Basketball: Everhart doesn't pull punch with Mitchell
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Ron Everhart, whose imprint has been all over Duquesne University's basketball team since he got the job last spring, officially claimed ownership when he suspended star freshman Robert Mitchell for the game at Saint Louis Saturday.
No more Mr. Nice Coach.
Long after the glow of Duquesne's 73-63 victory has dimmed, Everhart's decision to sit down Mitchell could shine brightly as a foundation for a program that has been short on discipline and wins with 19 losing seasons in the past 20. Mitchell, a 6-foot-6 forward and the team's leading scorer (17.6 points per game) and rebounder (5.6 per game), was replaced in the starting lineup by Phillip Fayne, a 6-2 sophomore junior-college transfer who contributed eight points.
Everhart was displeased with the way Mitchell responded in practice after an 89-41 loss at Saint Joseph's Wednesday and suspended him for "conduct detrimental to the team."
Mitchell, who has been Atlantic 10 Conference rookie of the week three times and started 11 of the first 12 games, was the only Duquesne player to score in double figures against Saint Joseph's with 10 points.
"I'm an old-school kind of guy," Everhart said. "We have some things we want to do and how we want to get it done, and we're not going to deviate. Mitchell was unaccountable to himself, his teammates and his coaches. This was something that had to be done in the best interest of our team.
"I hope the message won't soon be forgotten."
Everhart said Mitchell's future status with the team will be determined by how he practices today.
"I think he will respond in the right way," Everhart said. "I expect him to respond in the right way."
Duquesne (5-8, 1-1 A-10), which trailed by 14 points in the first half against Saint Louis and was down by six with eight minutes remaining, rallied to win its third game on the road this season and third in the past four games. The Dukes, who completed a five-game road trip, return home Wednesday against La Salle in a league game.
La Salle (6-8, 0-2) is coming off a 79-71 defeat against Massachusetts for its fifth consecutive loss.
The victory against Saint Louis (10-5, 0-2), which was favored by 161/2 points, can be credited to a scrambling, opportunistic defense that converted 17 turnovers into 28 points.
Reggie Jackson had a career-high seven steals to go with 13 points.
Aaron Jackson produced another stellar performance with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. He didn't commit a turnover.
"We played our defense as well as we have all year," Everhart said. "We guarded the ball and pressured the shooters. This was the first time all year we got a lot of deflections."
Everhart was asked how a team that had just lost by 48 points could turn things around in just a couple days.
"We have guys who are resilient. We've got a roller-coaster type of group," he said. "They've got a little bit of pride, too."
NOTES -- Everhart's twins, Ronnie and Gianna, celebrated their eighth birthday yesterday. ... Saint Louis' only other loss at home this season was against North Carolina.
First Published January 8, 2007 12:00 am