Dukes Face La Salle in Atlantic 10 Championship First Round
March 11, 2008
2007-08 ATLANTIC 10 CHAMPIONSHIP
DUQUESNE RADIO: KQV-AM (1410) with Ray Goss & George Von Benko
2007-08 ATLANTIC 10 CHAMPIONSHIP: Duquesne (17-12, 7-9) heads to Atlantic City, N.J. for its 30th appearance at the Atlantic 10 Championship (Wed.-Sat., March 12-15 at Boardwalk Hall). The Dukes, who were picked to finish 11th in the conference in a preseason poll of league coaches and media, are making their second consecutive championship appearance under head coach Ron Everhart. The Dukes, who snapped a streak of eight consecutive opening round losses with a 79-76 win over UMass in 2004, take on No. 7 seed La Salle (14-16, 8-8) at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday. This is the first A-10 Championship meeting between the Dukes and Explorers.
THE BRACKET: The winner of the Duquesne vs. La Salle game will face second-seeded Temple (18-12, 11-5) at 6:30 p.m. (EST) Thursday night. Duquesne owns just one win (season split with La Salle) against the five other teams in its side of the bracket (0-1 vs. Temple, Charlotte, Rhode Island and Massachusetts).
LEAGUE FINISH: DU finished the regular season in a three-way tie for 9th in the Atlantic 10 with a 7-9 record. The Dukes went 5-3 at home and 2-6 on the road in conference play. The seven league wins were the most since the 1993-94 NIT team finished 8-8.
DUQUESNE LATELY: Duquesne's 17-12 record is its best since the 1993-94 NIT team (17-13) opened with the same mark ... the 17 wins are also the most since `94 ... the Dukes are bidding to become the first team since 1980-81 (20-10) to win more than 17 games ... DU clinched its first winning season since `94 - and second winning season in 22 years - with its win at Dayton on Feb. 13 ... five Dukes averaged between 10.5 and 11.7 ppg. in conference play ... Duquesne is 1-8 in single digit games, including a 1-4 mark in games decided by three or fewer points ... the Dukes own non-conference wins over two teams that finished first (or tied for first) in their league: Cal State Northridge (Big West) and Robert Morris (NEC) ... DU has ranked among the nation's top 10 in blocks (7.4), assists (18.2) and scoring (82.4) all season ... Shawn James has more blocks (107) than seven A-10 teams ... James, who injured his right shoulder at Charlotte, missed the Temple game ... he made his return with six minutes vs. SLU ... DU has already set school single-season records for blocks (214), assists (527) & steals (270).
THE SEED: Tenth-seeded Duquesne (17-12, 7-9) faces No. 7 La Salle (14-16, 8-8) in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship on Wednesday, Mar. 12 at 6:30 p.m. (game will not be televised). This is the third time - and second consecutive year - the Dukes have been seeded No. 10 in a non-divisional tournament format. The others were in 2001 (an 88-65 opening round loss to No. 7 George Washington) and last year (a 78-77 loss to No. 7 Saint Louis). This marks Duquesne's second-straight A-10 Championship appearance under second-year coach Ron Everhart. DU did not qualify with a 1-15 league record in 2006. In 2004, No. 5 (West) DU snapped a streak of eight consecutive tournament-opening losses with a 79-76 win over No. 4 (East) Massachusetts at University of Dayton Arena. In their 2005 appearance the No. 5 (West) Dukes lost to the No. 4 (East) Fordham Rams 65-53 in the opening round at Cincinnati's US Bank Arena. This is the first A-10 tournament meeting between the Dukes and Explorers. The two split the regular-season series with each winning on the other's home court (DU 101-84 at La Salle & La Salle 75-72 at Duquesne).
ITS NEW TO ME AND ME, AND ME ... This will be the first A-10 Championship appearance for four players who are seeing significant minutes for the Dukes. First-year transfers Shawn James and Kojo Mensah (DU's two leading scorers) and freshman Damian Saunders and Bill Clark will be making their first visit to Atlantic City. In addition, it will be the first Championship for first-year assistant coaches Greg Gary and Bill Barton.
