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Duquesne Faces Dayton in A-10 Tournament Quarterfinals

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Duquesne

Duquesne faces rival Dayton for the third time this season in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Duquesne Outlook

Duquesne started conference play the worst way they could, losing five straight games and finding themselves 9-8 overall and the bottom of the A-10.

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They soon turned it around and had a fantastic ending to the regular season, winning 11 of their past 14 games overall, 10 of their last 13 A-10 games and six of their last seven contests to finish 20-11 overall and 10-8 in conference play.

The Dukes got great production from their senior guards, Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III, who both earned All-Conference Second Team honors for their play this season. Clark also earned All-Defensive Team honors for the second consecutive season himself.

Grant, aside from missing a few games due to a concussion, excelled for the Dukes scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game, sixth best in the A-10. Clark averaged 15.1 points per game himself, while also leading the Dukes with 3.8 assists per game and the conference with 78 steals, 2.3 per game.

Other players that stepped up their game include guards in first-year/walk-on Jake DiMichele and Kareem Rozier, as well as forwards in sophomore David Dixon, senior Tre Williams and graduate students in Dusan Mahorcic and Fousseyni Drame.

The improved form and great play down the stretch led them to back-to-back seasons of 20 wins for the first time in 50 years, and more importantly, the No. 6 seed in the A-10 Tournament, earning themselves a First Round bye.

Dukes Last Game

Duquesne handled No. 14 Saint Louis in the Second Round Wednesday night, 83-73, to move onto the Quarterfinals against No. 3 Dayton.

The Dukes took an early 12-2 lead, but the Billikens made a comeback to keep it close, 43-39 at halftime. The Dukes started the second half much like the first, with a 14-2 run that gave them a sizable lead. The Billikens tried to get back into the game, but never really threatened, allowing the Dukes to take the victory.

Clark led the way with 20 points, shooting 6-for-13 from the field and 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Grant was just behind Clark with 17 points of his own and led Duquesne with seven assists. Dixon finished in double digits with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor and led with six rebounds. Mahorcic also had an efficient game, making all four of his baskets for eight points.

Duquesne also played a clean game, with just five turnovers, compared to Saint Louis, who turned it over 13 times, leading to 17 points for Duquesne.

Duquesne vs. Dayton History

With the Atlantic-10 primarily made-up of teams on the East Coast, Duquesne and Dayton join other schools like Loyola Chicago and Saint Louis, that lie outside of that immediate area.

Dayton holds a 63-25 record all-time over Duquesne, 41-11 in the A-10. They have also won the past five matches and 11 out of 13 since Keith Dambrot took over Duquesne in 2017, which includes a six game winning streak from 2018-21. Dambrot has both of his wins at home, in his first meeting with Dayton in 2017 and then in 2021, the first ever game in UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

The Flyers defeated the Dukes twice this season, with the first back on Jan. 12 in front of a sold out UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, 72-62. The Dukes would keep it close through the first part of the second half, 45-41 with about 10 minutes remaining, but the Flyers broke out on a 16-6 run to get the victory.

Duquesne played much better in the second game in Dayton on Feb. 13, holding a 57-53 lead with 6:39 left. They then failed to score for almost the rest of the game, with then ranked No. 16 Dayton using a 22-2 run to win the game, 75-59. 

Dambrot is also 0-5 against ranked opponents since taking over Duquesne in 2017. He holds losses  a 77-52 loss to then ranked No. 4 Kentucky on Nov. 11, 2022, along with two more to a great Dayton team in early 2020, who had Naismith College Player of the Year in forward Obi Toppin, as they came in ranked in the top 10 both time

Duquesne’s last win over a ranked team came against No. 10 Saint Louis on the road on Feb. 27, 2014. Dayton is No. 24, but this will mean more than a ranked win for the program, as they look to make it to their first A-10 semifinals since 2009.

In that semifinal, they faced the Flyers and defeated them 77-66 to make it to the A-10 Final, where they lost to the No. 4 Temple Owls, 69-64.

Dayton Outlook

The biggest threat that Dayton has against Duquesne is junior forward DaRon Holmes II.

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He was the best player against the Dukes in both games this season. He scored 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field, 3-for-5 from behind the arc, 6-for-8 from the foul line, along with 12 rebounds for a double-double back in January. Holmes led the Flyers again in February, scoring 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, along with three blocks and two steals.

Holmes led the A-10 in conference play with 21.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, respectively. He also finished fourth with 2.0 blocks per game and shot 55.5% from the field, seventh best in the A-10.

His efforts earned him A-10 co-player of the Year honors, along with Richmond graduate student guard Jordan King, A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team honors.

Dayton overall are an incredible offensive team, leading the A-10 in conference play with 48.3% shooting from the field, 40.0% shooting from behind the arc, and ranked tied for first with 75.9 points per game. They were also second with 9.3 3-pointers made and 14.39 assists per game in conference play, respectively.

Junior forward Nate Santos earned All-Conference Third team honors for his play on both sides of the court. The Pitt transfer was second on the Flyers and ranked tied for No. 11 in conference play with 6.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.5% from 3-point range and 47.2% from the field, No. 20 and No. 21 in the A-10 respectively.

Fellow junior in guard Koby Brea starred from 3-point range, shooting 49.0% from deep and making 2.8 3-pointers per game, second best and ranked tied for second best in conference play. His 50.4% shooting from the field buoyed him to receive the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Dayton has another stellar junior guard in Kobe Elvis who led the team with 3.4 assists per game in conference play. He also had a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio and shot 41.9% from 3-point range, 10th best in the A-10.

One more junior guard on the Flyers to take note of is Enoch Cheeks. The Robert Morris transfer has excelled defensively for the Flyers, averaging 1.2 steals and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Javon Bennett led the A-10 in conference play with a 4.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also was second on the team with 3.3 assists per game and led Dayton with 1.3 steals per game.

The efforts from the entire Dayton team is why they ranked No. 4 in defense, 66.8 points allowed per game, No. 2 in 3-point opponent field goal percentage, 30.4%, and No. 3 in opponent field goal percentage, 41.5%.

While Dayton is the only team ranked in the A-10, they finished with the No. 3 seed. They have a 4-2 record since last facing Duquesne, with their road losses to George Mason on Feb. 21 and Loyola Chicago, who got the No. 1 seed, on March 1, led to them finishing in Third Place with a 14-4 conference record.

Keys to Victory for Duquesne

The number one key for the Duquesne to win this game is to stop Holmes from producing as he has done in previous meetings with them.

Still, Holmes had 20 points against Loyola Chicago and 26 points against George Mason. The key in those games was their 22 turnovers against Loyola Chicago and no player scoring in double digits aside from Holmes against George Mason.

The Dukes are a great defensive team themselves and were great in conference play. They ranked tied for second allowing 66.3 points per game and led the A-10 allowing opponents to shoot just 29.5% from 3-point range. The Dukes also ranked tied for third most blocked shots with 4.22 per game, with Dixon leading the team with 1.7 per game, and ranked tied for second with 7.39 steals per game, as Clark led the A-10 in that category.

Duquesne excelled for most of their previous contest against Dayton. They drove to the basket, shot well from behind the arc and played great defense.

On a neutral court, they won’t have to worry about the Dayton fans and have a great opportunity to pull off the upset if they execute their game plan.

Duquesne vs. Dayton Odds

Duquesne is the underdog against Dayton, with ESPNBet, FanDuel and DraftKings placing them as +6.5 underdogs in this matchup.

How to Watch/Tip-Off

Duquesne and Dayton will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on the USA Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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