Dukes eye end to road struggles

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The second leg of Duquesne's holiday road swing pits the Dukes, searching for their first back-to-back road wins since the 2010-11 season, against Massachusetts-Lowell today at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

Should Duquesne win its first meeting with the River Hawks, the Dukes will match their road victory total (two) from a year ago, even before Atlantic 10 Conference play begins.

"If you're ever going to have a program that has success and the ability to win championships and get to the NCAA tournament, you have to be able to win on the road," Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said.

The Dukes (4-5) rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit Tuesday to beat Saint Francis, 78-71, in Loretto, Pa. Senior forward Ovie Soko had 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the comeback.

"We're growing, and we're headed in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go," Soko said after that game. "I think it was great to come in and get a win like this, especially for some of the younger guys."

Scouting report
Matchup: Duquesne (4-5) vs. Massachusetts-Lowell (1-10), 2 p.m. today, Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Radio, Internet: WPGB-FM (104.7), AmericaEast.com, GoDuquesne.com.

Duquesne: Leading scorer Ovie Soko (16.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg) had 23 points and 12 rebounds in a 78-71 victory Tuesday against Saint Francis of Loretto, Pa. ... Soko and junior guard Tra'Vaughn White (16 points) combined for 29 second-half points against the Red Flash.

Massachusetts-Lowell: The River Hawks, 15-13 a season ago, are in their first season in Division I. ... Leading scorer Akeem Williams averages 14.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. ... Coach Pat Duquette, a former longtime Boston College assistant coach, was hired in May.

Hidden stat: Against Saint Francis, Duquesne attempted a coach Jim Ferry-era low 13 3-pointers and shot a Ferry-era best 22 of 25 from the free-throw line.

Massachusetts-Lowell, in its first season in Division I, has lost four consecutive games and has just one win -- a Dec. 1 win against Division III opponent Mount Ida College.

The River Hawks (1-10) have on average allowed 71 points and scored 56, and they also have been outrebounded by 10 per game.

Massachusetts-Lowell is led by senior guard Akeem Williams (averaging 14.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game), who had 16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in the team's most recent outing, a 62-48 loss Wednesday against Vermont.

Williams has led the River Hawks in scoring in each of his four seasons.

A victory would pull the Dukes back to .500 and mark their first back-to-back wins of the young season, but that means first finding another elusive road victory.

"You've got to be able to play the same way you do at home," Ferry said. "It's difficult, it's not an easy thing to do. Unselfishness travels. Rebounding travels. Defensive disposition travels. Shot-making doesn't always travel."

Duquesne will round out its non-conference slate by visiting Texas-Pan American (Dec. 29) before returning home Jan. 2 to play Appalachian State.

"We have this three-game road trip right now before the Atlantic 10 season," Ferry said, "because these young guys have got to learn what it's like being in the hotel, what it's like traveling to shoot-arounds and not having your own rims. It's really important."

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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