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Duquesne rallies to top St. Francis (Pa.)

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

LORETTO — Halfway to a tough shooting night, Duquesne's Ovie Soko embraced his coach's advice to stop worrying.

“He always tells me, ‘Just keep playing,' ” said Soko, who teamed with Tra'Vaughn White to score 29 of their combined 39 points after halftime to erase a 13-point deficit in Tuesday night's 78-71 nonconference victory over St. Francis (Pa.).

Soko, who had eight first-half points, finished with 23. White, who had two before halftime, scored 16.

“Coaches have tried to beat into my head, ‘worry about playing hard,' ” Soko said. “Don't worry about making shots. Just play hard and everything will work out.”

Soko led Duquesne with eight first-half points, but he made just two of his first eight shots, and the Dukes trailed 37-27. The 6-foot-8 senior entered Tuesday having made three or fewer shots in four consecutive games.

But Soko was 4 of 7 in the second half, including a 3-pointer. He also finished 10 for 10 from the foul line, extending his recent success there, and had 12 rebounds. In the past three games, Soko has made 30 of 34 free throws.

“He was really down at halftime, feeling like he let everybody down,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “(I told him) just relax. That's why there are two halves.”

Six points and some added aggression by Soko sparked Duquesne's final run. Two free throws and a tip-in offensive rebound by Soko forced a tie, and White's driving layup with 2:52 left gave the Dukes a 71-69 lead.

Another putback by Soko with 1:58 left pushed the Dukes' lead to four.

“I thought we played on eggshells offensively in the first half,” Ferry said. “Be yourself. Play really hard. Play really aggressively. Let's do what we do.”

Earl Brown led St. Francis (2-8), an NEC team, with 21 points on 9 of 10 shooting, and Ben Millaud-Meunier added 18 points.

Duquesne (4-5) earned its first road win this season and just the third in two seasons under Ferry.

“We've got to learn with all these young guys what it's like,” Ferry said. “To get this win right now is huge. And especially to get it the way we got it. This was a way better win than if we had won by 20. Getting down (13), down 10 at half, I think we learned a little but about our team.”

St. Francis (2-8) shot 48 percent from the field in the first half — including 7 of 16 from 3-point range — and led 37-27 at halftime. The Dukes, who shot 39 percent, were 0 for 6 from 3-point range.

St. Francis sophomore Ben Millaud-Meunier, a 6-1 reserve guard, was 4 of 4 from 3-point range for 12 points in the first half. His four shots came within a four-minute span.

When his fourth fell with 6:38 until halftime, St. Francis led 25-16. With 2:23 left, the lead was 35-22.

Duquesne used a 13-0 run to erase a 10-point halftime deficit. A jumper by Soko with 12:38 left gave Duquesne a 47-46 lead — its first since before halftime. Two free throws by Jeremiah Jones gave the Dukes a 54-46 lead with 10:27 left.

St. Francis rallied and led by four with 4:20 left. But Soko's putback and White's layup with three minutes left gave Duquesne the lead for good at 71-69.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlanTrib.

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