PITTSBURGH — The Duquesne men’s basketball team opened the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Tuesday night after spending a season and a half without a home court after the former A.J. Palumbo Center was closed for renovations.
The Dukes took to their home court in style, opening up a large lead early and securing a 69-64 victory night over reigning Atlantic-10 champions Dayton.
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While Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mitigation rules prevented Duquesne from opening the building with a packed house, a national television audience on ESPN2 was able to see the Dukes take flight.
Reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Marcus Weathers led the way, scoring 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Michael Hughes added his fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Eight of the nine Duquesne (7-6, 6-5 A-10) players who saw the floor scored.
“I think a dream come true would be the best way to describe it,” Weathers said after the game.
Dayton (10-5, 5-4 A-10) saw Jalen Crutcher score 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting while totaling six assists. Crutcher made 10 of his 11 two-point shots. Mustapha Amzil added a double-double consisting of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Duquesne opened the contest on an 11-1 run making its first four shots from the field while Dayton could not say the same.
Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga is the team’s leading rebounder and he picked up two quick fouls prior to the opening media timeout which quickly saw the Flyers lose its most established post for much of the first half. He would return as Dayton struggled to generate offense but another offensive foul led to a quick hook.
Meanwhile Duquesne, in front of 200 fans were proving to be unfriendly hosts as it quickly was able to establish an advantage and fed off that momentum.
With Dayton not finding success in its offense, it resorted to catch-and-shoot looks. The long rebounds did not go in their favor as Duquesne extended its lead with four freshman coupled with Hughes.
The long rebounds also helped Duquesne establish pace and shorten its court.
Dayton, specifically Crutcher began to find something, stringing some scores together, but Duquesne was able to stay in front by a decisive margin.
Though Crutcher beat the buzzer with a three-point basket, Duquesne led 39-24 at halftime.
Early in the second half, Dayton began to play with more physicality but its offense continued to lack polish and consistency.
Just when it appeared that Duquesne was going to comfortably be able to secure a victory, Dayton began to catch fire from three-point range as Crutcher and Amzil led the charge.
Duquesne was held without a field goal for the last 6:59 of the game which permitted Dayton to come back and make the contest all too close.
Matters were complicated when both Hughes and Chad Baker were assessed technical fouls in the second half. Hughes was assessed a whistle after arguing over his foul call and Baker was celebrating a loud block which appeared to secure Duquesne’s victory.
Despite its end-of-game shortcomings, Duquesne had built enough of an advantage that it was able to come away with a win, coach Keith Dambrot’s second in 12 career tries against Dayton.
Duquesne will return to the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse Sunday at 4 p.m. against VCU in a contest televised by NBCSN.