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Upset of Saint Louis a large step forward for Jim Ferry's Dukes

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

USATSI

The truly remarkable thing about Duquesne's 71-64 road victory against No. 10 Saint Louis Wednesday night was what came before.

Four days earlier, Ovie Soko and Jerry Jones were slumped in their chairs in the recesses of CONSOL Energy Center answering question after question about their singularly depressing senior day.

Prior to the game, the Dukes' lone seniors had stood at mid-court with athletic director Greg Amodio and head coach Jim Ferry and were given framed jerseys to commemorate their rocky Duquesne careers.

It wasn't even their last home game — that's coming up Wednesday at Palumbo Center — but when you're Duquesne, a program trying to regain traction in the college basketball world, you've got to capitalize when people are watching, and for this regional rivalry matchup against Dayton they were watching.

Soko was as explosive as he had been all season, scoring 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting, and Duquesne built a 14-point halftime advantage over the red-hot Flyers. And then the Dukes completely combusted. They shot 14 percent (4 of 27) in the second half. Still, they had a chance to tie in the last 20 seconds, but Soko missed a free throw, and Dayton escaped with a 57-54 win.

"I had a chance to bring our team back level, and I didn't do what seniors are supposed to do," Soko said afterward, dejected. "Those guys [Dayton] made plays, and I didn't."

But, let's be perfectly honest here, Soko had taken the blame all season — and, if you're taking 21 percent of the team's shots, you often deserve some of it — and in no way was this defeat on him. He had scored nearly as many buckets (9) as the rest of his team (10).

When Ferry walked in later and quipped, "It's basketball — you have to score. This isn't soccer," he wasn't talking to Soko. This was senior day, though, and so Soko took the blame again.

The questions came in ...

Did you feel like the team would be better than it is at this point — at least winning more games?

Jones: "Yeah, definitely. Our record doesn't show who we are. We lost a lot of tough and close games, but there are a lot of good guys in that locker room. I know we're better than our record says we are."

Soko: "I don't think our record at all reflects the talent we have. Sometimes we show our age, I think that's been huge this year. Jerry's a young senior. I'm really the only older guy on the team. At times our youth shows, and it'll hurt you in a league like this, in close games down the stretch. There are just plays that seniors make on every team."

This wasn't the way you probably wanted to go out ...

Jones: "It's a bittersweet feeling. I'm going to miss playing with these guys."

Soko: "I haven't been here four years, but I don't regret coming to Duquesne, not one bit. I love everyone here. My teammates have been amazing all year, and the fans are great at Duquesne. It's a program I think is going to be really, really, really good.

"It's a shame I ended on this note, but I'm appreciative for the chance to come play here."


In four days, Ferry went from "I really don't have an answer" to having all the right answers against the Billikens. Four days for Soko to go from "It's a shame I ended on this note" to scoring one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season.

Saint Louis, winners of 19 games in a row, felled by lowly Duquesne. It's the sort of win that makes national headlines, makes the front page of ESPN and Sports Illustrated and USA Today, makes people go "Ohhhh so that's how you say 'Duquesne?' "

DUQUESNE STUNS NO. 10 SAINT LOUIS read most every headline.

If you followed the team this year, though, it wasn't actually all that stunning that the Dukes hung with Saint Louis. That they actually won, though? Yes, surprising.

Because the Billikens had been escape artists all season, winning nine of its first 12 Atlantic 10 games by an average of four points and going to overtime twice. And because Duquesne had done the exact opposite, coming close often but never quite finishing — well, they did once, but only because of a miracle buzzer-beater against St. Bonaventure.

Four days after shooting 14 percent in the second half against Dayton, Duquesne shot 53 percent against what Ferry reckons is the best defense in the country. The Dukes shot 50 percent the first time they met Saint Louis, too, and was one of two teams to score 70-plus points in regulation against the Billikens.

