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Duquesne falters in final minute

| Sunday, Jan. 4, 2004

RICHMOND, Va. -- As a team, Duquesne had believed it would win some basketball games this season -- and the Dukes figured it would be against some very good teams.

After Saturday night's performance, the Dukes' feelings have not changed, even after they played one of those teams considered to be "good" and they again came up just short of a victory.

As has been the case in close road losses against West Virginia, Akron and Minnesota -- all contests which went into overtime -- Duquesne stumbled late in the game last night against Richmond in its Atlantic 10 Conference opener and was beaten 69-66 before 5,337 at Robins Center.

The Dukes (4-7, 0-1) dropped to 0-4 on the road, losing by a combined 15 points.

"Tonight was tough -- very, very hard," Duquesne coach Danny Nee said.

Duquesne, which played nearly the entire game without point guard Martin Osimani, who injured his eye, led by 15 points in the second half and appeared poised to upset Richmond on its home court before a stunned crowd. But it didn't happen -- again.

"We're going to do well. We're definitely going to leave our mark on the A-10," said Duquesne sophomore guard Bryant McAllister, sporting a bandage above his left eye -- the result of a gash he received in the first half.

It was McAllister, who tried to tie the score at the buzzer with a 3-point shot, but he was unable to get a good shot as Richmond's Tony Dobbins defended. It appeared there was contact but no call was made as Nee stormed the court and screamed at Kevin McConnell, one of the game officials.

Afterward, Nee emphatically stated his case again.

"The kid (McAllister) got fouled at the end," he said.

But it was not the only play that doomed Duquesne. The Dukes were leading 63-62 after Dobbins pulled Richmond close with a 3-point shot with 53.2 seconds remaining. Dobbins, the A-10 defensive player of the year last season, then intercepted the inbounds pass by Duquesne forward Jon Pawlak and called timeout as he tried to stay inbounds.

Following the timeout, Mike Skrocki, who led Richmond (8-5, 1-0) with 24 points, got open in the left corner and nailed a 3-pointer to put Richmond up 65-63 and give the Spiders their first lead of the second half.

Jack Higgins' 3-point shot for Duquesne bounded over the rim and into the hands of Dobbins, who was fouled by Pawlak with 20.5 seconds remaining. Dobbins, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, sank both shots to give Richmond a 67-63 lead.

But Duquesne closed within 67-66 on a 3-pointer by McAllister, who tied Ron Dokes for the Dukes' scoring lead with 11 points.

Richmond got the ball inbounds on a long pass that Skrocki accepted beyond midcourt. But he was unable to get to the hoop and was fouled by Higgins. Skrocki sank both free throws to set the stage for Duquesne's final push, which was unsuccessful when McAllister failed to get off his shot.

"Through the course of this game, and others, I feel that that we are gaining respect from the fans and from the opposing players," McAllister said. "We know the coaches of these teams have scouted us on film and know what we've been doing and probably the players, too. They all know that we have been in some real tight games and I think we've earned their respect.

"But we've got to keep going. We still came up short tonight."

The game was a dogfight, with neither team willing to cave. The biggest lead in the first half was eight points -- by Duquesne -- and the Dukes enjoyed a 28-22 halftime advantage.

Osimani, who played just seven minutes, suffered a similar injury to that of teammate Elijah Palmer, who left the Dukes' previous game -- a 70-69 victory over Cornell on Wednesday -- in the first half.

Palmer, who played 18 minutes last night, was diagnosed with a scratched sclera, which is the white portion of the eye, and Osimani was headed to an eye specialist here last night to be examined. It was believed that the injury was simliar to Palmer's.

"It hurt not to have him in there," Nee said of Osimani, who was leading the A-10 in assists. "He's our point guard. Without him, we're not the same team."

  • Notes: Jimmy Tricco and Kieron Achara also were in double figures for Duquesne with 10 points. ... The Dukes open a four-game home stand Wednesday against Ohio at Palumbo Center. ... Duquesne shot 41.1 percent; Richmond 35.6. ... Richmond outrebounded Duquesne 43-37.

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