Soko's slam sends early message in Duquesne win

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The season wasn't half a minute old before Ovie Soko made a splash at Duquesne. Soko, making his first start in a Dukes uniform after transferring from UAB a year ago, won the tip and, moments later, cruised into the lane for a thunderous dunk to open the season.

"It was a good welcome to Duquesne," Soko said with a grin.

Soko finished with 17 points and five rebounds in just 18 minutes to lead the new-look Duquesne men's basketball team to a 103-88 exhibition victory Saturday afternoon against Clarion at A.J. Palumbo Center.

It was junior forward Dominique McKoy, a junior-college transfer and Soko's partner in the paint, who put up the biggest numbers, with 20 points and 10 rebounds in his debut.

On the backs of a strong frontcourt performance, the Dukes outscored the Golden Eagles, 72-32, in the paint and had 34 second-chance points.

And thus was born a new era for the Dukes, one which second-year coach Jim Ferry is equipped with the roster and offensive system of his choosing. Duquesne was 8-22 in 2012-13.

"Significantly different from last year, we have the ability to pass, dribble and shoot," Ferry said. "Last year was last year, we tried to survive it. Now we can put together a semblance of how we want to play."

And now, it's "catch us if you can," Ferry said.

The offense, it seems, will no longer live or die by the 3-pointer. Duquesne averaged 24.1 3-point attempts per game last season but launched just 13 against the Golden Eagles, hitting only three times.

"We don't want to be relying on the 3 as much," sophomore forward Jeremiah Jones said.

"Anytime you can pound it inside, that works big time," Soko said. "You want to get as many easy buckets inside and in transition as you can to limit the outside shooting. When you don't put as much pressure on your perimeter guys to hit those shots, they end up making a higher percentage."

The exhibition contest wasn't short on excitement and theatrics.

Midway through the second half, with game well in hand, sophomore guard Derrick Colter peeked back at Soko as he streaked ahead on a breakaway. Colter sent the ball hard off the glass for an alley-oop to trailing Soko, who swooped in for a rim-rattling, two-handed finish.

"That was fun," Soko said. "I feel that just sums up how we want to play. We want to push it fast and enjoy ourselves."

The Dukes were slowed by a sloppy second half and committed 17 total turnovers. Seven of those were by freshman guard Desmond Ridenour, who also showed plenty of promise by scoring 12 points in backup duties.

Perhaps the best sign of the game was the improved play from the few returning players. Colter returned to form as a true floor general, registering 16 points and nine assists to just two turnovers, and Jones dumped in 19 points and nine rebounds.

*

NOTE -- Before the game, Ferry announced that senior forward Jerry Jones was suspended for a "violation of team rules" and would sit out the exhibition and the Nov. 9 season-opener against Abilene Christian.


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

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