Duquesne rallied from back-to-back heartbreaking losses against St. Bonaventure and Dayton to stun No. 10 Saint Louis, 71-64, Thursday at Chaifetz Arena. The defeat was the Billikens’ first of the Atlantic 10 Conference season and snapped their program-record 19-game winning streak.
It was the Dukes’ first road win against a top-10 team since 1962.
When coach Jim Ferry heard that stat Friday, he laughed and responded, “Fifty some years ago, I wasn’t even born!”
Yes, it has been quite some time since the Dukes (12-15, 4-10) made a splash like this in the college basketball world.
The flip side of that historic coin is that if Duquesne had finished off the Billikens (25-3, 12-1) in January at Palumbo Center, where it held a one-point lead in the final minute, Saint Louis never would have been a top-10 team.
Still, senior forward Ovie Soko said it was “better to beat them now than never.”
“When I got back to our hotel room,” Soko said, “I told [freshman forward] L.G. [Gill], ‘If we had to choose one time, I’m happy we got them when they were No. 10 instead of 19.’ ”
Sophomore guard Micah Mason scored a career-high 22 points and hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts, adding to his Division I-leading 56 percent 3-point shooting. Senior guard Jerry Jones added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting off the bench.
“It was an opportunity, and they seized it,” Ferry said.
Soko, the Dukes’ leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, took a backseat and scored 12 points. It was just the third time this season the Billikens allowed more than 70 points in regulation — Duquesne did it twice, George Mason once.
Most impressive, perhaps, is that this banner victory came on the heels of consecutive defeats in which Duquesne missed chances to tie or win the game in the final 30 seconds.
Soko, one of the team’s two seniors, credited the underclassmen for not folding.
“These are my last games, so I’m going to play every game like it’s my last,” he said. “But for the freshmen and sophomores and even juniors on the team to stay poised and stay hungry and go to an environment like that and play the way they did, I take my hat off to them. I don’t think I was at that same place when I was that age. I don’t think I had that mental toughness.”
The Dukes don’t play again until Wednesday, when Massachusetts (22-5, 9-4) comes to town. That gives the coaching staff an opportunity to hit the road recruiting — and the coaches now have a statement win to hang their hats on.
“It takes a little patience, like I’ve always said, to do it the right way,” Ferry said. “And I know Dukes fans don’t want to hear that all the time, but it’s true. It’s reality. If you want to be a team that can sustain winning at a high level, you’ve got wins like this to help it move forward, but you’ve got to continue to do it the right way.
“Hopefully this helps with the change of the culture, helps with our campus and our city buying into us and helps with recruiting.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.