Atlantic 10 lead at stake between Duquesne, Xavier


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Duquesne had plenty of time to think during its week off, and plenty to think about.

The team remembered losing to St. Bonaventure on a last-second 3-pointer Feb. 5 and looked ahead to today's match-up with Atlantic 10 co-leader Xavier, which visits Consol Energy Centery at 2 p.m. Both teams have 8-1 conference records, and the winner takes sole possession of first place.

"Having the game turn out the way it did, it's not a good feeling," forward Bill Clark said. "I feel like we didn't play our best basketball and that's why they were able to stay in the game. I think we're going to come out hard and come out strong and be ready to take care of not just Xavier but every other team."


Today

Game: Xavier (17-6, 8-1) at Duquesne (16-6, 8-1) 2 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

TV, radio: WPBG-FM (104.7), GoDuquesne.com.

Duquesne: Comes off a 64-62 road loss to St. Bonaventure. ... Beat then No. 9 Xavier in the previous game played in Pittsburgh. ... Senior F Damian Saunders had 16 points and 14 rebounds against the Bonnies, his fifth double-double of the season. ... After averaging 5 points per game during a three-game stretch, junior F B.J. Monteiro scored an average of 16.5 in the past six games.

Xavier: Coming off a 65-57 nonconference win at Georgia Tuesday. ... Xavier leads the series, 26-17. ... Musketeers are 9-1 in their past 10 games. ... Second-year coach Chris Mack is 22-3 in Atlantic 10 regular-season play. ... Senior F Jamel McLean (6 feet 8, 8.9 rpg) and junior C Kenny Frease (7-0, 6.7 rpg) lead in rebounding.

Of note: : Xavier junior G Tu Holloway is one of four Division I players who average at least 20 points and five assists per game.


The average Ratings Percentage Index of Duquesne's first nine conference opponents was 150. The next four have an average RPI of 67. Before they get there, the Dukes face a game whose importance has built and built as Duquesne kept winning. The Dukes (16-6, 8-1 Atlantic 10) won 11 in a row and their first eight conference games before losing at St. Bonaventure.

"I think this loss just helped us get back in focus," forward Damian Saunders said.

Xavier (17-6, 8-1) won nine of its past 10, the latest a non-conference road win Tuesday against Georgia. Duquesne will not have played in seven days entering the game, but the team practiced every day except Tuesday.

"I think it's all about rhythm," Clark said. "If you have a bad shooting night, you come home and try to fix it before you get to the next game. But going into a game with a week off, it can be tough."

The Dukes have the pleasure of trying to limit Tu Holloway, the conference's leading scorer, and 7-foot center Kenny Frease. Holloway averages 20.7 points per game and Friday was one of 30 players named to the midseason watch list for the Naismith Award, given to the college basketball player of the year.

"We just got to keep him contained in front of us," Saunders said. "Keep him out of the lane, or try to, and when he does, he's out of control most of the time so we just have to step in and take charge."

Holloway averaged 22 points per game in the Musketeers' 17 wins but only 15 in their six losses.

"I think it is very important to limit him to some degree, especially his ability to get to the free throw line," Dukes coach Ron Everhart said.

At 6-foot-7, Saunders is Duquesne's tallest regular player, but the Dukes have managed opposing big men well this season. Frease, and his 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, presents a more difficult challenge.

"I've been playing against 7-footers since AAU, so that's not a big issue," Clark said. "The fact that he's a skilled 7-footer is going to be tough."

Despite Frease's ability, Everhart said the Dukes need to take advantage of their team's build.

"Ultimately, we're small and we're quick," Everhart said. "If we don't utilize our quickness and our lack of size to our advantage that's going to become a problem."

Clark said family members and students this past week wished them well before Sunday, and TV crews shot video at Friday's practice.

"I feel Xavier's a great team," he said. "They have a lot of good wins this year. I feel like some wins might be better than ours. Just the fact that we can be able to take care of [Xavier] I feel would be a good look for Duquesne."


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com .


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