Duquesne fades in loss at La Salle
PHILADELPHIA — There was no comeback in Duquesne this time.
Three days after overcoming a 10-point, second-half deficit in a nonconference victory at NJIT, the Dukes couldn't pull out of a double-digit hole after halftime in a 71-63 Atlantic 10 loss to La Salle on Saturday at Gola Arena.
Ovie Soko had 23 points, and Tra'Vaughn White added 13 for the Dukes (10-10, 2-5), who led by as many as six points in the opening 20 minutes but came out flat after halftime. La Salle scored 16 of the first 21 points after the break to surge to a 43-30 lead on Sam Mills' 3-pointer with 13:22 left.
The deficit was too much for the Dukes, who cut it to single digits late but never really threatened the Explorers (12-9, 4-3).
One reason was La Salle's ability to keep the Dukes off the free-throw line. Duquesne entered averaging 19 made free throws on 28 attempts but finished just 9 for 12 from the stripe.
“They beat us the way we normally beat people,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “You lose that game because we didn't get to the foul line. It's a credit to them. They're big, they're physical around the basket and it took away our driving lanes.
“When we're attacking, we're used to getting free throws so we don't hit those dry spells. OK, we're not making baskets but the score is changing because we're making fouls. Tonight they did a good job of guarding us.”
The Dukes finished with one fewer field goal and had one more 3-pointer than La Salle, but the Explorers went 16 for 21 from the foul line.
Explorers coach John Giannini said his team has emphasized not fouling all season due to new NCAA hand-check rules, but he put an exclamation point on it against the Dukes.
“We call the fouls in practice and do some things that help us,” Giannini said. “We officiate things pretty closely. Certainly, it is a huge key if you want to have a chance to beat Duquesne. We always talk about it, but it was a top priority against Duquesne.”
Besides their inability to get to the line, the Dukes had a hard time stopping the Explorers in the second half when they had to extend their defense in an effort to come back.
Five players finished in double-figures for La Salle, led by 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack's 16 points and 16 rebounds.
“He's great at what he does, and he was a huge factor,” Ferry said. “He did a fantastic job.”
The loss completed a season sweep by La Salle, which defeated host Duquesne, 75-56, on Jan. 12. It doesn't get any easier for the Dukes, who next travel to surprise A-10 contender George Washington on Wednesday.
“We've got to get better,” Ferry said. “We have to learn from this game. This is a really good La Salle team, and we're right there with them, but we're right there with everybody else in this league, too. The league is just really, really good, and we have to continue to get better to make sure we're ready come tournament time.”
Aaron Bracy is a freelance writer.