Guards combine for 50 to top Saint Louis

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Tuesday night’s victory over the Billikens gave plenty of reasons for Duquesne to smile. Jimmy Clark III (center left), and Dae Dae Grant (center right) had perhaps their best day as a backcourt tandem.

Matthew Theodros | Staff Writer

Duquesne dominated behind 31 points from Dae Dae Grant and 19 from Jimmy Clark III on Tuesday, defeating Saint Louis 81-66 at Cooper Fieldhouse.

The guard tandem took control from start to finish, orchestrating the offense for the Dukes, who took advantage of a home matchup versus the last place team in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Grant finished 1 point shy of his career high while hitting six 3-pointers.

Winners of seven of their last nine, the Dukes are riding into the season’s end with momentum. They improved to 16-10 overall, including a 6-7 record in the league after starting out 0-5.

Duquesne dominated in all facets, and never trailed the Billikens once. They took a 25-4 lead just seven-and-a-half minutes into the contest after a 10-0 run from Grant alone, climaxing in a 4-point play.

The Dukes aggressive defensive effort was vital in neutralizing the Billikens offense, especially guard Sincere Parker who was held 4 points to one-of-eight from the field following three straight 30-point performances.

“Big shouts out to Dave [Dixon], Jimmy and Tre Williams,” Grant said. “I think they affected the game by being in those gaps and passing lanes and being there for one another. I think our talk also displayed and showed a very connected level on the defensive end because we were getting stops, steals and deflections.”

A key contributor to their defensive attack has been Jake DiMichelle, who has grown into a do-it-all threat who alleviates pressure from the lead guards. He finished the night with 11 points and a career-high 9 rebounds to go with 3 assists.

“He may be the main reason we turned this thing around when you really analyze it,” said Head Coach Keith Dambrot. “It sounds crazy, but he’s done a lot of really good things regardless of whether he scores or he doesn’t score. He’s always going to give you unbelievable effort.”

Despite an improved effort offensively from the Billikens to cut the lead to as narrow as 12, the Dukes kept their foot on the gas to maintain a double-digit advantage.

Five minutes into the second half, Clark stole the ball and took it for a one-man fastbreak which resulted in an electric self-bounce dunk.

The Dukes’ largest lead of the contest came with less than five minutes remaining when Clark found Williams for a layup to take a 23 point advantage.

Even as the lead grew, Dambrot kept his foot on the gas. In the second half, he shouted back and forth with Dusan Mahorcic after the senior threw away a pass to an unknowing Grant. Dae Dae jumped up and ran over to his coach to take the blame, saying “My fault, I was wide open.”

That wasn’t the only moment that the senior demonstrated his character.

With an opportunity to surpass his career high, Grant chose to help roommate and fellow Northeast Ohio native Andy Barba get on the scoreboard in just his fourth appearance of the season. He kept shouting for Barba’s attention, trying to get the junior open off a screen. Barba didn’t hear and wound up missing the shot, but it was another moment of leadership from the senior.

“Dae Dae is one of the most unique guys that I’ve ever been around,” Dambrot said. “He has unbelievable relationships with everybody on the team regardless of their stature. He’s got this knack of just being nice to everybody. Not everybody is like that. It speaks to what he’s all about. He just wants to win.”

Dambrot acknowledged the hard-fought salvaging his team has done this season, thanks in large part to players like Grant.

“It’s a battle every single night,” Dambrot said. “We started 0-5 but we’re 6-7 now. That’s a miraculous comeback. We still have some issues, but we’re working on those things and trying to get better.”

Duquesne travels to the Bronx on Friday in hopes of their third consecutive win when they take on Fordham at Rose Hill Gymnasium. The game will be shown on ESPN2.