This time, sophomore guard Micah Mason scored 22 points on 4 of 5 3-point shooting — his nation-leading 3-point percentage has now risen to a ludicrous 56.6 percent. And Jones added a season-high 19 points off the bench on 8 of 10 shooting.

Oddly enough, Soko had only 12 points and was the third-leading scorer. Or maybe that's just a good blueprint to beating a great defense — spreading out the scoring?

Soko laughed at that question: "Oh man, hey, if that's what it takes to win, I wish we would have found that out earlier in the season."

That it was Jones who made the difference this time felt appropriate. He had played an unselfish role off the bench all season, playing good defense and filling in admirably on the wing.

"When you have a big upset like that, whether it's the NCAA tournament, championship games, big games, it's normally that fourth person that nobody is expecting that steps up and has a great game that can help you get over the top," Ferry said. "That's true. It played out exactly that way, and it was Jerry that stepped up and was fantastic."

Jones is the lone player on the roster that was at Duquesne through the coaching change, an up and down and then very down tenure on the Bluff. He didn't end on Dayton, he got to follow with the program's biggest win in ages.

I'm just happy I could be a part of it in my last couple games here," Jones said. "Hopefully we can win some more big games as we go along."


The question every coach is asked after scoring an upset of this magnitude is: What can a win like this do for your program?

And, for Duquesne, well, it can and should do wonders.

Ferry broke it down into two "phases," as he called them.

"One, it's the immediate phase with this specific team and where we're at right now, and hopefully instills some confidence that we can build on this now and get better from this point. We proved that we can beat a great team like that on the road, and now we've got other great teams in this league. ...

"The other side of it is for the future of this program. To be able to in Year Two, with our first recruiting class, to beat a top-10 program hopefully shows where our program has a potential to get to. It helps build on the recruiting side of things, people take notice, people realize what we're doing and how we're doing it."

This win is a building block, and it's a big one.

From my first day covering the Dukes last fall, fans and friends of the program quickly filled me in. Duquesne doesn't like it, but they've slipped down the city pecking order far behind Pitt and, gasp, perhaps even Robert Morris. It's a fan base that most describe as stuck in the 1970s and couldn't decide whether they were willing to back this new coach through a couple frustrating (embarrassing?) seasons.

And Ferry said from the outset that it wasn't going to be pretty in a hurry. He said it would be another trying year — the Dukes went 8-22 in his debut season. He certainly never promised an Atlantic 10 title in Year Two. He wasn't born when Duquesne last beat a top-10 team on the road (No. 6 Bradley in 1962), and he was probably too young to even notice Duquesne in its glory days.

So he isn't trying to resurrect a childhood fantasy of what he remembered Duquesne to be. He's trying to rebuild a once-proud program the way he knows how, the way he did at LIU-Brooklyn, to compete in today's top-heavy college basketball landscape. This win was his staff's first statement win — and that can go a long way in the rebuilding process.

"When we got here last year, this program was at rock bottom. The seniors and upperclassmen leaders graduated," he said. "The point guard transferred [T.J. McConnell to Arizona]. There weren't many players here. So with our first few recruiting classes we're trying to establish some things, and the league is tough. it's not something that's real easy to do."

Whether or not fans can see past the lopsided records to the pieces on the court, Ferry has already pulled some impressive players to Duquesne. Soko came to the Bluff because of Ferry's system, which would allow him to expand his game, use his versatility and strength. And, man, that was actually a pretty darn selfless move — he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he'd never sniff the NCAA tournament in his first, last and only season playing at Duquesne. But he believed in Ferry and the system and the program's gradual upward trajectory.

After the Saint Louis game, Soko thanked his teammates for not folding the tent after back-to-back last-minute losses to St. Bonaventure and Dayton.

"These are my last games, so I'm going to play every game like it's my last," Soko said. "But for the freshmen and sophomores and even juniors on the team — everyone besides myself and Jerry — to stay poised and stay hungry and go to an environment like that and play the way they did, I take my hat off to them.

"I don't think I was at that same place when I was that age. I don't think I had that mental toughness. These guys really showed great character going into an environment like that and coming off such a heartbreaking loss."

