Duquesne dominates Rice to open 3-0
KATY, Texas -- Duquesne's effort in Saturday's game against Rice was far from perfect, but it didn't have to be.
The Dukes utilized a strong defensive performance and outstanding nights from centers Shawn James and Kieron Achara to knock off the Owls, 86-59, at Leonard E. Merrell Center.
The win gives Duquesne its first road win and pushes its record to 3-0. It also marked the Dukes' largest margin for a road win since a 87-58 defeat of Robert Morris on Dec. 22, 1994.
The Dukes have James (18 points, game-high tying four blocks) and Achara (game-high 19 points, five rebounds) to thank for it. The two big men controlled the paint and kept Rice (0-2) from establishing an inside presence.
"(Kieron) and Shawn did a great job in the second half," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "I thought Shawn was very instrumental in helping us win the game tonight, and I thought Kieron was great offensively for us. (Kieron) cut and passed real well, got the ball inside, finished, and made his free throws for the most part."
James' and Achara's strong play seemed to carry over to their teammates, especially in the second half. The Dukes held Rice to a measly 32.1 shooting percentage from the field (20 percent from behind the arc) and forced the Owls into 28 turnovers (14 by steals), which were converted into 30 points.
Reserve forward Damion Sanders also played a key role in the Dukes' outstanding defensive performance. The freshman finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and four steals in 19 minutes.
Rice forward Paulius Packevicius did all he could to keep the Owls in the game. He finished with 18 points (7-of-10 shooting), 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, but it wasn't enough to keep Rice from falling flat on its face.
"He had a great game," Everhart said. "We just didn't do a very good job on him, but I tell you they got him posted up deep and they got him the ball in areas where he could score. Quite frankly, he manhandled us tonight."
Duquesne's superb defensive performance offset a poor night from the arc. The Dukes hit only 5 of 22 3-point attempts. Their first successful 3-pointer came when forward Bill Clark found the net with 19:01 left in the second half.
Rice, meantime, did not do itself any favors at the free-throw line, connecting on only 20 of 31 attempts.
The Dukes finished strong, but did not get off to a great start. Neither team did.
The two combined for 25 fouls and 26 turnovers in the first half. The Dukes missed all eight of their 3-pointers, but took a slim 32-30 lead into halftime.
"We knew we could have played better basketball in the first half," James said. "We were real passive and weren't aggressive. In the second half, we turned it up."
And did the Dukes ever turn it up. Duquesne shot a blistering 50 percent in the second period and forced 13 turnovers.
The Dukes opened the period on a 23-10 run to take a 55-40 lead, and never trailed from that point. Achara, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the second period, led the way.
The Dukes took their largest lead of the night, 86-58, when Kojo Mensah (12 points, five assists) converted a three-point play with 1:05 left.