Dukes down Billikens at home 79-66

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

The Duquesne men’s basketball team put forth a dominant effort at home on Wednesday night. They overwhelmed the Saint Louis Billikens en route to a 79-66 win. The Dukes now stand at 10-16, 5-10 in the Atlantic 10, with three games left in the conference schedule. The Billikens fall to 11-17, 3-12 in the A-10.

Head coach Jim Ferry was pleased with his team’s effort in all facets of the game.

“I thought our guys really played well again tonight,” he said. “This is two games in a row now where we are starting to show our potential, both offensively and defensively. You can really see the cohesiveness of this group.”

The Dukes got out to a quick lead that was as big as 13 points at the 13:13 mark of the first half, but the Billikens did not surrender and were able to regain the lead with 3:18 left in the half. The Billikens were able to cut the lead down by going on a 16-4 run that lasted almost five minutes.

The Red & Blue fought off the push from the Billikens and, thanks to a buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer from sophomore forward L.G. Gill, took a seven-point lead to the locker room at the half. Once the Dukes got rolling in the second half they took over the game and cruised to an easy win.

Ferry attributes the Dukes’ ability to hold off the push to experience.

“We started the game with great tempo and speed and then Saint Louis made a run back at us. We were able to hold that off and continue to play. Early in the season we weren’t doing that,” he said.

The Dukes were led in scoring by junior guard Micah Mason, who had 20 points. He also had five rebounds, five assists and a game-high three steals.

Mason is finding his confidence at the right time in the season. He has had 16 or more points in each of his last five games.

“I definitely feel more aggressive and more confident in seeing my ball go in,” he said. “I just have to continue to stay aggressive. My teammates have been finding me open shots and it has been working.”

Junior forward Jeremiah Jones scored a season-high 16 points (which also ties a career-high). He also grabbed a team-high six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Jones was reacting to what the defense gave him.

“I wasn’t really doing anything differently,” he said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me. Saint Louis was playing off of me. I really don’t think I shot the ball as well as I should have. We got the win and that’s all that really matters.”

With junior guard Jordan Stevens out “indefinitely,” the Dukes have had to find new ways to get a spark off of the bench. Gill has been the primary answer. Wednesday night he had 10 points, three rebounds and a block. He is shooting 42 percent from the field and has had 10 or more points in four of his last five games.

Ferry believes it stems from his confidence.

“He is in the gym all the time. I think that is a big part of it just seeing the ball go through the rim. When L.G. plays well it makes us significantly harder to defend. When he plays well we normally play well,” he said.

Jones has noticed his effort as well.

“He did a great job rebounding, knocking down open shots and just being tough,” he said. “We need that from him because he gives us a spark off the bench. He’s smaller than Darius and he moves [senior forward Dominique McKoy] to the five, but I think he stretches the floor a lot for us and he brings a dimension that we need.”

On a night that honored the team’s two seniors, McKoy played a key part in getting the win. He finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

“I just tried to come out and play hard,” he said. “I was really excited before the game. I just tried to calm down and play my game.”

The team’s only other senior, Christian Johnson, a walk-on guard, was able to check in at the end of the game and received a warm ovation from the crowd.

Leading the way for the Billikens was Milik Yarbrough, who scored 20 points.

The Dukes are headed to New York to face off against St. Bonaventure Saturday. Then they will be at Fordham on March 4, before returning home to close out the season with a game against Davidson on March 7.