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Duquesne closes regular season with victory over George Mason

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

FAIRFAX, Va. — With its 81-69 victory over George Mason on Saturday night, the monkey officially was off Duquesne's back: The Dukes avoided the Atlantic 10 Tournament elimination game that will take place between the bottom two teams in the league.

But for coach Jim Ferry, the win meant something more valuable: momentum heading into a conference tournament with a deep and talented field.

“We were picked last in this league,” Ferry said. “To finish (tied for) 10th is an accomplishment in this league, especially with a young team

“It's one of the best conferences in America. Right now, it looks like we're going to get six teams in the NCAA Tournament.”

Derrick Colter led Duquesne (13-16, 5-11) with 21 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers, and eight rebounds, followed by Ovie Soko with 18 points and L.G. Gill with 16.

Neither team had a particularly strong performance in the first half, but Duquesne went to halftime with a 38-31 lead.

The Dukes struggled to score consistently until Soko threw down a one-handed dunk that gave his team an offensive spark.

Duquesne's defense tightened over the remainder of the first half. Except for two free throws by Sherrod Wright with a minute left, George Mason didn't score over the final 4:57 of the half.

That gave Duquesne a window for an 11-2 run to close the half, including three consecutive 3-pointers from Gill.

“(The scoring run) was really big,” Gill said. “I feel like those shots gave us energy to keep going, and then we just took off from there.”

George Mason's shooting struggles continued into the second half — the Patriots didn't score for the first three-plus minutes of the second half, by which time the Duquesne lead had grown to 16.

The Patriots pulled within seven at 67-60, leading to two Ferry timeouts during that span.

“(Ferry) said to play with intensity, to stay focused, keep our defensive rebounds,” Colter said. “They're going to make their run, and we made our run, we just could stand it and played our game.”

The Dukes stuck to their game plan, using a balanced scoring attack — they shot 52.7 percent (29 of 55) for the game — and a sizeable advantage on the glass (42-27) to maintain an edge over the Patriots.

Ferry said he wanted his team to focus on owning the paint, keeping George Mason uncomfortable on the floor.

“They're great players. They're great wing scorers. We really had to make those guys feel uncomfortable,” he said. “We were trying to funnel the ball inside, make them beat us that way.”

The Dukes' opponent in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament has yet to be determined.

Elizabeth Traynor is a freelance writer.

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