PITTSBURGH — Sincere Carry stepped to the free throw line in an attempt to send its Wednesday Atlantic 10 road contest against St. Bonaventure to overtime but an always rowdy Reilly Center offered another wrinkle as a balloon found its way on the court, canceling the first free throw, a make, which only added to both the pressure and enormity of the moment.
But Carry, who had been a key part of the Duquesne men’s basketball rebounding from a slow start in the second half remembered earlier in the season when Fordham iced him at the free throw line and wanted to be sure to avoid history repeating itself.
“I guess I showed improvement tonight,” he said to the Stadium broadcast after the win. “They iced me again and I made the shot. Earlier today I got a lot of free throws in at our walkthrough, so I was comfortable at the line. I knew I was making them.”
Carry sank his next two free throws and Duquesne made one final defensive stand giving it momentum heading into overtime.
For the first time since 2009, the Duquesne men’s basketball team has won at St. Bonaventure, taking an 81-77 overtime decision Wednesday night at the Reilly Center and ending an 11-game road skid to the Bonnies. The victory also is the fifth Atlantic 10 road win which set a new program record. Additionally, Duquesne now has consecutive seasons with at least nine A-10 wins for the first time in program history.
Duquesne (19-8/9-6 Atlantic 10) was led by Carry’s 18 points and career-high 11 assists, good for his first career double-double. Michael Hughes added 18 points and seven rebounds, a performance which became even more crucial as Marcus Weathers did not play after the first half due to an ankle injury. Lamar Norman Jr also added 14 points of his own.
St. Bonaventure (18-10/10-5 Atlantic 10) was led by Osun Osunniyi’s double-double which consisted of a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds. Jaren English and Kyle Lofton each chipped in with 15 and 14 points respectively, while Dominick Welch contributed a double-double of his own with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Duquesne’s win snaps a skid in which it has dropped three of its last four contests.
“I still think we’re a great team, we just seemed to underachieve a bit,” said Carry. “I like how my team faces adversity and we picked up a big win to move onto our last three games and try to get this by.”
For a second consecutive game, Duquesne controlled the game at halftime leading 35-28 with contributions up and down the roster as all nine who saw the court played a factor in the positive outcome.
Austin Rotroff saw court time and scored all of his season-high six points in the first half which included a dunk over Osunniyi which fired up the normally reserved Ohioan.
Evan Buckley also appeared and joined Rotroff in making a defensive impact on this game.
As was the case in Saturday’s Dayton game though, St. Bonaventure beat the buzzer and got off to a quick start in the second half which Duquesne struggled to come out of the locker room.
Duquesne did not benefit from a charging foul drawn by Osunniyi who did have a foot in the charging circle upon replay, though despite the new rule, no review was taken and the play ended up being a five-point swing as part of St. Bonaventure re-taking the lead.
In the huddle during the subsequent timeout, Dambrot challenged his team and it responded taking a six-point lead before the Bonnies went on another run to take the lead late.
Duquesne played the long game going for quicker two-point shots and when Lofton split a double bonus, Carry, who had made of the two-point baskets with just over a minute left in regulation, stepped to the line and had to ignore both the balloon being on the court in addition to officials waving off his first free throw, which he did.
When Duquesne made the first basket it overtime, it provided an additional boost and that the Carry-led Dukes refused to surrender.
“It’s tough because I’m playing a lot of minutes, so I’m trying to stay poised and not do too much so I can stay out there,” Carry said. “It’s all just mental toughness at the end of the game, so I am just trying to get my team the win.”
With three regular season games remaining before the Atlantic 10 Championship tips off at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Duquesne finds itself in fifth place, just a game behind St. Bonaventure for a potential double-bye.
Duquesne will continue its regular season Saturday at Robert Morris’s UPMC Events Center when it takes on George Mason in a game set to tip off at 7 p.m.
Though Dambrot remarked about his team’s performance aging him to Duquesne broadcasters Ray Goss and Jarrett Durham, the smile on his face likely could not have been bigger earning a win at arguably the loudest venue in the Atlantic 10.
“Don’t count the Dukes out yet, we’re not in the coffin yet my friends,” he said.