Duquesne coach Jim Ferry was looking for a spark for the Dukes to try to get them back on the winning track, so he started three freshmen for the first time this season Saturday against Xavier.
There is no question that Ferry got the spark he was looking for as the Dukes played hard and gave the Musketeers everything they could ask for and then some.
In the end, however, the bottom line remained the same for the Dukes as they lost for the 11th time in a row, 73-65, to the Musketeers in an Atlantic 10 Conference game in front of a crowd of 6,511 at Consol Energy Center.
This was the Dukes' fifth home loss in a row and their ninth consecutive conference loss, but Ferry was far less frustrated after this game than in recent ones.
"I thought our guys really competed [Saturday night], this was significantly different for us than the GW game obviously," said Ferry, referring to a 22-point loss Wednesday night to George Washington. "And it was nice to see a young team respond the way our guys did.
"I really thought we guarded really well and we got to the point where we were up 10 and feeling good, but then our shots weren't going down and on the other end, they did a nice job of imposing their will and scoring in the paint and off the glass and we couldn't stop the momentum."
Duquesne (7-16, 0-9) trailed by seven at the half but came out of the locker room with a lot of energy and went on a 21-4 run to take a 47-37 lead with 12:54 to play on a layup by Quevyn Winters.
But as Ferry said, the Musketeers made two key strategy changes, one on defense and the other on offense, that really helped them take control of the game.
Offensively, the Musketeers went "big" and played three post players on the floor and really pounded the Dukes in the paint.
At one point, Xavier had a stretch of five possessions in a row in which it got offensive rebounds and either put the ball back in the basket, got fouled shooting the ball or made the shot and got fouled for a three-point play.
Also, Xavier coach Chris Mack said it stopped switching ball screens and that helped his team get back into their comfort zones defensively.
The result was a 21-4 run over the next seven minutes that left Xavier with a 58-51 lead and in control.
As has been the case for Duquesne throughout this losing streak, that one stretch proved to be too much to overcome. The Musketeers hit 13 of 16 free throws down the stretch to keep the Dukes at arm's length.
"I think you have to keep your poise and continue to play the way you are playing whether you are up and down, and we are still learning that," Ferry said. "I really felt like you have to give credit to Xavier, like I said they did a good job of imposing their will on us.
"When they went with the three bigs -- which is something I haven't seen them do hardly at all this year -- they were able to just start pounding us inside and then they went hard to the offensive glass and made it difficult for us to stop them from scoring."
Winters led the Dukes as he tied a career-high with 19 points and Jerry and Jeremiah Jones each added 11. Senior Andre Marhold had his best game in quite some time and scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Semaj Christon and Isaiah Philmore each had 16 points to lead the Musketeers (13-9, 6-3).
Paul Zeise: email@example.com or Twitter: @paulzeise. First Published February 10, 2013 5:00 AM