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Saunders, Duquesne upend Dayton at Palumbo Center

| Monday, Feb. 22, 2010

As the largest Palumbo Center crowd of the year converged Sunday, college basketball again became relevant on The Bluff.

And the Duquesne Dukes lived up to expectations from their growing faithful of 5,144, many of whom fed off the electric atmosphere produced by the first ESPN2 national telecast in nine years from the on-campus facility.

Damian Saunders scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, and surging Duquesne withstood Dayton's last-second 3-point attempt to win its third game in a row, 73-71.

"It was a great day to play a game like this," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said.

That Duquesne earned a victory over the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason-favored Flyers on a rare national telecast lends support to Everhart's theory.

"When I walked out of that locker room and I saw the turnout that we had on a Sunday afternoon, a national TV game ... you have to give credit to the way the game was presented," he said.

Bill Clark, the newly named A-10 player of the week, hit 1 of 2 free throws with 9.6 seconds left to give the Dukes (15-12, 6-7) a three-point lead before Chris Johnson's 3-point shot at the buzzer for Dayton missed the iron.

"I thought Jason Duty did a pretty good job getting out on him. That was not a rhythm shot," Everhart said. "We got a much better contest on that shot than the nine previous ones they made in the second half."

Johnson made four of his six 3-pointers after intermission, when Dayton connected on 9 of 17 to finish 11 for 29 for the game.

Eric Evans added 14 points, and Clark had 12 for Duquesne, which forced 21 Dayton turnovers.

Johnson's 21 points paced Dayton (18-8, 7-5). Chris Wright, who scored the Flyers' first 11 points, added 15.

The victory, coming four days after an improbable six-point win at Charlotte, enabled the Dukes to move closer to contention for a first-round home game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Duquesne, switching to a primarily uptempo style, has won four of five and six of nine to take momentum into its remaining regular-season games at Saint Louis on Saturday, at St. Bonaventure on March 3 and at home against Fordham on March 5.

"We just played hard down the stretch," Clark said. "Our new system is working. As long as we keep winning, I can live with it."

The Dukes were beaten by Dayton and Saint Louis in overtime affairs in their first meetings with the schools in January, but Dayton coach Brian Gregory said Duquesne has made enormous progress in recent weeks.

"Ron is a fighter, a feisty, tough son-of-a gun, and his teams play that way now," Gregory said. "His teams have taken on that personality. He'll probably be the first to tell you they haven't been as consistent with that as you want, but this is a much different team than you saw in the first part of the season."

The Senior Day game attendance easily eclipsed the previous season high of 3,789 on Jan. 31 for Duquesne's 74-71 victory over Saint Joseph's.

"Only our best fans and our real supporters were coming out to watch us play today," Everhart said, crediting the university's "Red Out" promotion for igniting the larger-than-usual turnout.

Duty, a former walk-on guard from Vincentian Academy, who earned a scholarship from Everhart to begin the year, was the team's lone senior to be honored on Senior Day prior to the game.

"Jason Duty deserves this," Everhart said. "He's certainly represented our basketball program in about as good a fashion as you could ever want as a basketball coach."

Duty finished with five points on 2-of-2 shooting, two assists, one rebound and one steal in 24 minutes as part of his 21st start in 25 appearances this season and 105th overall.

Additional Information:

Clark named player of the week

Duquesne forward Bill Clark, seemingly having rediscovered his shooting touch, was named Atlantic 10 Conference co-player of the week on Sunday.

Clark, a 6-foot-5 junior, averaged 26 points -- on 18 of 26 shooting (.692) -- four rebounds and four assists in victories over La Salle and Charlotte. He scored a career-high 34 points in a 103-82 win over La Salle.

Clark shared the award with point guard Kevin Anderson of No. 25 Richmond, who averaged 21.5 points -- on 17 of 26 shooting -- 4.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.6 rebounds in victories over Fordham and George Washington.

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