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Everhart, Duquesne feeling relaxed

| Wednesday, March 4, 2009

As Duquesne's players and coaches assembled at midcourt following practice Tuesday at Palumbo Center, assistant coach Bill Barton rushed out of the arena to retrieve something.

He returned moments later with a box containing a cake in honor of freshman B.J. Monteiro's birthday.

Soon after the team's traditional post-practice huddle broke up, Barton flipped open the box and ran for cover as the players flocked.

Once the cake was gone, some of the Duquesne players resumed shooting around before calling it a day.

Asked what he thought of the unexpected snack, sophomore Bill Clark flashed a big smile and proclaimed: "It was real good."

Appearing relaxed on the eve of their important Atlantic 10 rematch with Saint Louis at 7 tonight at Palumbo Center, the Dukes showed no signs of despair after suffering a heartbreaking, two-point home loss to highly regarded Rhode Island on Sunday.

Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, meanwhile, stood by and took it all in.

"I was hoping we could be where we are now and be in the hunt," he said. "That was the one thing we talked about from Day 1: Just get ourselves in a position to get into the (A-10) tournament, where we might have a chance to win it."

Duquesne (17-10, 8-6) and Saint Louis (17-11, 8-6) are battling Saint Joseph's (also 8-6 in the A-10) and La Salle and Richmond (both 7-7) for fourth place in the league.

The top four teams earn first-round byes in the tournament, which begins next week in Atlantic City, N.J.

"Guys have responded (to a loss) pretty well throughout the year," Everhart said, "and, hopefully, they'll do that again. It's going to take a great effort."

All season long, Duquesne has battled opponents tough in league games. The Dukes have been walking a tightrope in A-10 games, outscoring teams by less than five points on the average (80.1 to 75.7).

After Rhode Island escaped with a 73-71 victory over the Dukes on Sunday, Rams coach Jim Baron inferred that the game was just another typical A-10 matchup.

"This is the most balanced I've ever seen this league," he said.

Saint Louis, which defeated Duquesne, 78-74, in overtime Feb. 4, comes in having had a week off since suffering a 77-52 loss at St. Bonaventure on Feb. 25.

The Billikens are 2-8 in road games, including 2-5 in the conference. Duquesne is 9-5 at home but only 4-3 in conference home games.

On Sunday, the Dukes struggled through a horrid shooting performance, converting just 6-of-28 3-point shots (21.4 percent).

"I don't think our guys really know any better. I just think they're going to let it fly. That's their attitude," Everhart said. "We had a game where we missed a few, but I figure our guys will feel like we're going to have a game where we're going to make more than we miss, so I think that's a good attitude to have.

"Sometimes, when you're young like we are, that's a good thing."

At this late stage of the season, Duquesne is hoping for some momentum to carry it into the postseason.

"I'll do anything to get into any kind of tournament. I just want to play as long as we can," Clark said.

He said he's taken the ever-popular "one-game-at-a-time" approach, and he's found it to be a comfort.

"These last two games, obviously, are important for seeding purposes (in the A-10 Tournament)," Everhart said. "We want to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win it."

The A-10 Tournament champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where Duquesne last appeared in 1977.

Everhart understands how long that's been. He hopes his players realize the magnitude of it.

"I think our guys really understand where we are," he said. "I think they understand what's at stake here."

Additional Information:

Today's game

Saint Louis (17-11, 8-6 Atlantic 10) at Duquesne (17-10, 8-6)

7 p.m. · Palumbo Center

Radio: KQV-AM (1410)

Series: Duquesne leads, 5-3

Line: Duquesne by 7

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