Duquesne Men: Dukes falter in last 10 minutes
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ST. LOUIS -- Make it 16 and counting for the Duquesne men's basketball program.
Seeking to win its third consecutive Atlantic 10 road game for the first time in school history, Duquesne instead lost, 69-59, to the Saint Louis Billikens at Chaifetz Arena Saturday night, dropping to 0-16 in road games following back-to-back A-10 road wins.
The Dukes were in position to end the weird streak, holding a 45-42 lead with 9:33 left, but sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell sparked a 13-2 run for Saint Louis that put the game out of reach.
The news elsewhere in the conference was not good for the Dukes. All four home teams won Saturday when the opposite results would have aided the Dukes' cause.
Duquesne (15-13, 6-8) entered the night in eighth place -- the last position that hosts a first-round tournament game -- and now finds itself tied with George Washington (16-11, 6-8) and St. Bonaventure (13-14, 6-8), which pulled upsets against Charlotte and Rhode Island, respectively. Seventh-place Dayton (19-9, 8-6) also won, stretching its cushion over the three eighth-place teams to two games with two remaining.
"We're in the same boat as two other people apparently," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "We just have to focus on our game Wednesday and try to play as well as we can play.
"It's tough on the road in this league, and [Saint Louis] is a good basketball team. We caught them on a night when they shot the ball well down the stretch and made their free throws. We didn't execute so well down the stretch. I thought our shooting percentage was good, but we couldn't get to the line."
The Billikens (19-9, 10-4) continued working their way up the conference ladder in coach Rick Majerus' third season. Winners of seven of their past eight games and holding a 15-2 record at home, Saint Louis leap-frogged Charlotte into fourth place and has a shot at a first-round bye.
Saint Louis, which starts three freshmen and two sophomores, made 9 of 21 shots from 3-point range, had eight blocks, and limited turnovers to 16 against Duquesne's all-out pressure.
Damian Saunders was noticeably quiet for the Dukes. The 6-foot-7 junior failed to scored in double figures for the fourth time this season, finishing with nine points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. Saunders was in foul trouble for most of the second half and was battling a severe headache and stomach illness, Everhart said.
"I didn't think [the illness] had a lot to do with [the outcome] because there were stretches where we played well without him," Everhart said. "I just thought the defensive consistency, we weren't able to sustain it. We weren't able to keep intensity where we had to have it to win the game."
Mitchell scored a game-high 23 points for Saint Louis, 16 in the final 9:16.
The Dukes had won three games in a row on the strength of a defense that forced 21.3 turnovers in those games and sparked an offense that averaged 86.3 points. Junior forward Bill Clark led Duquesne with 17 points and five rebounds, and sophomore guard B.J. Monteiro had 15 points.
First Published February 28, 2010 12:00 am