Mike Prisuta: Can Big Shot Turn Season Around

Jan. 27, 2010

Can one shot turn a season around?

Duquesne may be about to find out.

The Dukes visit Xavier on Thursday, fresh from a 70-69 triumph over St. Bonaventure that snapped a five-game losing streak, one that was achieved on a last-second three from Melquan Bolding.

At 10-9 overall and 1-4 in the Atlantic 10 the Dukes haven't exactly re-established themselves as contenders. But following one near miss after another, from Western Carolina to Pitt to Dayton to St. Louis to Rhode Island, their ability to close out a game for a change should provide an invaluable bolstering of a collective confidence that somehow still hadn't faded.

"We told ourselves in practice that whenever we get a close game again we're going to finish it out," forward Damian Saunders said. "We know we deserve to win these close games."

They should be just a little bit more convinced of that heading to Xavier than they had been prior to finding a way to close out St. Bonaventure in a performance that was might have been more revealing than it was complete.

In addition to securing that much-needed "W," the St. Bonaventure game suggested:

-Duquesne hasn't forgotten how to shoot the three-ball after all (8-for-20 after a combined 16-for-88 during the losing streak; Duquesne hadn't been that accurate since it went 8-for-20 in its previous victory against St. Francis).

-Duquesne can survive a matchup against a clearly superior player, in this case St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, who threatened to foul out Ron Everhart's entire team while looking every bit like a guy on his way to a 10-year NBA career.

-Duquesne may have found a more favorable rotation with B.J. Monteiro starting and Jason Duty coming off the bench, a new look that was exploited for a 43-28 halftime advantage.



"We looked like the old Duquesne basketball teams from the last couple of years in the first half," Everhart said.

Most significantly, Duquesne kept coming.

The record suggests, if not the same old Dukes, a similar version that still hasn't quite turned the corner.

The effort continues to reveal the players want to be so much more this season.

"For our kids' confidence and psyche and all the chemistry issues that we've had and everything else that we've kind of wrestled with this year we seem to be a pretty resilient group," Everhart said. "They've really answered the bell every time out.

"We're talking about some guys that have been battle-tested a little bit. They've had their share of disappointment this year. Whether it's been injury or losing close games or missing free throws, whatever the case may be, they've responded."

Can one shot turn a season around?

Probably not.

But if one shot can extract and inspire and cajole a little more of what Duquesne got against St. Bonaventure a little more often, one game might.

The Xavier game, perhaps.

"We know we're a good team," Bolding said. "What we have to do is continue playing hard, go hard in practices, listen to coach and execute."

That continues to be their story.

If nothing else these Dukes are sticking to it.


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