That's the sign of a program that hasn't become complacent, that hasn't resigned to life in the Atlantic 10 cellar.

And Ferry got Mason, too, perhaps the least-heralded standout of the college basketball season. You might say Mason had no choice but to come back home from Drake, and that's basically true, and that Duquesne was really his only option. It wasn't, though, and if you hear the way he speaks of Ferry andthe Duquesne program, you'd understand why he ended up here.

Ferry lets his players play to their strengths, Mason told me earlier this year, and while that takes a while to figure out, that's how his offense will eventually among the most potent and effective in college basketball.

Right now, two guys know their offensive strengths: Mason and Soko. That number will grow.

Ferry has said again and again that he's committed to building the Duquesne program the right way. That comes with very little instant gratification, of course. It means you're going to dump almost your entire roster after one season and start from scratch. It means you're going to lose games. But, with a little patience, it means you'll have a strong foundation to build a program — not just a single team — on.

And, from this reporter's courtside perspective, Duquesne is headed in the right direction. A win against top-10 Saint Louis doesn't answer all your questions, but it sure helps validate this staff's efforts.

"It takes a little patience, like I've always said, to do it the right way," Ferry said. "And I know the Dukes fans don't want to hear that all the time, but it's true. It's reality. If you want to be a team that can sustain winning at a high level, you've got wins like this to help it move forward, but you've got to continue to do it the right way.

"Hopefully this helps with the change of the culture, helps with our campus and our city buying into us, and helps with recruiting. Those are the main things it has to do."


Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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RIP Porky Chedwick: What people are saying

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Porky

It's hard to comprehend what Porky Chedwick meant to radio, to music and to the culture when he started pushin' platters back in the late '40s and '50s.

Unlike modern DJs, he was a freewheeler, playing what he wanted, unbound by format, and breaking records for popular and unknown artists.

He played "race records" when no one else did. He played the b-sides. He brushed off the dusty discs. The Bossman was there to get you groovin' and Grind Your Mind.

He died Sunday morning at age 96. And he was on his feet till the end. Just last Saturday he was on stage at the Benedum for the final Roots of Rock and Roll concert, looking a bit frail but sounding like his old self and enjoying the music. Of course, every headliner there, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Shirley Alston Reeves (of the Shirelles), sent their love to Porky for helping to make their career.

The snowy Sunday morning has brought an outpouring of respect for the Daddio of the Raddio, who was not only a pioneer and a legend but a very kind and humble man. A true gentleman.

Here's what musicians and radio people are saying on social media:

Pat DiCesare (promoter, songwriter): "Very sad news. Sean McDowell just informed me that Jeannie, Porky's wife just called him to say that Porky chedwick has just passed away. I was just with him last week. The music business just won't be the same"

Frank Czuri (Skyliners, Silencers, Diamond Reo): "I am feeling the loss of Porky Chedwick! His influence on my love for music is boundless. RIP, Bossman."

Rico Gagliano (former Pittsburgher and host of radio show "Dinner Party"): "Would like to hang on the cloud in heaven where oldies DJ bossman Porky Chedwick is now chilling with Myron Cope and all the other 'burgh characters. RIP Porky. Here's him saying stuff like "A real heavy groove goin' there for ya, for two heavy cats."

porky2Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette​Justin Hopper (Pandemic DJ): "The word 'legend' gets used too often. In this case it's not big enough.​"

The Jaggerz: "Rest in Peace my dear friend. Jimmie Ross."

Rob Pratte ‏(CBS Pittsburgh): "The Great Porky Chedwick has passed away.. Thanks Brother for your leadership."

Charlie Batch: "RIP Mr Porky Chedwick, You were truly an Icon!"

​Scott Paulsen ‏(WDVE): "The people old enough to fully understand the colossal impact of Porky Chedwick's radio career are few and far between. #RIP​"

​Joe Grushecky (Houserockers): "God Bless Porky Chedwick. He had a profound influence on Pittsburgh music. It was a huge thrill getting to meet him back in the day​."

