March Magic: Dukes Off to A-10 Championship

Rebecca Jozwiak | Staff Writer

NEW YORK- For the first time in the Keith Dambrot era, the Duquesne Dukes are in the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship Game. 

The Dukes defeated the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, 70-60 in the A-10 Tournament semifinals at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday afternoon.

St. Bonaventure started off the game strong, leading off with a 4 point lead– which would be their largest of the game. In total, the Bonnie’s held onto that lead for 1:53– which would change after Dae Dae Grant opened up Duquesne scoring with two 3-pointers.

One of the biggest factors for Duquesne’s dominance was Grant’s offense. He scored a blistering 27 points, dangerously close to his career high of 32. 

Jimmy Clark III chalked their recent success and 3-0 record against the Bonnies this season up to the Duquesne coaching staff.

“I’d say that we thrived in this matchup,” Clark began. “Just being able to [work] with the coaching staff [who gives the team] game prep before each game.”

After leading the Dukes in their quarterfinal win over Dayton, Clark had yet another fantastic game– the senior tied his career-high eight rebounds while scoring 18 points. 

St. Bonaventure struggled offensively all afternoon. The Bonnies scored 60 points, which was nearly 14 points below than their 73.9 points per game average. Dary Banks led the Bonnies with 14. 

“The other [point] is [Duquesne] has played [St. Bonaventure] so many times, and [Coach Mark Schmidt has] a playbook that’s humongous, right?” Dambrot said. “We played them so much that we’ve been able to at least understand what he’s going to try to do.”

Familiarity also helped the Dukes limit the Bonnies to 30 rebounds, as opposed to their average 32.2 rebounds per game. The Bonnies were also under their season average of 12.5 assists per game, only notching 11 throughout the course of the game.

While St. Bonaventure struggled offensively, Jake DiMichele also broke through the Bonnies defense. He scored 12 points, half of which came from 3-point shots.. Arguably the biggest shot from DiMichele was a two-point layup with 56 seconds left in the game– giving the Dukes a nine point lead and sealing the victory.

“Our toughness level really improved when DiMichele started to play,” Dambrot said of the walk-on’s performance.

It seemed as if all players rose to the occasion. Jakub Necas scored the Dukes last four points, making a dunk with 17 seconds left and hitting two free throws with nine seconds left.

“You have to mention Jakub Necas,” Dambrot said. “He’s a young guy, but we played him at the five the last two games.”

Sophomore David Dixon flew under the radar for the Dukes. After fouling out with 3:21 left in last night’s win against Dayton, Dixon played a less physical game with the Bonnies. Although he scored no points, Dixon earned his only foul with 4:03 left in the game, further highlighting the versatile bench that Duquesne boasts.

“I think [going deep on the bench] is the good thing about our team,” Dambrot noted. “We have a variety of different guys on a certain night that can help us.”

Duquesne advances to the conference championship game tomorrow afternoon against VCU, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The game will be televised nationally on CBS at 1 p.m.