Flyers’ late run spoils perfect road trip

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Jimmy Clark III and Fousseyni Drame in a defensive set that was initially successful vs. UD.

Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer

The goal in February for Duquesne basketball, so far, has been to write off their rough Atlantic-10 Conference start and find a way into the crowded middle of the pack for a bye or two come the conference tournament. Five teams in the A-10 are either a game above, below or at .500, and after the 0-5 start Duquesne had, any of those positions looked desirable. Yet, the Dukes can’t seem to get there.

Saturday’s game at St. Bonaventure was a step in the right direction after a home loss to Davidson. The Dukes beat the Bonnies, 75-69, and primed themselves to finally move into the middle tier of teams with a win at No. 16 Dayton Tuesday night. Duquesne led in the second half, but a massive scoring streak from Dayton down the stretch sealed their defeat, 75-59, and dropped the Dukes to 4-7 in conference.

Duquesne had seven players total 6 points or more on Saturday, led by Fousseyni Drame with 16 who double-doubled with 14 rebounds, and Jimmy Clark, who scored 12 of his 15 from 3-pointers. Clark and Drame were the only Dukes who hit from long range, as the team shot six-of-21 from deep, including a one-of-eight mark in the second half. They would abandon that strategy late in the second half, and deliberate or not, that decision may have won them the game.

The first half was about evenly matched, but St. Bonaventure went cold, and Duquesne took advantage to lead by 13 at halftime. They’d extend the lead to 17 early in the second, and St. Bonaventure cut that away slowly for the rest of the game. The climb back was mostly led by guards Charles Pride and Mika Adams-Woods, who both finished with over 20 points.

The Dukes were able to return the lead to 16 with nine minutes left after a small tumble, but the Bonnies whittled it down to a 4-point game with just over a minute to go. Duquesne answered with a David Dixon dunk and then gave up a heart-stopping three, but the Bonnies were now forced to foul and the Dukes hit all their free throws. The win marked Duquesne’s first season sweep of the Bonnies since 2009.

Tuesday night, the key for the Dukes was to stop likely A-10 Player of the Year DaRon Holmes II in front of Dayton’s sellout crowd, which they did not do. Holmes tore Duquesne apart, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals in 36 minutes. Duquesne had a little more success in the paint on offense, where Dusan Mahorcic scored 8 points in just 15 minutes of playing time.

Dayton also shot 23 free throws compared to Duquesne’s three, a mark of the Flyers’ tenacity on both ends of the floor.

Neither team played their best basketball in the first half; Dayton started slow and Duquesne led by 11 just after the halfway mark, but Holmes and the Flyers came roaring back to finish the first frame on top by three. Dae Dae Grant kept the Dukes afloat in the second with nine straight points, and a three from Drame followed by a Clark jumper put the Dukes ahead by four with 6:39 to go.

It could not have gone worse from there. The Dukes barely had a chance to get cold, because they were turning it over and fouling on nearly every Flyer possession. Head Coach Keith Dambrot appeared to believe that the refs had arbitrarily begun to tighten up their whistles, but those fouls only accounted for Duquesne’s struggles on the defensive end. They finally did get cold once

Dayton had built a lead off their free throws and were now making regular shots, they began desperately heaving up threes in the hope of a comeback, but nothing went in. Nine seconds were left and the game was decided when Jake DiMichele made a layup. They were Duquesne’s first points in over six minutes.

Duquesne is running out of time to fully recover from their poor A-10 start, but they have two good chances at home coming up with a Saturday afternoon game against Saint Joseph’s and the Tuesday night Red-Out game with Saint Louis.