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Duquesne falls short in comeback bid

| Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007

If they make a movie about this Duquesne University men's basketball season, perhaps they could call it "Chaos at Palumbo."

It was another wildly chaotic scene Saturday night at Palumbo Center, where Duquesne's furious comeback bid fell just short in a 97-94 loss to St. Bonaventure.

Even though Duquesne had secured an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament bid earlier in the day, when George Washington defeated La Salle, Dukes fans still opted to come and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

A crowd of 2,608 -- the second-largest of the season -- waited the entire night for a Duquesne victory. But the Dukes put themselves in an early hole and couldn't overcome the undermanned Bonnies, who were down to eight scholarship players because of two recent defections.

"We spotted them too many points in the first half because we missed so many layups. And we didn't rebound any of them," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "We were tired. We came out flat. We gave a heck of an effort in the second half, but it was too-little, too-late when you're down 19 points at the half.

The Dukes trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half and 20 in the second.

"For us to even have a chance to win this game is pretty remarkable," Everhart said. "It shows that our kids have a lot of fight in them. But, quite frankly, we weren't focused and ready to play in the first half. We were out to lunch."

Duquesne (10-16, 6-9) lost its fifth in a row and is 5-6 since changing to an uptempo style in midseason.

A.J. Hawkins scored 29 points, including a key shot down the stretch, to help St. Bonaventure (7-20, 4-10) end a six-game losing streak that included a 111-92 loss to Duquesne on Feb. 3 in Olean, N.Y. The Bonnies are fighting for the final berth in the 12-team A-10 tournament field.

Hawkins' short jumper from the key with 1:35 left gave St. Bonaventure a 91-86 lead and silenced Duquesne's comeback bid that saw the Dukes close within three points.

Duquesne trailed by as many as 22 in the first half before St. Bonaventure settled for a 52-33 halftime advantage. The Dukes shot just 37.3 percent, including 26.3 in the first half, when they went 6 minutes and 41 seconds without a field goal while allowing St. Bonaventure to open up a 45-23 lead with 4:26 remaining.

"I'm still trying to figure it out," Everhart said. "I've never had a team that missed so many shots around the basket. We were struggling mightily. Obviously, we weren't focused and ready to play."

Reserve Tyler Benson, who entered the game averaging 2.3 points per game, added a career-high 24 for St. Bonaventure. Tyler Relph added 16 and Michael Lee had 10. Lee also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and Hawkins contributed 12 as St. Bonaventure enjoyed a wide 52-30 margin off the glass.

Despite Hawkins' second double-double of the season, Everhart pointed to Benson's contributions as a key. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound sophomore shot 8 for 13 overall and 5 for 10 from 3-point range after entering the game with 44 career points.

"He was lights out," Everhart said. "Give St. Bonaventure credit. Those guys were hungry. They came in here and wanted it more than we did. They outplayed us, at least in the first half."

Kieron Achara scored a career-high 26 points for Duquesne. Robert Mitchell added 18 before fouling out. Reggie Jackson and Gary Tucker each had 11.

Duquesne forced 29 turnovers, but St. Bonaventure overcame its sloppy play by shooting 51.7 percent. The Bonnies made 9 of 20 3-point shots compared to 12 for 38 for Duquesne.

The Dukes will play host to Akron (21-6) on Monday in a rare late-season non-conference game before closing its regular season Saturday at George Washington. Earlier yesterday, George Washington upended La Salle, 86-74, to clinch a spot for Duquesne in the A-10 tournament.

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