PITTSBURGH, Pa. – With the rest of the Duquesne backcourt on the bench having fouled out, Mike Lewis II decided to put the Dukes on his back in the third overtime of their game Saturday against La Salle.
The sophomore guard had been relatively quiet through the first 50 minutes of action but drilled a pair of back-to-back threes in the final five minutes to will Duquesne to a 101-94 win at the Palumbo Center.
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It was the Dukes’ first triple-overtime victory since defeating Notre Dame, 80-76, on Feb. 25, 1993.
Lewis hit five threes and finished with a team-high 25 points, totaling all but three after halftime. He scored Duquesne’s (13-5, 4-1 A-10) final 11 points and credited all the running head coach Keith Dambrot has put the Dukes through for his conditioning in the extra periods.
“I felt stronger in the third overtime,” Lewis II said. “I know it’s sounds crazy and we get on him [Dambrot] about the running and the different practices we go through, but it paid off.”
Tied at 92 in the third overtime, Lewis II found just enough room off a ball screen and connected from three to put Duquesne ahead. Following a La Salle (7-11, 1-4 A-10) empty possession, Lewis drilled a stepback triple to give the Dukes their largest lead of the day with 48 seconds remaining.
“Once I came off the screen and I saw I had a little bit of room, I was just going to let it ride,” Lewis II said of late-game heroics.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) January 13, 2018
He put the finishing touches on the win by going 3-4 from the line over the game’s final moments.
Foul trouble forced Dambrot to use a lineup of four bigs and Lewis in the final period. With the game on the line, there was never any doubt about who would have the ball for the Dukes.
“We couldn’t run anything, so all we did was ball screen for Mike and he made every play,” Dambrot said. “That’s what good players do, so tribute to him.”
Duquesne had barely lived to see double overtime, much less a third. La Salle opened the first overtime on a 7-1 run to tie its largest lead of the afternoon at 73-67. The Dukes chipped away, though, taking advantage of missed free throws by the Explorers to inch closer.
Tarin Smith’s two free throws with 11 seconds left in the period pulled Duquesne within two at 81-79. On the ensuing inbounds play, Jordan Robinson and Kellon Taylor forced a trap in the corner, and Smith jumped in front of a pass to create a loose ball. Rene Castro-Caneddy wrangled possession away from a La Salle player in the paint, but his momentum carried him away from the basket. He somehow managed to throw the ball in the direction of the basket, it bounced off the backboard, and Taylor was there to tip it in with 4.8 seconds left, tying the game at 81.
“You just have to try to put your rain coat on and get to the next play, and let all the bad plays fall off of you,” Dambrot said of the team’s resiliency in the first overtime. “I thought we just hung in there.”
“The game looked really over,” Smith added. “I saw people leaving the stands and stuff. I kept telling them (my teammates) the game was not over.”
In the second overtime, Duquesne led 88-85, but La Salle’s Amar Stukes hit a game-tying three with 1:02 left to send the seesaw battle into a third overtime.
The game was not for the faint of heart, as the lead exchanged hands or was tied a total of 48 times. Over the final 12:18 of regulation, neither team led by more than two.
— Keith Dambrot (@CoachDambrot) January 13, 2018
Eric Williams Jr. drained a go-ahead three-pointer with 47.6 seconds left in regulation to put Duquesne ahead, 65-63. Williams then inexplicably fouled La Salle’s Isiah Deas in the act of shooting a three on the Explorers’ next possession. With the crowd at a fever pitch, the 72 percent free throw shooter missed two of three attempts.
Williams grabbed the rebound off the second miss, and Castro-Caneddy was fouled. But he missed the front-end of a one-and-one, and La Salle grabbed the rebound. The Explorers’ Pookie Powell drove the lane and scored with 17 seconds remaining to push La Salle back in front, 66-65.
On the other end, Castro-Caneddy drew another foul, but he missed the first of two opportunities. With the game hanging in the balance, he calmly sank the second to force overtime.
Free throws were an issue for the Dukes at the end of regulation and for most of the three overtimes. From the 1:37 mark of the second half until Mike Lewis connected for two freebies with 21 seconds left in third overtime, Duquesne missed nine of 19 attempts.
“Today it just became mental because once we saw one miss, I think everyone started missing them,” Smith said.
— Duquesne Athletics (@GoDuquesne) January 13, 2018
With the Duquesne guards struggling to find an offensive rhythm in regulation, the inside duo of Chas Brown and Robinson shouldered much of the scoring load. Brown poured in a season-high 12 points, and Robinson added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. The two were a combined 10-16 from the field.
Smith added 21 points, and Williams Jr. recorded his seventh double-double of the season, totaling 10 points and 10 rebounds. It was the first time all season the Dukes have had five players score in double-figures.
La Salle played without B.J. Johnson, the A-10’s leading scorer (21.2), who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Smith said after the game most of the team was battling illness. Duquesne will use the next three days to heal up before traveling to Saint Louis Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip.