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Soko leads Duquesne to 5th consecutive victory

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

Ovie Soko had 29 points, and the Duquesne men's basketball team clung to the remnants of a 20-point lead to claim Wednesday night's 87-81 victory over Fordham in the Atlantic 10 opener at Palumbo Center.

Despite once leading 55-35, the Dukes couldn't relax until sophomore Jeremiah Jones made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 32.6 seconds. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Dukes (8-5, 1-0), and a fifth straight 20-point night for Soko, their star senior.

It was the first time since 2010-11 that the Dukes opened their A-10 schedule with a victory. They also matched their conference wins total from last season, when they won just once.

“We got the monkey off our back,” said Jones, who called last season's 1-15 experience “miserable.”

Duquesne waited weeks for its first conference win last season. The team lost its first nine A-10 games, and Soko could only watch after transferring from UAB.

“Ovie was miserable going through it,” Jones said, “but I was a little bit more miserable because I was the one playing. It's definitely good to get the first win. We don't want to just win one game, but it happened a lot earlier than it did last year. We expect to win more.”

Jones, who had 12 points, was 9 of 12 from the foul line. Derrick Colter had 14 points and four of Duquesne's 19 assists. Micah Mason had a career-high seven assists. Dominique McKoy scored 10.

Fordham freshman Jon Severe, a New York native who Duquesne recruited heavily, had 35 points for his hometown team. Severe scored the first 10 points for Fordham, which led 5-2 but fell behind 19-10.

Mandell Thomas and Branden Frazier each had 15 points for Fordham (7-7, 0-1).

Duquesne's lead reached 20 points on a 3-pointer by Mason less than 2 minutes into the second half, but Fordham worked it back to single digits. When Frazier made a 3-pointer with 1:34 left, the lead was just 77-74.

Soko extended his streak of 20-point games to five. In his previous four, the senior had 23, 22, 21 and 22 points. Soko troubled Fordham's forwards, who were heftier but less mobile.

In the paint, the Dukes held a 36-14 scoring edge.

Soko made 10 of 15 shots and was 8 of 13 from the foul line. He's the first Duke with five consecutive 20-point games since Bryant McAllister in 2005-06.

A putback by Soko of his own miss gave the Dukes their largest first-half lead, 48-32, with 50 seconds before halftime. Two quick baskets by Soko after halftime stretched Duquesne's lead to 52-35.

Severe, a 6-foot-3 guard, helped lead Fordham's second-half rally. His 3-pointer with 6:11 left cut the Dukes lead to 71-62. A layup by Severe made it 73-65.

Fouled by Jones, Severe also made three free throws with 34.9 seconds left, pulling Fordham to within 84-79.

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

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