Near misses continue to frustrate Duquesne

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Some losses sting more than others.

Duquesne played 10 games in the past month and lost seven. Four of those games were tied in the final 90 seconds, but only once did the Dukes come away victorious -- and that lone victory was only salvaged by a miracle 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Saturday, Duquesne led Dayton for the first 37 minutes at Consol Energy Center. The Dukes shot 51 percent in the first half and led by 14 points at halftime before folding down the stretch. They hit just 4 of 27 second-half shot attempts, and the Flyers crept back for a 57-54 win.

"Every loss hurts, but the close ones are like throwing salt on a wound," senior forward Ovie Soko said. "We just haven't figured out a way to make those last plays to close games out."

Soko had a chance to tie the score with 17 seconds left, but his second free-throw attempt bounced off the rim and led to an easy, game-sealing dunk on the other end.

Soko's missed shot -- a rare blemish on his 26-point game -- was just the latest in a series of missed opportunities that have cost Duquesne late in close games.

These plays can't really be classified as "blunders," because they weren't turnovers or fouls or foolish shots, but they were potential winning moments left wasted.

* Jan. 22: Saint Louis 76, Duquesne 72 -- Trailing by one, Soko and junior center Dominique McKoy missed contested layups. With six seconds left, sophomore guard Micah Mason missed the potential tying 3-pointer.

* Jan. 25: Duquesne 83, St. Bonaventure, 81 -- With five seconds left and Duquesne trailing by one, sophomore guard Derrick Colter missed two free throws. But he redeemed himself with a 3-point floater as time expired.

* Feb. 19: St. Bonaventure 71, Duquesne 67 -- The Dukes rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit, but trailing by two with 17 seconds left, Colter again missed both free throws.

* Feb. 22: Dayton 57, Duquesne 54 -- The Flyers rallied from the double-digit second-half deficit, setting the stage for Soko's miss.

Coach Jim Ferry called the latest defeat "heartbreaking." He has spoken at length this season about the team's relative inexperience and the importance of learning to finish close games.

That learning process, though, is painful.

"It's certainly difficult right now," Ferry said Saturday.

Soko has put much of the blame on his shoulders this season, and he did the same Saturday despite 9-of-13 shooting while the rest of his teammates shot a combined 10 of 43.

"I had a chance to bring our team back level, and I didn't do what seniors are supposed to do," he said.

Soko, one of two seniors on the team, admitted that the Dukes sometimes "show our age" in late-game situations.

"Our youth shows, and it'll hurt you in a league like this, in close games down the stretch," Soko said. "There are just plays that seniors make on every team."

Stephen J. Nesbitt:, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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