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No. 19 Saint Louis dodges an upset bid from Duquesne men

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 10:03 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Ovie Soko battles for a rebound with Saint Louis' John Manning during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, at Palumbo Center.

The Duquesne men's basketball team led with less than a minute left but couldn't complete the upset as No. 19 Saint Louis escaped Palumbo Center with a 76-72 victory on Wednesday night.

The Dukes held a two-point lead with 57.4 seconds left after Jeremiah Jones made two free throws. But it lasted just seven seconds, until a 3-pointer by Austin McBroom.

“I'm disappointed that we didn't finish the job,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “(Saint Louis is) a really good team ... that understands how to win. We've just got to take that next step and win this game, then we'll understand how to win.”

Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0), which entered with the sixth-longest winning streak in the country, has won 12 straight. Saint Louis' only losses were to No. 5 Wichita State and No. 9 Wisconsin.

Duquesne (8-9, 1-4) has lost four in a row.

The Dukes' 72 points were the most scored this season against Saint Louis, whose defense had allowed just 57.3 points on average. That ranked sixth nationally and first in the A-10 in scoring defense.

Duquesne also outrebounded Saint Louis, 30-27, and shot 50 percent (24 of 48) against the Billikens.

“But they still found a way to win,” Ferry said. “That's a winning program. They never lost their poise.”

Duquesne had chances.

Trailing 73-72, Ovie Soko missed a contested layup with 36 seconds left and Dominique McKoy missed the put-back tip.

A twisting layup by McKoy with 15 seconds also missed, and a potential tying 3-pointer by Micah Mason was off-line with 5 seconds remaining.

A win would have been a boost for a young Duquesne team.

“Being able to win a game like this puts you over the hump,” Ferry said. “I've seen it when building a program or reestablishing a program. You can get a win like this, and it's always something the kids can go back to or draw back on.”

Soko led Duquesne with 18 points. McKoy and Mason each had 15. Mason was 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Saint Louis, a veteran team with five senior starters, had five players in double figures. Mike McCall Jr. had 13 points, Grandy Graze had 12, McBroom had 11, and Jordair Jett and Rob Loe each had 10.

Duquesne led for most of the first half and held a 36-28 lead 3:15 before halftime when Mason made one of his three first-half 3-pointers. Mason had nine first-half points.

But the Dukes fell into a short slump just before halftime, and Saint Louis took advantage. The scoreless streak included three missed shots and an unusual 10-second violation against Derrick Colter, who was not pressured but failed to cross midcourt in time. At halftime, Duquesne led 36-34.

A 3-pointer by Loe gave Saint Louis a 37-36 lead nine seconds into the second half. It was the first time Duquesne trailed since midway through the first half, when a foul shot by Soko established a 20-19 lead at 12:37. The Dukes had held that lead for nearly 13 minutes.

Duquesne quickly built another eight-point lead, including a pair of free throws by Soko with 15:49 left in the second half. But the lead didn't last. The teams combined for 19 lead changes. The Dukes' largest second-half lead was 47-39.

“I expected to win this game,” Ferry said. I thought if we played the right way, we'd be in a situation with five minutes to go to win the basketball game. And we were.”

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

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