch of six consecutive road games, which will send them first to Saint Francis on Saturday, Nov. 20 and then a four-game road trip that begins with games at Lamar on Nov. 28 and Sam Houston on Nov. 30 and continues with a trips to Drake on Dec. 3 and Iowa State on Dec. 5. That trip concludes back in Pennsylvania where the Lancers will face Drexel on Dec. 11.