LEFTOVERS FROM SAINT LOUIS: Random notes from Duquesne's 85-58 regular season-ending win on Saturday: Duquesne held SLU to an opponent season low 58 points and an a opponent season low .309 field goal percentage in snapping a five-game losing streak ... the Dukes posted the second-highest point total against Saint Louis this season ... the Billikens, who came into the game giving up an average of 63.3 ppg., gave up a season high in an 88-77 loss at UMass ... SLU, which entered the game with an A-10 low 12.0 turnover per game average, turned it over 17 times including 11 in the first half alone ... the 27-point margin of victory tied Duquesne's seventh largest ever in an Atlantic 10 game ... the victory was Duquesne's 11th home win, which marked just the second time in the past 27 years that a DU team has won 11 or more at home (the Dukes were 12-3 in 1993-94 and 14-2 in 1980-81) ... Kieron Achara went 6-of-8 from the field and 12-of-12 from the line in scoring a game-high 24 points in his final home game ... the 12 free throws tied his career high set last year vs. St. Bonaventure (12-of-15) ... Achara threw down his first dunk of the season early in the second half ... senior Reggie Jackson finished with 12 points and had team highs in assists (7), rebounds (6) and steals (4) ... he also didn't commit a turnover in 34 minutes ... DU's third final-year player, Gary Tucker, went 6-of-8 from the field in scoring 14 ... Jackson and Tucker, former JC backcourtmates, brought down the house with a Jackson-to-Tucker alley-oop dunk at the horn that capped a 16-2 run and gave the Dukes a 41-26 halftime lead ... the three final year players - Achara, Jackson and Tucker - combined for all 16 points during the run ... DU, which finished 24-of-29 from the line, hit 18 in a row before a Bill Clark miss with 4:26 left ... Shawn James, who missed the last game-and-a-half with a shoulder injury, had two points, two rebounds and a block in six minutes ... Duquesne shot .560 for the game ... it was DU's third-best shooting performance this season.
JAMES CLIMBING SHOT BLOCK LIST & CLOSING IN ON 1,000: Junior forward/center Shawn James continues to climb the NCAA Division-I list for career blocks. The 6-10 Brooklyn, N.Y. native currently ranks ninth on the all-time list with 439 rejections in 82 games. He needs three rejections to pass Connecticut's Emeka Okafor (8th), four to pass Fairfield's Deng Gai (7th) and six to pass Ohio State's Ken Johnson (6th) on the NCAA Division I all-time list. Only two players have a higher three-year blocked shot total than James - Okafor who blocked 441 shots in 103 games and Adonal Foyle who sent back 492 shots in 87 games. Foyle ranks second on the all-time list. James, who scored 628 points in two seasons at Northeastern prior to transferring, has 346 this season. He enters the A-10 Championship needing 26 points to reach the 1,000-point career mark. DU has one 1,000-point scorer on the current roster in fifth-year grad student Kieron Achara (1,233 points).
JAMES ALL-DISTRICT: Shawn James was named to the 10-man NABC All-District 3 team announced last week. District 3 is comprised of 28 schools in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey Delaware and Maryland. Selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC, the 150 chosen student-athletes from 15 districts, are now eligible for the State Farm Division I All-America teams to be announced on Saturday, April 5 at the 2008 NABC Convention in San Antonio.
AJAX A 100-100 MAN: Junior Aaron Jackson, who handed out 110 assists as a sophomore, has added 103 this season making him the eighth player in school history to post more than one 100-assist season. The others are Norm Nixon and Clayton Adams (4), Kenya Hunter, Tony Petrarca and Mike James (3) and Martin Osimani and Courtney Wallace (2). Jackson barely missed the 100 assist mark with 97 as a freshman in 2006-07.
MR. 1,000: Graduate student F/C Kieron Achara became the 31st member of the Duquesne 1,000-point club with a free throw at the 18:52 mark of the second half against Pitt on Dec. 5. Achara enters the Atlantic 10 Championship with 1,233 career points (ranks 19th all-time), 602 rebounds and 185 blocked shots (2nd all-time). The La Salle game will be Achara's 115th at Duquesne, which will rank him tied for second on DU's all-time list.
RECORDS SET: DU broke the school record for blocks in a season in its 22nd game (at La Salle). The old mark of 166 was set in 28 games in 1979-80. The Dukes enter the La Salle game with 214 rejections in 29 contests. Duquesne has also set single-season records for assists (527, old record was 486) and steals with 270 (old record of 261 set in 1992-93 and tied in 1997-98).
