Massachusetts' offense poses big challenge for Duquesne

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Duquesne had the weekend off to savor its road upset a week ago against then-No. 10 Saint Louis, but it’s back to business tonight when the Dukes play Massachusetts in their Atlantic 10 Conference home finale at Palumbo Center.

The Minutemen (22-6, 9-5), winners in five of their past seven, have been ranked as high as No. 13 this season and boast the top scoring offense in the conference at 76.9 points per game.

Massachusetts also leads the Atlantic 10 in rebounds (38.9), assists (15.6) and blocks (5.7) per game and has seven players averaging more than 8 points per game.

“How do we contain them around the dribble and how do we score around the basket against them?” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “Those are going to be two challenges to figure out.”

Leading the Massachusetts attack is senior guard Chaz Williams, an Atlantic 10 player of the year candidate averaging 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game — numbers nearly identical to what he posted as a sophomore and junior. He registered 22 points and 9 assists in January 2013 when the host Minutemen defeated Duquesne, 79-66.

The Dukes (12-15, 4-10) are riding a wave of momentum after their surprise 71-64 victory against the Billikens. Ferry credited his “resilient group” for capturing the program’s first “marquee win” in his two seasons on the Bluff.

Ferry added that he is not concerned with the Dukes becoming complacent after such a key win.

“We still only have 12 wins right now,” Ferry said, “so it’s not like we’re going to be overconfident.”

Sophomore guard Micah Mason scored a season-high 22 points against Saint Louis, converting 4 of 5 3-point attempts. He is 60 of 106 (.566) from 3-point range this season and is on pace to shatter Duquesne’s single-season 3-point percentage record (.441) set by Courtney Wallace in 2001.

If Mason keeps up his current pace, his season would qualify as the seventh-highest 3-point percentage in Division I history and the highest since Western Michigan’s Sean Wightman (.632) in 1992.

The Dukes will close out their regular season Saturday at George Mason.

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

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