This article also appears in the online edition of the Duquesne Duke.
After a topsy-turvy first half, Tu Holloway took over the game – and in doing so, Xavier took over the Atlantic 10.
Holloway scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, and he and Dante Jackson combined to hit all seven of Xavier’s 3-pointers as the Musketeers defeated Duquesne 71-63 Sunday at the Consol Energy Center.
A combination of poor shooting and foul trouble, as well as a healthy dose of Holloway, doomed the Dukes in the second half. Duquesne shot just 25.9 percent from the field and 42.1% from the free throw line in the second half, and forwards Damian Saunders and B.J. Monteiro spend large chunks of the second half on the bench with four fouls.
Guard Bill Clark notched 14 points, 11 rebounds and three steals while playing all 40 minutes, and also scored his 1,500th career point late in the first half. But the senior swingman was sullen after the game.
“Not even the fact that it was for first place, it was the fact that it just seemed like we didn’t come to play in the second half,” Clark said. “Being a senior, you have people working so hard, but you’ve also got some people not on the same page. It’s a little frustrating.”
Since the Dukes (16-7, 8-2) took over first place in the A10 on Feb. 2, they have lost two straight games and fallen into fourth place behind Xavier (18-6, 9-1), Temple and Richmond. The team finished 1-3 in their four games at the Consol Energy Center this year
Clark was also critical of the team’s foul shooting. The Dukes came into the game ranked 322nd among 346 Division I schools in free throw shooting and didn’t help their numbers against Xavier, shooting just 13 for 27 from the free-throw line.
“I mean, that’s every game. I don’t even know what to say about that,” said Clark, who went 4 for 8 from the line himself. “We constantly work on free throws in practice as much as we can. It just seems like when it comes to games, I don’t know what it is. It’s everyone.”
Coach Ron Everhart tweaked his regular rotation against the Musketeers in favor of his veterans, starting junior guard Eric Evans instead of freshman Mike Talley. Evans, who missed the first 10 games of the year with a foot fracture, had 9 points in 27 minutes, while Talley was held scoreless in 13 minutes.
“Maybe just from an experience standpoint early in the game, that would help us in terms of executing offense, maybe stay in front of Holloway a bit,” Everhart said.
Everhart also played sophomore Andre Marhold in place of Saunders after the senior forward picked up his third foul with six minutes left in the first half. Marhold, who averages 6.8 minutes a game, played 16 minutes Sunday and had four points and two blocks; freshman Joel Wright (11.8 MPG) didn’t play because Everhart thought Marhold “knows the offense a little better than [Wright] now.”
The Dukes’ emphasis on experience wasn’t enough to stop Xavier’s veteran backcourt, though. The senior Jackson and junior Holloway, a favorite for A10 Player of the Year, combined for 49 points on 12 for 20 shooting.
Foul trouble for Saunders, Monteiro and Clark also stymied the trio’s aggressiveness on defense.
“Especially when you have the ball so many times around the rim and you feel like your guys are getting bumped too,” Everhart said. “That’s the frustrating part to me.”
Xavier center Kenny Frease scored all 12 of his points in the first half and also pulled down 12 rebounds.
The Dukes caught a break when Xavier’s second-leading scorer, guard Mark Lyons, who anchored the perimter defense and particularly locked down Talley in the first half, fouled out with 11:34 left in the game.
But the Duquesne defense, which Xavier coach Chris Mack described as “frenetic” after the game, could only convert 20 Xavier turnovers into 10 points.
“That hurts,” Everhart said. “Without a question in my mind, the story of the game.”
Mack said limiting points off turnovers was the key to Xavier’s gameplan.
“Our number one goal was to keep Duquesne out of transition,” Mack said. “Lots of those turnovers were dead-ball turnovers…It’s not enough to start to get back once they secure the rebound.”
Saunders had 11 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes, while Monteiro led the Dukes with 17 points in 28 minutes. T.J. McConnell was held to six points and three assists, though he also had three steals.
Xavier led by 10 twice in the first half, including a 25-15 lead with just over eight minutes left in the half. But three fast-break possessions for Duquesne sparked a 6-0 run, and even after Saunders left with foul trouble, the Dukes clawed back to take a 37-36 halftime lead.
The Dukes also took a 49-43 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the game, followed by Lyons’ fifth foul seconds later. However, Holloway and Jackson keyed a 20-4 Xavier run that gave them a 10-point lead with 3:41 left that silenced the Dukes fans in attendance in the sellout crowd of 10,509.
Players and coaches on each side noted the energetic crowd, which gave the game an NCAA tournament feel according to Mack and Everhart.
“It was tremendous, and it’s unfortunate because I thought we had a great opportunity here that we didn’t take advantage of,” Everhart said.
The Dukes look to bounce back Wednesday when they travel to Massachussetts to take on the Minutemen (13-9, 5-4).