DUQUESNE 71:64 SAINT LOUIS
We said it from the first tip-off of the season: This Duquesne team had the firepower to beat anybody — yes, anybody — but it was also stricken with such crippling inconsistency that it could just as easily lose to even the lowliest opponents on its roster.
And the Dukes quickly proved the latter point with early losses against New Hampshire and Robert Morris. And there was that double-digit second-half deficit against Saint Francis in mid-December.
You saw flashes of the fast-paced, highlight-heavy Duquesne program second-year coach Jim Ferry hopes to build when they gave Pitt and West Virginia some short-lived scares.
There were the heartbreakers, too — one after another. The Dukes had last-minute chances to beat Saint Louis on Jan. 22 (76-72 L) and, most recently, Dayton on Saturday (57-54 L).
They just couldn't finish. Really, it was almost remarkable how the Dukes managed to lose a few games. Their only victory in a close game came when sophomore guard Derrick Colter hit a miracle 3-point floater at the buzzer against St. Bonaventure — just five seconds earlier, he had all but lost the game by missing back-to-back free throws.
And then tonight happened.
Sure, Duquesne took the Billikens to the wire at Palumbo last month.
Sure, Saint Louis had a single-digit point margin in nine of its previous 12 Atlantic 10 games.
Sure, streaks gotta end some day.
But the Billikens start five seniors, and this was on their court. They had won 19 games in a row — nineteen games, guys. Their last defeat was Dec. 1. Their two losses had come against then-No. 10 Wisconsin and then-No. 12 Wichita State, now the lone unbeaten team remaining in college basketball.
So, it wasn't necessarily a surprise Duquesne stayed in this game. The script just assumed the Dukes, again, wouldn't collapse and Saint Louis, again, would find a way to steal another slim victory.
But this time, Duquesne didn't crumble. Refused to. It jumped ahead 45-44 on a jumper from junior center Dominique McKoy at the 11:09 mark of the second half. And the Dukes never gave the lead back. They won by seven points, the Billikens' largest margin of defeat since a 74-57 loss against then-No. 12 Oregon in the Round of 32 in last season's NCAA tournament.
Check out this stat: According to Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Duquesne shot 12 of 15 from the field in the final 13:05, scoring on 12 of its final 18 possessions. Compare that to the Dukes' last game, when they hit 4 of 27 shots in the second half against Dayton, and you get an idea of the inconsistency we've seen with this team all year. Dismal one moment, dangerous the next.
Sophomore guard Micah Mason had a career-high 22 points on 4 of 5 3-point shooting. Senior guard Jerry Jones added 19 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.
For Ferry, it's a signature win. One he can hang his hat one. One recruits will see. One fans will remember for a long, long time.
For the seniors — Jones and Ovie Soko — it's about the best send-off they could have asked for short of making the NCAA tournament.
For Duquesne, it puts the Dukes, for the moment, back at the center of the college basketball universe.
"We've talked about all along," Ferry said, "we've felt we could beat anybody if we played the right way, and I think tonight proved that we can."
Most of these notes come from Duquesne SID Dave Saba:
• The win was Duquesne's first over a top-10 team since a 72-68 win over No. 9 Xavier on Feb. 7, 2009 ... it was DU's first road win over a top-10 team since a 73-72 win at No. 6 Bradley on March 5, 1962 ... Duquesne's last win on the road against a ranked team was on Jan. 25, 1997 at No. 16 Xavier by a 78-70 score.
• This was the 16th time in school history — and just the third time since 1975 — that an unranked Duquesne team has defeated a Top 10 team.
• It was just the third loss in conference play for Saint Louis at Chaifetz Arena in the past three years (SLU is now 20-3 in A-10 home games since 2011-12) ... the only other team to defeat SLU at home this season is No. 2 (AP) Wichita State on Dec. 1.
• Duquesne, which shot .149 in the second half of a 57-54 loss to Dayton in its last outing, shot .556 in the second half against Saint Louis.
• Duquesne's largest lead was 10 (69-59) with :16 remaining in the second half ... Saint Louis' largest lead was 7 (42-35) with 13:06 left ... there were three ties and nine lead changes ... Duquesne took the lead for good on a Dominique McKoy jumper with 11:06 left.
• Micah Mason, who entered the game as the nation's leading 3-point shooter (.554), went 4-of-5 from the arc in scoring a career-high 22 points ... in two games against Saint Louis' nation's-best 3-point defense, Mason went 9-of-12 from the arc.
• Jerry Jones came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points in 20 minutes ... Jones went 8-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the 3-point arc.
• Duquesne plays its final regular season home game against Massachusetts (22-5, 9-4) on Wednesday, March 5 at A.J. Palumbo Center (Atlantic 10 Digital Network). DU concludes the 2013-14 regular season at George Mason on Saturday, March 8.
Here are Ferry's post-game comments:
How did you just take down the No. 10 team on the road?
`"Well, we talked constantly this week about keeping our composure and disposition defensively, because when you play against Saint Louis they're such a good defensive team that you're going to have empty possessions. You can't put your head down and have empty possessions turn into points for them. I thought we did a very good job of that. We were really locked in defensively. This was very, very similar to the first game we played against Saint Louis. I thought we did a better job today containing Jordair Jett. We tried to take away the interior and make them shoot threes, and obviously to be able to compete on the glass enough to win was huge. We were more efficient. I think we scored 74 points against them last time we played [it was 72]. We're one of the few teams that have been able to score against them. We knew if we just kept playing the right way we'd be able to score, even though they're a great defensive team. It was more about sustaining our defensive presence so we could get some buckets in transition.
How much did the first game play into this result?
"It always plays in when you get to play a team twice. We missed two layups late [Ovie Soko and Dominique McKoy] that could have won the game. Our kids knew we could play with them if we played the right way, so we had some confidence. We just lost two heartbreaking games prior to this with under 30 seconds to go, and I give my kids a ton of credit for coming in here and still believing they can win and making plays to do so."
Jerry Jones had another good game against Saint Louis ...
"Jerry is a good player. You're talking about a senior. We have a young team playing against an old team. And Jerry played like a senior tonight. He's playing with that sense of urgency. There's only two games left now before the playoffs in his career. We always trust Jerry; he does a great job for us everyday. It was fantastic that he was such a big factor in making plays. He hit those two threes, he had finishes to the basket.And what people don't realize he was fantastic defensively tonight.
On the importance of Micah Mason ...
"Our offense is built in pieces, so we all need each other. Micah spreads the floor for everybody because he's such a threat to shoot the basketball. He hit that bomb late in the shot clock, and it looked like the basketball gods were looking on us. But it looked like they took it back when he missed that layup all by himself. Micah is a good player. When we play this way, play unselfishly off each other, there is space for everybody to play. I was thinking about playing him in the first half with the two fouls, but we were keeping it close, so I decided to not risk it since he is so important."
What can a win like this mean for the program?
"It's a great win for our program, especially with this being my second year here and we're trying to build the program. To get a marquee win like this is great. More importantly, we have to build from this. It's going to instill some confidence. We've talked about all along: We've felt we could beat anybody if we played the right way, and I think tonight proved that we can. Now, we have to get better from this point on over the next two games to get ready for the conference tournament."
Importance of senior leadership like Jones on young team ...
"I think it's huge. The ability to have a senior like Jerry and come off the bench with him really helps us because we've got so many new guys and so many young guys. We lost those two close games, missed free throws and layups late that we could have won with, but to grow from those losses is what showed tonight."
Stephen J. Nesbitt:
, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.