The Duquesne Men’s Basketball Team dropped its 16th consecutive contest, falling 85-76 to La Salle Saturday afternoon at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
Duquesne matched Eric Williams Jr’s record for most points in a single game as a freshman with his 34 points, which came from a 12-for-24 shooting performance from the field. Spears also shot 8-of-10 from the free-throw line and also drew seven fouls.
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Freshman guard Jackie Johnson III scored 15 points and was 5-for-7 on his three-point shots. Sophomore forward Kevin Easley scored 13 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field.
“We had a hard time generating any juice,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “I thought we defended better at GW than we did today and probably because we traveled twice. We have troubles coming back all year and we only had eight guys which is part of it but part of it was we didn’t have mental toughness really. It’s a little frustrating but by the same token, our size is almost like a high school team.”
Duquesne was undone by two La Salle players in particular with guard Jack Clark repeatedly converting loud dunks and also make four three-point shots. Clark scored a career high 30 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Josh Nickelberry scored 23 points from off the bench. The Explorers also enjoyed advantages in the paint (46-34) and fastbreak points (25-7).
La Salle was able to find a 7-0 run in the first half as Khalil Brantley was able to compile positive plays and Duquesne briefly went cold from the field.
Defensively, Duquesne conceded a 61.5% rate for La Salle from the field as it was able to find high-percentage shots and keep the ball moving.
Spears and Johnson each had nine points in the first half and kept Duquesne in the game, albeit down by eight points at the break.
In the locker room, Spears stated Dambrot making the team aware that La Salle was switching ball screens and already facing several post injuries, Duquesne had to rely on its guards to get downhill in order to create opportunity.
Defensively Duquesne attempted to play a zone, but had troubles rebounding out of it, something which affected the Dukes in the late stages of this game.
Each time Duquesne was able to make a run, La Salle would find an answer.
Jhamir Brickus would score all nine of his points in the second half in addition to Clark and Nickelberry continuing to wreak havoc on Duquesne’s defense.
In the final moments, La Salle was able to earn offensive rebounds to maintain possession and stunt a Duquesne side which shot 64% from the field in the second half.
“It’s always tough to rebound out of a zone and that hurt us definitely in the second half,” graduate student Davis Larson said. “It just takes toughness, it’s a mental thing. We just have to hit them and go get the ball.”
Now Duquesne will play in a first-round Atlantic 10 Championship game against either Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
“We have to take this year as a learning experience,” Spears said following the loss. “I remember after our first game against Rider I spoke into this microphone and told everyone it would be a learning experience. We are very young, and the injuries set us back more.”
Leon Ayers III was not on the court nor the team bench for Saturday’s game. A starter at the beginning of the season, Ayers played 14 minutes against Davidson, 16 minutes at Rhode Island and did not play in the team’s triple-overtime loss to George Washington.
“Just for his own protection I’d rather not talk about that,” Dambrot said. “I like Leon, but I think it’s better if we don’t talk about it. It’s in the best interests of the young man and that’s all I care about.”