After miscues, Duty moves on for Dukes

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Jason Duty's memories about the specifics are a bit spotty.

But, he will never forget what he learned one Saturday afternoon standing 15 feet from a basketball rim in Dayton, Ohio.

What happened with 3.5 seconds left in an Atlantic 10 Conference game Jan. 9 between Dayton and Duquesne at UD Arena is easy to discern: Duty, the lone senior on the Dukes' roster, made the first of three free throws to send the game into overtime.

It was a game Duquesne eventually lost, 78-72.

Many have looked at it another way: Duty missed two free throws that could have won that game.


Today

Game: Duquesne (9-8, 0-3 A-10) vs. Rhode Island (14-2, 2-1), 7 p.m. today, Ryan Center, Kingston, R.I.

TV, radio, Internet: PCNC-TV; KQV-AM (1410); GoDuquesne.com.

Duquesne: Looking to snap a four-game losing streak. ... Forward Damian Saunders' 13.0 rebounds per game average is the best since Lionel Billingy averaged 13.1 in the 1973-74 season. ... Since Pitt loss Dec, 2, swingman Bill Clark is 6 for 44 from 3-point range. ... Freshman guard Sean Johnson has come off the bench to score in double figures the past four games.

Rhode Island: Senior guard Keith Cothran (16.3 ppg.), junior forward Delroy James (14.3) and senior forward Lamonte Ulmer (12.4) average in double figures for the Rams, who lead the conference in scoring at 79.9 points per game.

Hidden stat: The past three meetings between Duquesne and Rhode Island have been decided by eight total points.


On Monday afternoon -- nine days removed from the missed opportunity that left him with his head buried in his hands more than a half-hour after the loss -- Duty sat in a seat in an empty A.J. Palumbo Center and opened up about those moments at the line.

He admits the first of those free throws at Dayton -- the successful one -- was no masterpiece "Bounced around a lot," said Duty, who is 9 for 14 from the line this season and an 82 percent free-throw shooter in his first three seasons at Duquesne. "I didn't know if it was going in."

But it did. And the second one, which was flung with a bit too much force, perhaps because of adrenaline?

"I don't even remember shooting the second one to be honest," he said of the first of two misses. "I don't remember shooting it, but I remember looking up and seeing it hit the back rim."

With the score tied, and after a timeout, there came a final chance.

"I didn't hear anything during that timeout," Duty said. "I was just trying to calm myself down."

He then stepped to the line for one more opportunity. "The third one came off and it felt good. I thought for sure it was in," Duty said in a hopeful tone, although he knew, invariably, how the rest of the sentence, and story, would end. "But it rolled out."

His voice trailed off before he finished his recollection.

"Just the way it goes, I guess. Even now I think about it and it makes my stomach sick."

But this is where the past ends.

Coming up short can't be changed. Instead, all that has been done, Duty said, is to utilize that moment as a springboard.

"I felt at least 14 or 15 guys pat me on the back as I had my head down in the hallway after the game," he said.

And those teammates, as they filed past into a locker room Duty didn't enter for quite some time after the game, all had the same message.

"They said, 'Keep your head up, this isn't your fault,' and that meant a lot to me," Duty said. "I also got a lot of texts from people, e-mails from teachers, my dad called me a bunch of times and my brother, who is one of my biggest supporters, he's been there for me."

So has his coach.

"The kid is a competitor, and when you want the best for yourself and your team, sure it is going to hurt; sure it is going to be disappointing when something like that happens," coach Ron Everhart said. "But he got back out there in our next game [last Wednesday] against Saint Louis and played with toughness. He's been through the battles, he's been through good and bad times, and I know he will take a higher degree of mental toughness from everything that's happened."

Beginning tonight at Rhode Island, the Dukes have 13 more regular-season games.

That's 13 more chances for the ball to find Duty's hands near the end of a tight game.

That's 13 more chances for Duty to get fouled in the waning seconds and, perhaps, have to go to the line again with the game in the balance.

Would he want that chance again, considering how miserably it turned out in Dayton?

"Yes, absolutely," he said without hesitation. "I've shot probably 1,000 free throws since that game."


Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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