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Dukes Falter Down the Stretch, Drop a Heartbreaker to St. Joe’s 63-60

Dukes Falter Down the Stretch, Drop a Heartbreaker to St. Joe’s 63-60

To say the least, it has been a tough year for the Duquesne Dukes. After an 8-6 start, they have gone on lose 14 of their last 16 games entering Saturday’s game with the St. Joe’s Hawks. It hasn’t been the best year for the Hawks either, who lost their top two leading scorers, Lamarr Kimble and Shavar Newkirk, to injury for the remainder of the season. A matchup against the last place team in the Atlantic-10 looked to be perfect way for the Dukes to close at the regular season on a high note on Senior Day. But once again, it was Duquesne on the short end of the stick in another heartbreaker.

The Dukes led the Hawks by as many as 12 in the second half, but an ice cold run of almost eight minutes down the stretch doomed them in the end. St. Joe’s would rally for a 63-60 come from behind win, dropping the Dukes to 10-21 and 3-15 in A-10. The loss moves the Dukes back into last place in the conference.

“That’s three heartbreaking losses in a row,” Ferry said. “In all three games I think we defended better and better and better and it’s our offensive woes that keep breaking us down. We held another team in the 60s. We just got away from what we do.”

Despite their struggles on the offensive end, the Dukes still had a chance to pull the win out in the final seconds. Down by one, freshman Mike Lewis II, who finished the game with seven points, drove to the basket but was fouled, giving him a chance to tie or take back the lead. And being the top free throw shooter on the team, shooting almost 85% for the year coming into the game, it seemed like a sure thing he would make at least one of two. The first shot from Lewis II clanged off the back iron. No good. The Hawks’ veteran coach Phil Martelli then called a timeout, icing him like a kicker. Unfortunately for both Lewis II and the Dukes, the strategy paid off for the Hawks as his second attempt went in and out, allowing Jai Williams to grab the rebound. Isiaha Mike had a great look on a catch and shoot to send the game into overtime, but the shot was no good.

Afterwards Lewis II was pretty distraught in the postgame press conference. When asked about how he handles a young player in the that situation, Ferry didn’t hesitate with his answer: get the ball back to him.

“Pick your head up and I’m giving you the ball again,” Ferry said. “When we’re back in that situation I’m giving him the ball again. He’s going to get the same attack and play and next time he’ll make them.”

Though they struggled to find their offensive rhyme most of the game, graduate transfer Emile Blackman stepped up in a big way for the Dukes. Blackman dropped a season and game-high 26 points on 8-14 from the field.  The former Niagara star flirted with his first career collegiate double-double with his performance on the boards, grabbing a game-high seven.

Though he has been leading by example since he walked on campus, Blackman revealed he was definitely focused on trying to set the tone for his team today.

“Before the game we talked about going into the conference tournament on a roll,” Blackman said. “I decided to come out and set the tone. I mean I do that every day just leading by example with my play. It just happened to be a good day for me today. That was obviously a winnable game so once we practice Monday and Tuesday we will definitely be better heading into the tournament.”

This loss moves the Dukes back to the later game in the opening round of the A-10 Tournament. A win would’ve had Duquesne facing UMass, a team they beat by 30 less than a month ago. Now they will face the #11 seed St. Louis.  Both teams split their regular season meeting with the Dukes taking the first matchup in Pittsburgh, 73-66 while the Billikens took the game on their home floor 87-81. Tipoff is set for 8:30 pm at PPG Paints Arena on the ASN Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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