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Saunders, Duquesne roll over St. Francis

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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

Duquesne has been waiting for a game like this. A game where everybody could get into the act. A game to take the Dukes into the Christmas break with a good feeling.

Now, a welcome eight-day rest — their longest of the season — precedes a trip to Old Dominion a week from today.

"I'm going to my brother-in-law's farm in West Virginia. I'm going deer hunting, and I'm taking my little boy with me," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "It'll be my first opportunity. It'll be my only opportunity."

Damian Saunders' 18 points and 12 rebounds — his 10th double-double of the year — helped Duquesne roll to an 86-56 victory over outmanned St. Francis (Pa.) on Tuesday night at Palumbo Center.

Eric Evans produced his second strong performance in a row for the Dukes, scoring 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting and getting six assists. Bill Clark also scored in double figures for Duquesne (9-4) with 16 points.

It was Duquesne's 10th consecutive victory against St. Francis (3-9). The Red Flash were led by Umar Shannon's 12 points.

Evans, coming off a career-high 20-point performance in Duquesne's 73-64 loss at Indiana/Purdue-Indianapolis on Saturday, helped the Dukes shoot a season-high 57.4 percent (31 for 54) against St. Francis.

"Our whole team is a good-shooting team," Evans said. "We just haven't been shooting it like we know we can. But we shot it well tonight."

Duquesne's once-potent offense had become stagnant this year but finally managed a breakout against the smaller Red Flash, whose tallest starter was 6-foot-6 freshman Will Felder.

Senior Devin Sweetney, another 6-6 forward and the team's leading scorer, returned to the lineup after sitting out two games for personal reasons. Sweetney, averaging 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, played 22 minutes and scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting with eight rebounds.

The Dukes, whose previous season-high for points was 85 in the opener against Nicholls State, had been outscoring opponents by a slim margin of 2.4 points per game before last night's 30-point victory.

"Coming into this game, we all had a chip on our shoulder from the last couple of games," Saunders said. "We needed to reunite as a team. Everybody was getting to be out for themselves. Tonight we had a season-high 20 assists on 31 shot-attempts. We needed a game like this to see how guys would react."

Duquesne tied a season-high for 3-point shooting percentage (40), assists (20) and bench points (19).

All 14 players in uniform saw action, including walk-on guard Salim Fauras, a native of Geneva, Switzerland.

"It was nice to actually play a game that wasn't a grinder, a game decided on the last 3-4 possessions of the game," Everhart said. "I'm proud of our guys. They gave a great effort and showed a lot of energy. We guarded really well, and we rebounded. We would like to get our transition game going like that (again)."

In the previous three seasons, Duquesne had ranked fifth overall in Division I in scoring average.

"We had our legs back tonight," Everhart said. "We had that degree of bounce and energy. We haven't had that for a while."

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