Dukes' sophomore assumes prominent role
Only a sophomore, Eric Evans already has been expressing his confidence loudly.
Excuse Duquesne coach Ron Everhart for not flinching, when his soft-spoken point guard speaks.
"Eric is in a tough spot. He's got big shoes to fill," Everhart said prior to Duquesne's exhibition game against Division III La Roche on Saturday night at Palumbo Center. "You hope Eric can step in. He has a lot of experience from last season."
Duquesne, with Damian Saunders leading six players in double figures with 17 points, rolled to a 95-48 victory over its outmanned opponent from the North Hills, scoring the game's first 18 points and leading at halftime, 55-20, before 1,819 fans. La Roche competes in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
Evans, the heir apparent at point guard to all-conference star Aaron Jackson wants to answer a burning question surrounding Duquesne this season: How do you replace Jackson?
"It's the same as last year," said Evans, who played both guard positions as a freshman, when he played in all 34 games in a reserve role, averaging 9.8 points to go with 75 assists and 57 turnovers. "We're committed to one thing on this team, and that's winning basketball games and getting to the NCAA Tournament. I learned a lot from Aaron, and one of the things I learned was that you've got to play hard on every single play. There's no room for any time off."
Jackson, who played for the Indiana Pacers' summer league team before joining Antalya of the Turkish Basketball League, led Duquesne in scoring (19.3 ppg.) last season and closed his college career with 46 points in a double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the NIT.
His emergence as an elite player in the Atlantic 10 Conference during his senior season came after Jackson led a late-season surge that fell just short of an NCAA Tournament bid for Duquesne, which lost to Temple in the A-10 Tournament title game.
Even with Jackson gone, though, Evans and his teammates don't believe team chemistry will suffer.
"He was a different player than I am," Evans said. "We both want to take our games to another level. I know what Aaron would have said. That's what I'm saying. I'm ready for the challenge of leading this team."
Duquesne returns every player, except Jackson, from last season's 21-13 NIT team. The Dukes are picked to finish in a fifth-place tie with Temple in the 14-team A-10.
"We have great expectations after what we accomplished last season," said Saunders, a junior forward. "We're hoping to take things farther, hopefully to the NCAA Tournament."
The addition of center Rodrigo Peggau, injured for most of last season, will afford the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Saunders to shift to his natural position of power forward.
The Dukes' encounter with La Roche was their only exhibition game leading up to the regular-season opener Friday night at Palumbo against Nicholls State, the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference championship.
Duquesne was without 7-foot sophomore center Morakinyo "Mike" Williams and sophomore guard/forward B.J. Monteiro.
Williams was expected back at practice this week after undergoing what the team described only as "a minor medical procedure."
Monteiro was serving the first of a two-game suspension for his role in an August theft at a home in Torrington, Conn., near Monteiro's hometown of Middletown. The suspension will cause Monteiro also to miss the Nicholls State game.
Everhart handed down the suspension after reinstating the 6-5 former Connecticut high school player of the year on Oct. 12, when charges stemming from the incident were dropped.Additional Information:
Duquesne 95, La Roche 48
La Roche: Mann 3-5 6-8 14, M.Williams 1-4 0-0 3, Dixon 2-4 0-2 4, Blair 0-2 1-2 1, Wojciechowski 2-7 1-2 6, Tabron 0-1 1-3 1, Gazier 2-10 3-4 8, Flowers 0-1 1-2 1, DeCrane 0-0 0-0 0, Tressler 1-2 0-0 3, Wood 0-1 1-2 1, Titterington 0-2 0-0 0, D.Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Culp 2-2 0-0 0 4, Barber-Richards 1-4 0-1 2. Totals 14-47 14-25 48.
Duquesne: Marhold 0-2 2-4 2, Robinson 0-2 1-2 1, Evans 6-9 2-2 15, Fauras 0-0 1-2 1, Duty 3-7 0-0 9, S.Johnson 5-10 2-5 13, Theis 1-2 1-3 3, Bolding 4-12 5-10 13, Saunders 8-13 0-4 17, Clark 4-8 0-0 10, Peggau 2-3 5-6 10, Lewinson 0-1 0-2 0, Newton 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 33-70 20-42 95.
Halftime: Duquesne 55, La Roche 20. 3-point shots: La Roche 6-20 (Tressler 1-1, M.Williams 1-3, Grazier 1-6, Titterinton 0-1, Mann 2-3, Wojciechowski 1-5, Barber-Richards 0-1), Duquesne 9-27 (Saunders 1-3, Clark 2-3, Evans 1-4, Duty 3-5, Bolding 0-5, Robinson 0-1, S.Johnson 1-2, Theis 0-1, Peggau 1-2, Newton 0-1). Rebounds: La Roche 35 (Tressler, M.Williams, Mann, Dixon, Wojciechowski, Wood, Barber-Richards 3), Duquesne 51 (Saunders 8, Clark 8). Assists: La Roche 11 (Grazier 4), Duquesne 18 (Evans 5). Total fouls: La Roche 25, Duquesne 21. Turnovers: La Roche 21, Duquesne 4. A: 1,819.