DAYTON, Ohio -- When the possessions mattered most, when the free throws steered into ones deemed most consequential, the teams in that crammed throwback gym yesterday couldn't have acted more divergent.
One team -- Dayton -- showed what it was the team picked by the preseason pollsters to win the Atlantic 10 Conference, a team coming off a season in which it notched a victory in the NCAA tournament against a Big East school.
The other -- Duquesne -- showed what it was, too; a program fighting back after years of toiling in the doldrums of the conference, getting close and not knowing how to win the close ones.
Duquesne (9-7, 0-2) took Dayton to the brink before falling, 78-72, in overtime as the Flyers (12-3, 1-0) scored the first seven points of overtime to slam shut the door at UD Arena.
Asked if his team is still learning how to win these type of game, Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said, "Absolutely that is fair to say, very fair."
The game got pushed into overtime when Duquesne senior guard Jason Duty went to the free-throw line with 3.5 seconds remaining after drawing a foul as he was attempting a 3-pointer from the corner with the Dukes trailing, 63-62.
Duty, though, made just the first free throw.
About 30 minutes after the game, Duty was still in a catacomb of the arena, outside the locker room crying with his head in his hands.
Everhart refused to lay the blame on him.
"You miss a free throw, you miss a free throw, come on," Everhart said. "How about our other kids who didn't box out in other situations? How about the other things we didn't do?"
Those other things included not guarding Dayton's Chris Johnson, who had 26 points and 20 rebounds, both career highs as he countered Damian Saunders' 13th double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) for the Dukes.
The Dukes opened up a 16-5 lead in the first six minutes, as Duty -- who came in averaging just 5.1 points -- connected on two deep 3-pointers to help thrust Duquesne ahead.
It was a lead Duquesne let slip away in front of a sellout crowd.
After Duquesne opened that early lead, rolling along into the 13:58 mark of the first half, Dayton went on a 15-4 run through the heart of the first half to tie the score, 20-20.
Compounding things for the Dukes was a third foul whistled on Bill Clark in that Dayton surge.
As such, Everhart had to go with a larger lineup, inserting 7-foot center Morakinyo Williams for 13 minutes in the opening half. And while Williams played well -- 2 assists, 2 rebounds and 0 turnovers in the first half -- the Dukes' offense that had jolted up and down the floor lost a considerable amount of its early pace.
Still, Duquesne hung in there.
In the second half, no team led by more than seven points. When Dayton pushed, the Dukes pushed right back -- when the Flyers went on a little run, Duquesne would counter.
"Duquesne is a really good team," Dayton coach Brian Gregory. "You can ask Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh. Pitt beat them in overtime without [guard Melquan] Bolding. They are a quality team and that is the way every game in the conference is going to be."
Colin Dunlap can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1459.