Duquesne can’t overcome La Salle
PHILADELPHIA — There they go again.
With yet another chance to win in the closing seconds, the Duquesne Dukes wound up dropping a 71-66 decision to the La Salle Explorers on Saturday — the 18th time the Dukes have been involved in a game decided by less than 9 points.
Duquesne (9-19, 3-12) was coming off a two-point overtime loss to No. 13 Xavier on Wedensday and has played in six similar outcomes in the past seven, winning just once.
“It was a winnable game. It’s a microcosm of the season,” Duquesne coach Danny Nee said.
Asked what the Dukes are lacking, Nee responded without hesitation: “We’re just not good enough yet. We’re not finishing plays.”
Depth, Nee said, also plays into it. The Dukes’ troubles were compounded by foul problems, as center Ron Dokes and guard Kevin Forney fouled out, and three other players finished with four infractions.
“It got real touchy toward the end,” said Forney, a Philadelphia native and senior guard playing in his final college game in his hometown.
With 2,511 fans looking on at Tom Gola Arena, Duquesne began with the same emotion it played with in the Xavier game and bolted to a 10-0 lead at the start. But the Dukes couldn’t sustain the pace and allowed La Salle (11-14, 5-9) to pull even at 14-14. A 16-0 run put the Explorers up 32-14 and they led 40-29 at halftime after shooting 6 for 10 from 3-point range.
Duquesne was able to take advantage of La Salle’s poor second-half shooting, which saw the Explorers convert a deplorable 14.3 percent (4 for 28) overall after intermission. But a 14-point deficit with 16:57 left was too much to overcome for the Dukes, who close out the regular season Saturday at home against Rhode Island.
The outcome took on a special importance with regard to the fast-approaching Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
Pending a decision on the status of St. Bonavaventure’s record — the school last week declared forward Jamil Terrell academically ineligible for the 25 games in which he appeared but is appealing to the NCAA for his reinstatement — every team’s record could change, which could mean a shuffle in the projected seedings for the tournament.
A-10 athletic directors met Thursday to discuss Terrell’s fate and are expected to render a decision following a teleconference call Monday.
If Terrill, a junior college transfer, is ruled ineligible, St. Bonaventure (13-14, 7-7) would be required to forfeit six of its seven conference victories. The Bonnies held him out of their past two games — yesterday’s 78-77 loss to Temple and a 94-89 overtime victory Wednesday against George Washington.
La Salle, which defeated Duquesne, 82-74, on Feb. 8 at Palumbo Center, was playing yesterday without sensational freshman forward Steven Smith, the Explorers’ second-leading scorer (14.5 ppg.), who likely will be out for the season with an injury to his left foot, suffered against the Dukes.
David Bell and Gary Neal, two other freshmen, led La Salle with 19 points each. Rasheed Quadri added 14 points and Mike Cleaves 10. Elijah Palmer paced Duquesne with 15 points, Simplice Njoya had 14 and freshman Bryant McAllister 13.
Despite the 6-foot-9 Dokes fouling out with 12:06 to play, Duquesne slowly chipped away and finally regained the lead with 2:16 left (66-65) on a jumper by Brad Midgley.
But La Salle, which shot 28 for 36 from the free-throw line, quickly negated its deficit on two free throws by Joel-Jean Baptiste with 1:15 to go after Forney fouled him and exited with his fifth.
“We did what we had to. Our free-throw shooting helped us win the game,” La Salle coach Billy Hahn said.
Forney, a 6-3 guard, scored just six points for Duquesne to finish in single digits for only the second time in the past 22 games.
“I don’t know what it is about us,” Forney said. “We’re definitely better than we’ve been in the past, but we still can’t get over the hump.”
When Midgley missed a jumper and the Dukes were forced to foul, Neal made both attempts to give La Salle a three-point advantage with 17 seconds left. Duquesne had a last chance, but McAllister’s pass went off Jimmy Tricco’s hands and out of bounds, and Cleaves sank two free throws to seal the victory.
“We had many opportunities in the game, with La Salle shooting so poorly, to finish this out,” Nee said. “We had good looks at the backet, but we couldn’t finish it out. La Salle still made the plays.”