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Duquesne rallies to down NJIT

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — It was the type of victory that tests a team's mettle.

Duquesne had to overcome overconfidence, poor 3-point shooting and a 10-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to escape with a 71-64 victory over NJIT on Wednesday at Fleisher Athletic Center.

“These are better wins than winning by 20-25 points any night because you learn more about your team, and your kids learn how to deal with situations,” Dukes coach Jim Ferry said. “Listen, at this point of the year, you take any win you can get any way you can get it, but we'll learn from this one for sure.”

Duquesne (10-9) came out flat against NJIT, which is in just its seventh season of Division I competition and carries the burden of the sole D-I team in the country playing without a conference affiliation. The Highlanders set an NCAA record in 2009 with 51 straight defeats, and their gym is half the size of many high schools in the WPIAL.

The Highlanders (9-14), hosting an Atlantic 10 team for the first time, took a 32-29 lead into halftime and led 53-43 with 10:32 remaining.

“We were really, really flat,” Ferry said. “They got life, and we couldn't catch up to them. It's not the Atlantic 10 now, so maybe they let their guard down.”

The Dukes finally went ahead with 3:56 left after Derrick Colter's second consecutive 3-pointer capped a 16-5 run to give Duquesne a 59-58 lead.

The Dukes held on from there.

Ovie Soko had 25 points and eight rebounds to pace Duquesne, which returns to A-10 competition Saturday at La Salle. Micah Mason chipped in 13 points, and Colter added 11, all coming in the final 4:50.

Duquesne won despite shooting 19 percent from 3-point range. The Dukes entered having connected on 56 percent from the arc in their past two games.

“We knew in the first half we didn't come out mentally ready and, when we were down 10, we knew we had to fight back,” said Dukes guard Desmond Ridenour, who provided a spark off the bench with seven points and five assists. “I think it builds great character for our team. Everybody is happy to get out of here with a win.”

Aaron Bracy is a freelance writer.

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