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Dukes Rally to Stun George Mason in Final Seconds

Dukes Rally to Stun George Mason in Final Seconds

FAIRFAX, Va. –- Most teams panic when down double-digits early on the road. Especially in front of a spirited crowd feeling the buzz of homecoming.

Not the Duquesne Dukes. It’s only then that they seem fully engaged.

Saturday afternoon, Duquesne roared back from a 19-point deficit -— the second time this season it has accomplished that feat -— and its defense stood tall on the game’s final play to leave George Mason with an emphatic 79-78 victory.

It marks the seventh time this season and fourth in conference play that the Dukes have rallied from a double-digit deficit. Duquesne was also down 19 against Rhode Island back in late January before storming back for a three-point victory. That victory came at home, though.

The win improved Keith Dambrot’s team to 18-9 on the season, which is the team’s best 27-game start since the 1980-81 season.

The scoreboard wasn’t the only adversity the Dukes faced, either. They were without starting point guard Sincere Carry because of a knee injury, and top scorers Eric Williams Jr. and Michael Hughes battled foul trouble all afternoon.

No problem for Dambrot’s crew.

Filling in for the injured Carry, sophomore guard Tavian Dunn-Martin poured in a career-high 22 points, including 14 in the second half.

His back-to-back threes with 8:12 left pulled the Dukes within two at 61-59. George Mason extended the lead to five, but Frankie Hughes answered with consecutive threes of his own to cut the deficit to one with 5:23 remaining. Marcus Weathers’ putback 30 seconds later gave the Dukes their first lead of the game at 71-70.

The lead exchanged hands four times over the final 4:53. Trailing by three, Frankie Hughes drilled his fifth and final 3-pointer of the game to level the score with 90 seconds left. On the Dukes’ next possession, Michael Hughes collected an offensive rebound and drew a foul. He hit one of two attempts to put Duquesne in front, 79-78.

The defense would take it from there, producing three stops in the final 57 seconds — none bigger than Duquesne’s big man forcing an errant shot from George Mason’s Jarred Reuter in the game’s closing seconds to secure the win.

Duquesne was playing for the first time in a week since beating George Washington, and the rust showed. The team shot just 36 percent in the opening half. The Dukes were better in the second half, though, hitting 53 percent of their attempts. They also protected the ball better, too.

George Mason looked to trap in the half-court set whenever the opportunity presented itself and the Dukes were rattled by the pressure initially, committing 11 first half turnovers. They settled down in the second half, turning the ball over just three times.

George Mason outscored the Dukes by 12 in the paint and scored 21 points off turnovers. The Patriots raced out to a 19-point first half lead behind its hot shooting. They hit seven of their first 10 shots and led 17-2 just five minutes into the game. Yet they would eventually cool off, and the Dukes surged.

Frankie Hughes finished with 15 points, Weathers added a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Michael Hughes scored 11.

Duquesne entered the day in contention for a double bye in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament and trailing George Mason in the standings by one game. Now, the Dukes are tied for fourth with the Patriots and St. Bonaventure at 9-5. One more league win and Duquesne will secure its first season with a winning conference record since 2010-11.

The Dukes will look to make it three wins in a row when they travel to St. Bonaventure Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. matchup.

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