Duquesne forward Jordan Robinson passes around La Salle guard Rohan Brown during the second half of their Atlantic 10 men's basketball tournament matchup.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press
La Salle forward Yevgen Sakhniuk, left, and Duquesne forward Nakye Sanders scramble for the ball during the first half of Wednesday's game.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Prodded by a win last Saturday against Saint Joseph’s, one that ended an eight-game losing streak, Duquesne entered the Atlantic 10 tournament with a confident mindset, believing it could beat any team it might face.
The Dukes’ first game in the tournament revealed that the inverse was just as true — that for all their potential, they were just as easily prone to lose to any team in the league.
Jordan Price torched the Duquesne defense much of the night, finishing with 36 points to lift No. 14-seed La Salle to an 88-73 victory Wednesday night in the opening round of the A-10 tournament at Barclays Center.
With the loss, Duquesne has won just one A-10 tournament game in the past seven seasons.
“They really came after us,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said.
“The way they hold the ball, it’s a tough team to come back against once you get down like that.”
The setback doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Dukes’ season, as they could very well accept an invitation to a postseason tournament like the College Basketball Invitational or the inaugural Vegas 16.
What it did mark, though, was an unexpectedly abrupt end to an underwhelming final month of conference games.
A fairly one-dimensional offensive team — one largely dependent on a single player (Price) and a certain type of shot (the 3-pointer) — La Salle (9-21) excelled utilizing what it does best.
Price, the fourth-leading scorer in the A-10 this season, pieced together one of his best games of the season while shouldering an inordinately large percentage of his team’s offensive load, finishing with 27 of its 52 total shots. After missing seven of his 24 shots in an 87-60 loss Jan. 26 at Duquesne (16-16), Price showcased a much better version of himself in a much bigger game.
“Today I just thought he got too comfortable,” Ferry said. “It was somewhat of the same game plan [defensively] and then we had to make adjustments to it when he got so hot. But, again, you’ve got to gap and you’ve got to crowd.”
Price’s biggest impact came on the game’s most valuable shot, the one Duquesne struggled to defend for so much of the 2015-16 season — the 3. The last-place Explorers made 11 of their 22 shots from beyond the arc, a necessity given how their offense operates. Entering the night, 39.5 percent of their points were coming on 3s (the ninth-highest mark in Division I) and 45.4 percent of its shots were 3s (12th in Division I).
Defensively, La Salle was nearly as effective, applying tight and constant pressure on Micah Mason and Derrick Colter, the Dukes’ standout senior guards. While the two finished with 26 and 18 points, respectively, they were forced into 11 turnovers, eight of which came from Colter.
“They were denying Micah and all of our guards, so I kept picking up my dribble,” Colter said. “It was my fault for doing that, doing dumb turnovers, but I’ve got to work on keeping my dribble alive, seeing the floor better and making smarter decisions.”
Those turnovers were most noticeable in the first half, when Duquesne’s 11 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes led to 18 La Salle points, many of which came easily in transition.
As disheartening as the loss was, the Dukes’ season isn’t technically over, as their .500 record makes them eligible for some kind of tournament. It’s an opportunity to which Ferry is open.
“If we get invited to a postseason tournament, we’re going to play in it,” he said.
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