Duquesne stumbles in setback to Saint Louis
ST. LOUIS — Duquesne was beaten at its own game.
Continuing a policy of free substitution throughout the first half in an effort to wear down their opponent, the Dukes appeared to have generated some momentum with an early second-half lead but then got caught flat-footed and fell to Saint Louis, 69-59, on Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena.
"I didn't think we guarded well down the stretch," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "It seemed like we were the ones who were dead-legged towards the end. We missed some hustle plays. We had some rebounds we should have had in our hands. We didn't rebound the ball when we forced them to make some bad shots."
Kwamain Mitchell scored 23 points, and Saint Louis rallied in the second half to pull away and beat Duquesne, ending the Dukes' three-game winning streak.
"They beat us to a lot of loose balls," Duquesne's B.J. Monteiro said.
Willie Reed, Cody Ellis and Brian Conklin added 10 points apiece for the Billikens (19-9, 10-4 Atlantic 10), who won for the seventh time in eight games.
Bill Clark led Duquesne (15-13, 6-8) with 17 points. Monteiro added 15 for the Dukes, who have regular-season games remaining Wednesday at St. Bonaventure and Friday afternoon against Fordham at Palumbo Center.
"We're just going to have to focus on our game Wednesday (at St. Bonaventure) and try to go play as well as we can play," Everhart said. "It's tough on the road in this league and this is a good basketball team. We caught them tonight when they shot the ball well down the stretch and made their free throws."
While Saint Louis and Duquesne are the worst-shooting free-throw teams in the A-10, the Billikens made 18 of 26 from the line — including 13 of 18 in the second half — and Duquesne managed just 6 of 10 for the game.
It was Duquesne's second loss in as many games this season to Saint Louis, which escaped Palumbo Center on Jan. 13 with a double-overtime victory.
Saint Louis rallied from a 43-40 deficit to take command midway through the second half, as Duquesne's leading scorer and rebounder, Damian Saunders, sat on the Dukes' bench with a severe headache and stomach problems.
"He was struggling tonight," Monteiro said. "It was our job to pick him up. We didn't do a very good job of that. He was trying to bring us back ... he'll be back next game."
When Saunders was on the floor in the second half, he played mostly with four fouls. He finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Saint Louis opened the game with a 15-4 lead before Duquesne went on a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 20-18.
The score remained close throughout and was tied at halftime, 33-33.
Clark's layup on a pass from Monteiro gave Duquesne a 43-40 lead, but Saint Louis went in front for good on Mitchell's conventional three-point play, and the Billikens steadily pulled away and led by as many as 12.
Earlier in the day, the A-10 Conference standings crunched a little tighter around Duquesne with upset victories by George Washington and St. Bonaventure, teams with which the Dukes are fighting for a first-round home game in the conference tournament.
It made last night's game at Saint Louis all the more important for Duquesne, which entered the day in eighth place.
The top four teams receive a first-round tournament bye, and the next four will host first-round games before the an eight-team field shifts to Atlantic City, N.J., for the remainder of the tournament.
Saint Louis entered the day tied with Charlotte for the fourth-and-final spot for an A-10 Tournament first-round bye.
The Billikens rebounded from 73-71 loss to Xavier on Wednesday, ending their six-game winning streak and representing just their second home loss in 17 games at Chaifetz Arena.
Duquesne 7-footer Morakinyo Williams was in the starting lineup last night for a second consecutive time after playing in 16 games off the bench.
Williams did not make the trip until earlier in the day after being denied entry on the team's charter flight Friday because he didn't have proper identification.
The victories by George Washington (16-11, 6-8) and St. Bonaventure (13-14, 6-8) put added pressure on Duquesne with the season winding down.