Tre Clark had the ball in his hands with seemingly nowhere to go as the game clock was set to expire and he knew he had to take the shot which would determine the outcome of Saturday afternoon’s game against Ball State and went it went in, the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse erupted as 78-77 winners.
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Duquesne (7-1) was led by Clark’s 16 points. He also contributed six rebounds and his four assists were one off a career high. Tevin Brewer added 14 points and Dae Dae Grant contributed 11 points, while battling first-half foul trouble.
All nine Dukes to see the floor scored.
Justin Sellers was one of five Ball State players in double figures, with his 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. All five Cardinals starters achieved this accomplishment as Demarius Jacobs (12), Jarron Coleman (11), Jalen Windham (11) and Payton Sparks (10) rounded out this group of five.
In the early going, Duquesne was unable to find open passing lanes as it was a second behind and appeared frazzled when trying to make up that time.
The Cardinals opened on a 7-0 run as it was able to grab multiple offensive rebounds over the smaller Dukes defenders. When Clark did score a three-point basket for Duquesne, Ball State had an almost immediate reply, a simple layup.
Coming out of the media timeout, Sparks found an open lane and converted an easy dunk. Meanwhile Duquesne continued to be cold from the field, making two of its first 10 shots, and missing all six looks from two-point range.
Ball State had a 10-0 advantage in the paint, leading by 11 points at the second stoppage.
Duquesne got into foul trouble for much of the first half as Ball State went into the bonus with 9:27 remaining in the first half, the seventh foul angered Keith Dambrot as he expressed a desire to the officials to let those on the floor play.
With 10:03 remaining in the first half, Grant picked up his second foul, meaning Duquesne was going to have to generate offense and stops without him. He was not the only Dukes player in foul trouble as Austin Rotroff was assessed three first-half whistles.
Dambrot only became further frustrated when a whistle blew, play stopped for a split second and then Brewer nailed a three-pointer. With both teams confused, the officials all huddled up and decided that the whistle was inadvertent, and the basket was negated, as the fans loudly expressed disapproval. With Dambrot upset, lead official Raymie Styons told him to get back closer to the bench.
Down by 11, Duquesne began to rally as Quincy McGriff and Brewer swished in a pair of three-point baskets as Ball State called a timeout. The Cardinals responded back with two deep looks of their own and an animated Dambrot was forced to call for another stoppage.
Duquesne slowly chipped away at the lead and scored the final five points in the first half, with Rozier assisting on both baskets. The second of those baskets saw Clark nail a three-point shot, turning his back and heading to the locker room after what turned out to be a successful follow through.
Ball State shot 60.9% from the field and held a 40-36 lead at halftime.
The Cardinals continued to execute as it led by seven points, before McGriff, with the ball in his hand passed up a contested three-point shot, in favor of driving the lane. He was rewarded with a hoop and the harm.
Duquesne increased its defensive pressure and with Sparks still being held in check, Ball State went 1-for-6 from the field. Grant then found space for the first time all afternoon and buried a triple, giving the Dukes an advantage, also a first for this game.
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When Rozier went off the top of the backboard to stretch the contest into a two-possession affair, the Duquesne bench restrained itself while simultaneously celebrating.
Ball State briefly strung baskets together to reclaim the lead as both teams started to trade scores. Ultimately Duquesne was in front heading into the under-eight media stoppage.
Duquesne continued to be in front down the stretch as Ball State missed crucial free throws, but inside of a minute, Sparks got a hand on an offensive rebound and put back the game-tying shot.
When Duquesne missed a shot, Rotroff put his hands up then attempted to go for a steal. When he missed the ball, on the reach, he was assessed a foul. Sparks split free throws.
Grant then made a pair of free throws to place Duquesne back in front, but on the ensuing Ball State possession, it was Sellers who made the hoop-and-harm. With his made free throw, the Cardinals led by two points.
Duquesne will continue its homestand Thursday with a 7 p.m. contest against Marshall. That game will be carried on ESPN+.