Duquesne rally falls short against Dayton
DAYTON, Ohio — Although Duquesne was on the losing end of an Atlantic 10 Conference game with Dayton on Saturday, the rest of the conference would do well to sit up and take notice, because the Dukes finally appear poised to shed their bottom-feeder label.
Yesterday’s 77-72 loss at Dayton comes on the heels of an impressive seven-point victory over Temple and is the latest block in a monumental rebuilding project being orchestrated by Duquesne coach Danny Nee.
“This was a real tough loss,” Nee said. “We had an opportunity.”
The frustration showed on the faces of Duquesne’s players. Jimmy Tricco, who scored all 20 of his points to spark a furious second-half rally by the Dukes, stood with a towel around his neck. Kevin Forney, who scored a game-high 22 points, could do little more than shake his head.
“Man, I wanted this one,” Forney said.
They almost had it, too. The Dukes were down by 20 points with 12:47 remaining before making their run and silencing a UD Arena crowd of 12,489.
“We’ve been getting bombed by Dayton,” Forney said. “We’re getting close. In the past, we would have gotten smacked by 20, 30, 40 points. This is a good thing. We’ve got new guys here and it’s coming together.”
Behind the long-range shooting (6 of 7 3-point shots) of Tricco and a flurry of slashing, driving layups by Forney (13 second-half points), Duquesne came all the way back and took its only lead, 72-71, with 1:01 left on a short jumper by Forney.
But it would be the final points for Duquesne (7-9, 1-2), which lost its 12th in a row to the Flyers. Duquesne has not won at UD Arena since Feb. 1, 1983.
Dayton (10-3, 2-0) hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final 42 seconds, including four by Nate Green, to turn back the Dukes, who shot 54.3 percent in the second half and 44.8 (26 for 58) overall.
“Coach (Oliver Purnell) has always stressed that free throws win games, along with defense,” Green said. “We got off the page defensively and got lackadaisical in the second half, and they hit their shots. We let them back in the game.”
After Green hit two free throws to put Dayton up for good, 73-72, Tricco’s shot was blocked by Brooks Hall and the Flyers regained control. Ramod Marshall hit two free throws to increase the lead to 75-72 before he stole the ball from Tricco at the other end and, after a scramble for the loose ball, Tricco fouled out and sent Green to the line again.
From there, the senior forward sank both tries for Dayton to ice the victory.
“I want the ball in my hands with the game on the line,” Tricco said. “I tried to drive and get fouled. Coach Nee just told me afterwards I’ve got to be stronger with the ball.
A dejected Tricco, however, refused to apologize, instead choosing defiant determination.
“We had that game, but we couldn’t hang on,” he said.
Purnell found Duquesne’s act intriguing, to say the least.
“Duquesne is a different ball club. Their inside players are big and strong,” he said. “Once you let a team like that back into the game and get some momentum, anything can happen. And it almost did. No lead is safe. Duquesne is a team that believes in themselves. The combination of them playing hard and us relaxing made it an exciting game.”
But the Flyers found a way to win, as Nee pointed out.
“Dayton is a real tough matchup. They really did a number on us inside,” he said, referring to the Dukes’ 36-23 rebounding deficit.
The combination of 6-foot-9 Keith Waleskowski and 6-11 Sean Finn was too much for Duquesne to handle. Waleskowski scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Finn, playing with a broken right hand, which was heavily taped, had eight points and four boards.
Mark Jones scored a career-high 19 points and Green added 15 for Dayton, which was coming off a tough four-point home victory over La Salle. Joining Forney, who shot 9 for 12, and Tricco, who was 7 for 13, in double figures for Duquesne was Ron Dokes, with 10 points.
Dayton held Duquesne without a field goal for the first 5:53 while racing to a 10-0 lead. The Flyers, who recorded their 400th victory at UD Arena since the building opened in 1969, led 34-19 at halftime. They stretched their advantage to 52-32 on a layup by Finn before Duquesne, which was 9 for 16 from 3-point range in the second half, started its comeback.
“We got down by 20 and found a way to bounce back,” Nee said. “Forney and Tricco played magnificent in the second half, but when you start against a team like Dayton with a 10-0 run, you’re fighting back the whole game. If we would have just started out a little better, maybe when we would have made that run, we would have been ahead.”