Chuck Owston (musician): "A Pittsburgh Music Legend has passed on: Porky Chedwick, the Daddio of the Raddio, the Platter Pushin' Poppa, the Bossman, radio personality at Radio station WAMO. Most folks remember him as preserving the Pittsburgh "Odlies" or Doo Wop sound. However, in the late 60's he had a show called "Pork in the Underground," where he played psychedelic music and real obscure "underground" rock, much like John Peel was doing in the UK. In 1962, I played a show with Porky and hill district r & b group the Volchords at the Orbit Rendevous on Rt. 30 near the Westinghouse Bridge. Also the Tempests played several with Porky over the years. RIP Porky.​"

Kip Ruefle (Callan, ATS): "Rip Porky. Would have nice if he had made it to the Pittsburgh Rock and Roll Hall of Fame"

Rosemary Welsch (WYEP): There are people who define what it means to be a Pittsburgher. #Porky Chedwick was one of those people. RIP ultimate PGH DJ.

Travis Klein (Itzy Records): "I'm sitting here, very sad, with some tears. I know I'm being selfish but I loved that guy. I wanted him to live forever. I feel bad for Jeanie and every other Pittsburgher who will suffer this loss with her."

Randy Baumann (WDVE): "RIP Porky Chedwick. The most important Pittsburgh broadcaster ever. The man who introduced R&B/Rock N Roll to the 'burgh."

Mayor Bill Peduto: "The legendary Porky Chedwick - today we lost The Daddio of the Raddio. I was with him last weekend. Rest my friend"

 

 

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Rozsival's game has changed after early struggles with Penguins - 03-02-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Members of the "Pre-Crosby" Penguins in the early to mid-2000s didn't exactly produce much in the way of winning hockey. The three seasons between Jaromir Jagr's departure in 2001 and Sidney Crosby's arrival in 2005 produced no playoff appearances for the franchise.

Michal Rozsival was a face of those struggling teams. A fourth-round pick in 1996, the Czech Republic native made a quick transition to North American hockey and reached the NHL by the 1999-2000 season. He would show a few flashes of talent by recording a respectable 21 points in 75 games as a rookie in 1999-2000. Injuries and inconsistency would eventually be the hallmark of his time with the Penguins.

On teams that didn't have a ton of talent, Rozsival would draw the ire of many fans in Mellon Arena. It wasn't uncommon to hear shouts of "Rosy" accompanied something vulgar during many games.

After a knee injury wiped out his entire 2003-04 season and a lockout forced him to play in Europe in 2004-05, Rozsival joined the Rangers as a free agent in 2005. Since then, he has become a key contributor for playoff teams in New York, Phoenix and Chicago. A decade after washing out with the Penguins, Rozsival won the Stanley Cup for the first time with Chicago. This season, he was a member of the Czech Republic's Olympic team.

Prior to Saturday's outdoor game in Chicago, Roszival reflected on his time with the Penguins and where he is as a player these days:

How do you reflect or evaluate yourself as a player those first four years as an NHLer in Pittsburgh?

"Back then, it was a totally different game than it is right now. Obviously, when I was in Pittsburgh, I was much younger. I was a player who was trying to make it basically. I have nothing but good memories of Pittsburgh. I was very fortunate to play, see and meet very good hockey players that used to play in Pittsburgh whether it was Jaromir Jagr or Mario Lemieux … Keven Stevens. I was like a kid there. I was living the dream. All of a sudden I’m in the NHL and all those guys are around me. I have really good memories of when I started in Pittsburgh. The game has changed. My game has changed. Now I’m towards the end of my career. Back then, I was just starting. It was a long time ago."

Was Pittsburgh a good place to go for Czech players? There were so many of them on the roster.

