Evans big factor in Duquesne's surge

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The old-English 'D' on the baseball cap Duquesne sophomore point guard Eric Evans wears around campus is not representative of his school.

It has zero to do with Duquesne -- even though the logo is strikingly similar to the one associated with the university's athletic teams.

No, his hat is an ode to something else.

"I'm a kid coming out of a Detroit, it's a Detroit hat," said Evans, who graduated from the Motor City's Northwestern High School. "The main thing people think of when they see a kid from Detroit is that they want that person to be tough, strong and be able to take on things."

What Evans has been able to take on during Duquesne's recent surge has been momentous.

The Dukes (15-12, 6-7 Atlantic 10) will visit Saint Louis to square off against the Billikens (18-9, 9-4) Saturday night in a crucial conference clash for both sides. Duquesne heads there winners of three in a row and four of its past five -- and had it not been for a brutal second-half collapse against Massachusetts, the Dukes would be in the middle of the five-game win streak.

One of the easiest, most identifiable features in this hot streak has been an uptick in Evans' play.

In the past five games, Evans has put together 21 assists to four turnovers and has 12 steals. In that span, he has had two games -- victories against Charlotte and La Salle -- in which he did not commit a turnover.

Those numbers are a spike in what Evans -- who averages 10.1 points per game -- has done all season. He has 45 assists and 19 turnovers in Atlantic 10 play -- which works out to a 2.4-to-1 ratio.

Some of the most affirming words are also the most succinct when it comes to Evans.

Sunday, just after Evans finished a game in which he helped the Dukes to a 73-71 victory with 14 points and four assists, Duquesne coach Ron Everhart was ready -- and to the point -- with his praise.

"Point guard play was tremendous," Everhart said matter-of-factly, summing everything up with just a few words.

All this, and Evans, who with one assist against Saint Louis would be the 20th player in program history to reach 100 for a season, has not always rolled along so smoothly on the Bluff.

Everhart has a penchant for being tough on his point guards, for being ultra-demanding on the guy who commands the offense. All that got to Evans a bit last season -- and sometimes still gets to him -- until he takes a moment to realize there is a method to all the demands.

"At first, it was kind of frustrating, to be honest, especially last year," Evans said of the incessant hounding from his head coach. "But he's hard on me for a reason, he's hard on me because he wants to make me better."

Some of Evans' improvement, though, has been rooted in a bit of soul-searching. That all happened earlier this season when he formulated a plan: Look to get everyone else involved first, look to put it in the basket second.

"I really don't care if I score, I know I am good enough to score," Evans said. "I am just worried about winning and being able to lead my team."

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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