DAYTON, Ohio -- At 6 feet 10, Duquesne's Shawn James is known for blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. Shooting 3-pointers is not his specialty.
But, when Duquesne desperately needed points down the stretch last night, it was James taking shots from beyond the arc.
He made two 3-pointers in the final 2:45 for Duquesne's final points in a 63-61 victory against Dayton in an Atlantic 10 Conference game before 13,040 screaming fans at UD Arena, where the Flyers seldom lose.
"They kept trapping, I kept shooting," said James, whose first 3-pointer gave the Dukes a 60-55 lead at 2:45 and the second made it 63-59 with 1:28 left. "I wasn't going to hesitate if they were going to leave me open. Coach [Ron Everhart] puts all the confidence in you, all the faith in you."
"That was the play we were running. That was the shot they were giving us," he said. "They were not letting us get the ball down low."
Duquesne (16-7, 6-4) couldn't savor the victory and its first winning season since 1993-94 until Andres Sandoval's 24-footer from the wing with a hand in his face ricocheted off the rim at the buzzer. Duquesne's players were determined not to let Dayton's Brian Roberts take that last shot.
"We were not going to let him beat us," Duquesne's Aaron Jackson said of Roberts, a 6-2 senior who had a game-high 22 points. "We were going to run a man at him."
Dayton (16-7, 4-6), which has lost five of its past seven games, got possession with 17.4 seconds remaining when James' long pass down the floor sailed out of bounds. The Flyers didn't call a timeout, and Roberts dribbled up the floor until he was met by two Duquesne defenders. He passed to Jimmy Binnie, who passed on a 3-point attempt from the top of the key and threw the ball to Sandoval.
"Defensively, we guarded with the type of intensity and energy I don't think I've seen before. We were doing our best not to let Roberts get it," said Everhart who earned his 200th coaching victory in seven seasons at McNeese State, five at Northeastern and one-plus at Duquesne. A master rebuilder of downtrodden programs, Everhart has a 200-198 record.
Duquesne's next game is against Richmond Saturday night at Palumbo Center.
Duquesne has won three consecutive games to improve its credentials for a bid to the NIT and keep alive its faint hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Dukes also solidified their position in the first division of the A-10 and in the running for one of the top four spots and a bye in the first round of the league tournament.
Dayton, a 25-point winner against Pitt earlier this season, is 12-2 at home. The Flyers hurt their cause against the Dukes by making just 6 of 17 free throws.
The Dukes were led by Jackson's 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals and Kieron Achara's 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Kojo Mensah had eight points and seven assists without a turnover.
Duquesne, which had 11 steals and forced 17 turnovers with its trapping, man-to-man pressure defense, rallied from a 39-34 halftime deficit to win its first game by fewer than 11 points. Duquesne's average winning margin had been 19.4 points.
"We played awful," Everhart said. "But we gutted it out and got a road win. It was a grinder. To shoot just 40 percent and make some bad decisions down the stretch and still win a game at Dayton says a lot about our basketball team."
James picked up the theme. "This says Duquesne isn't just out there competing. Duquesne is out there to win."
NOTES -- The anonymous message boards and chat rooms are throwing out rumors and trial balloons about possible coaching moves. Everhart, in the second year of a five-year contract at Duquesne, has been mentioned in Rhode Island about Providence, if Tim Welsh is fired, and at LSU, which is in the market for a coach. Everhart spent 13 years in New Orleans as an assistant at Tulane and coach at McNeese State and five years in New England as coach at Northeastern. "During the season that stuff is very annoying. Unfortunately, it's a reality of college basketball," Everhart said.
Phil Axelrod can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1967.