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Duquesne tops Fordham in offensive affair

As Ron Everhart strode into the press room Friday for his usual postgame meeting with the media, a reporter joked with the Duquesne basketball coach about a perceived lack of defense in the Dukes' 111-100 victory over Fordham.

"I'm sure you've all probably been discussing how well we defended today," Everhart deadpanned.

When someone suggested that the Dukes' defense improved against the Rams from the first half (51 points) to the second half (49), Everhart cracked: "We've never been worried about that here. We went from 52 to 59 on offense. That's the key stat."

Then, with a wink, the fourth-year coach was all smiles, even though his team struggled at times against Atlantic 10 Conference doormat Fordham, which lost its 21st consecutive game and became the first A-10 team to go winless in conference play in a season since St. Bonaventure was 0-14 in an eight-team conference in 1992-93.

"It's good to actually look back at the scoresheet after a couple of years and see a game where both teams have three digits on the scoreboard," Everhart said. "I guess maybe I'm in my comfort zone there."

Melquan Bolding scored a career-high 32 points, and Eric Evans and Bill Clark produced double-doubles to lead Duquesne to the wild victory at Palumbo Center in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Evans finished with career-highs of 23 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double, and Clark had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and sixth of his career.

Damian Saunders (17 points) also scored in double figures for Duquesne (16-14, 7-9), which would play host to a first-round home game Tuesday night in the A-10 Tournament if Charlotte, Massachusetts and No. 25 Xavier win their scheduled home games.

"We needed this win to build back our confidence," Evans said.

Duquesne, which produced three 20-point scorers in a game for the first time since 1997, was coming off two consecutive losses, including 92-80 at St. Bonaventure two days earlier.

Yesterday's game was moved up one day to a noon start time to accommodate two days of WPIAL basketball playoffs at Palumbo Center.

Brenton Butler led Fordham (2-26, 0-16) with 29 points. Freshman Chris Gaston added 21 points and 18 rebounds for his 19th double-double, tying Saunders for the conference lead.

Also, Alberto Eastwick had 20 points and Lance Brown scored 18 for the Rams, whose only victories this season came against Sacred Heart and Stony Brook in nonconference games.

Duquesne led at halftime, 52-51, despite missing its first 11 shots. Bolding scored 16 first-half points, and Evans had 14.

But Fordham, relying on 3-point shots, rallied to take a 69-64 lead before Duquesne regained control for an 86-80 advantage, when Saunders scored six consecutive points, capped by a dunk with 7:48 remaining.

"It seemed like Fordham hit more 3s than that (11 for 24)," Bolding said. "It was anything we could do to get the win."

Duquesne, which ranked among Division I's leaders in scoring offense while playing a a primarily hectic pace in Everhart's first three seasons, has displayed a more traditional style for much of this season.

But after enduring a midseason, five-game losing streak, the Dukes, who converted 13 of 32 3-point shots and made 24 of 34 free throws, have turned up the pace again. They notched their second 100-point game of the season.

The 111 points represent the most scored in a game by an A-10 team this season and matches Duquesne's most in a game since it scored the same total in consecutive games in February 2007.

"We hate structure. We always have," Everhart said. "That's been my battle with these guys all year. The more structure, the worse for us. I think I've said this before: If we're going to play a game like that, I like our team."

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