"Yeah. It was. Definitely. At one point I think I remember we had like eight or nine Czech players on the team. Pittsburgh loved for some reason Czech players. It was a good time. It was like a little Czech community there because almost half of the team was Czech at one point there. It was a lot of fun to play with those guys. Just playing with players like Martin Straka, Robert Lang, Jiri Slegr, Josef Melichar…"

Did you know the team has had at least one Czech player on the roster every season going back to Jaromir Jagr's rookie year?

"Really? That’s a cool stat. … They always brought a Czech back. There you go. The Czechs did a good job back then so they still like them over there."

How different were your first two seasons - a playoff appearance in 1999-2000 and Lemieux's comeback in 2000-01 - compared to the final two seasons when the team failed to make the postseason?

"To tell the truth, I don’t really remember the details. When I got there, the team was struggling a little bit because of some financial problems. Not many people come to the games. It wasn’t the best time of hockey there but we still played decent under the circumstances. I haven’t really reflected back on it too much lately. I remember a few things but I don’t really remember the details."

How much have thing changed for the Penguins in the decade since? You mentioned the financial problems and the low attendance. It's quite different now.

"It’s definitely a big turnaround. Back then, people didn’t come to the games for whatever reasons. Mario wasn’t playing. We didn’t really dominate the game as they were used to. They used to have an all-star team there. The team was struggling. Right now, since obviously Sidney [Crosby] arrived and they won the Cup, they’ve been playing on top of the league for a few seasons. They turned the organization around completely. It’s got to be one of the most recognized franchises in the league right now because of what they’ve done."

What has your journey as an NHLer been like after leaving the Penguins?

"I’ve been up and down. I’ve always tried to play hard. Obviously, when I left Pittsburgh, I was still kind of young. I signed as a free agent in New York. I was fortunate to play with really good hockey players. Jaromir Jagr, we met again. Tom Renney was the coach and he really put a lot of trust in me and I think that’s where my career kind of turned around. I started believing more in my ability. I think I became more confident and a better player for that reason.

And after New York?

"I left for Phoenix. I got traded to a team, we had an older team. We had really good players there. Experienced players. We went to a conference final [in 2012] with that team. I got a taste of what it is like to go deeper into playoffs and be close to winning [the Stanley Cup]. Then I signed as a free agent in Chicago and actually won it. I’ve been up and down but I don’t regret anything I’ve done."

(Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images and Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

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What time are the Oscars? Plus, photos from rehearsals

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

If you're wondering what time do the Oscars start the answer is 8:30 p.m. on ABC. The official preshow on the network is at 7 p.m., with E! having live coverage at 5:30 p.m.
 
Here are some photos from rehearsals for the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. 
 
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (left) and Harrison Ford as preparations continue for the 86th Oscars. Also pictured: Will Smith, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper, John Travolta, Tyler Perry, Ewan McGregor and Penelope Cruz
 
All by Richard Harbaugh, A.M.P.A.S.
 
harrisonfordwillsmithrehearsalglennclosebradleycoopertravoltatylerperryewanpenelopecruz
 

 

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Non-Stop lives up to its name at box office

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

posternonstop“Non-Stop” lived up to its name as the Liam Neeson thriller was the No. 1 movie of the week with an estimated $30,019,350.

“Son of God,” a big-screen drama culled from the History Channel’s “The Bible” series, with some new footage added, was second with $26,500,000.

Here are the full top 10 from Rentrak with final numbers on Monday as usual:

“Non-Stop” -- $30,019,350.

“Son of God” -- $26,500,000.

“The Lego Movie” – $21,015,000 bringing its North American gross to $209,325,084.

“The Monuments Men” -- $5,000,000, for $65,692,973 since release.

     “3 Days to Kill” -- $4,900,00 for $20,700,883 so far.

“RoboCop” -- $4,500,000, bringing its gross to $51,211,444.

“Pompeii” -- $4,300,000.

“Frozen” -- $3,611,000, for $388,736,000 since Thanksgiving.

“About Last Night” -- $3,400,000, for $43,751,348 to date.

“Ride Along” -- $3,065,160, edging it running gross to $127,188,560.

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