QUICK NOTES: The Dukes have had six different leading scorers in their past 10 games and, oddly enough, leading scorer Shawn James has not been one of them ... seven different players have paced DU in the scoring column at least once this season and 10 different players have scored in double digits ... five different players are averaged between 10.5 and 11.7 points in Atlantic 10 play ... three Dukes - Aaron Jackson (103), Kojo Mensah (96) and Reggie Jackson (95) - have over 95 assists ... Duquesne has four first-year players in prominent roles in transfers Shawn James (Northeastern) & Kojo Mensah (Siena) and true freshmen Damian Saunders & Bill Clark ... the Dukes have assisted on 63.7 percent of their field goals this season ... DU leads the Atlantic 10 with an 18.2 apg. average ... do-it-all swingman Aaron Jackson is averaged 4.9 rebounds per game in conference play - including a team-high 36 offensive boards ... Jackson is shooting .537 for the season ... the Dukes are 9-3 when Jackson scores in double figures ... Reggie Jackson, who was averaging 3.6 ppg. following the Dec. 5 Pitt game, brings a 9.1 ppg. scoring average into the conference tournament ... he is averaging 14.0 ppg. in six games after going scoreless at Dayton on Feb. 13 ... Jackson's top four scoring games have all come on the road (a career-high 25 at Temple and 19 each at Bowling Green, at Rhode Island & at La Salle) ... it took Shawn James four games to break the Atlantic 10 and Duquesne records for blocks in a game (he had 12 blocks in 22 minutes in Duquesne's 92-77 win at Oakland on Nov. 20), 15 games to break the school mark for blocks in a season and 20 to post the first triple-double in school history (17-11-10 vs. Saint Joseph's) ... James' 107 blocks have shattered the school mark of 60 set (in 1991-92) and tied (in 1992-93) by Derrick Alston ... Alston played in 28 games in both `92 & `93 ... the previous A-10 individual record of 11 blocks in a game was set by Rutgers' Roy Hinson in 1982-83 and tied by UMass' Stephane Lasme three times last year ... the old Duquesne record of seven was set by Derrick Alston vs. Saint Joseph's Jan. 5, 1991 ... James broke the DU record when he rejected his eighth shot with 7:53 left in the first half at Oakland ... James' five career triple-doubles are one shy of the NCAA career record set by Drexel's Michael Anderson (1985-88) and tied by LSU's Shaquille O'Neal (1990-92) .... with his five rejections against George Washington on Jan. 26, James became the 18th player in NCAA Division I history to reach 400 for his career ... his 439 blocked shots in 82 career games currently ranks 9th on the all-time NCAA Division I list ... he needs three blocks to pass Connecticut's Emeka Okafor the 8th spot on the all-time list ... James had a 20-10 double-double at Fordham before suffering a knee injury in practice on Monday, Jan. 21 that kept him in street clothes for the Jan. 23 St. Bonaventure game ... came back to score a season-high 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and five blocks vs. GW ... missed the Mar. 5 game at Temple with a shoulder injury ... James, who leads the team with 32 dunks, is shooting an Atlantic 10-best .548 from the field ... Kojo Mensah has had streaks of 18 & 13 consecutive free throws made this season ... Mensah, who posted his fourth 20-point game with 22 on Dec. 28 vs. Robert Morris, is tied with James & Kieron Achara for the team lead in 20-point games ... Mensah had scored in double digits in five-straight games before scoring three on 1-of-8 shooting at St. Bonaventure ... bounced back with a team-high 19 vs. Saint Joe's ... missed DU's next game, at La Salle, with strep throat ... shot .188 from the field (6-of-32) and 1-of-7 from the 3-point arc in his first four games back (6.5 ppg. over that span) before scoring 14 in 26 minutes off the bench at Charlotte ... followed that by scoring all 14 of his points in the second half at Temple and adding 11 in 22 minutes vs. Saint Louis... hit a career-high three 3-pointers at Temple ... it was the fourth multiple-3-point game of his career ... DU is 3-6 when Mensah scores in single digits and 12-3 when Mensah attempts six or more free throws ... Mensah's 158 free throw attempts are 33 more than any other DU player ... leads the team with 13 "traditional" three-point plays (basket and free throw) ... Mensah, whose scoring average was at 14.8 ppg. at the start of conference play, averaged 10.5 ppg. in Atlantic 10 games ...was 4-of-25 from the 3-point arc in conference play before hitting 3-of-4 from the arc at Temple ... Damian Saunders was named A-10 Rookie of the Week for the third time on Dec. 30 ... he is the fifth player in school history to win the award more than twice in a season ... Saunders leads the team with 45 steals and is second on the team with a 5.2 rebounds per game average ... he is third in blocks (37) and fourth in 3-pointers made (24-of-68, .353) ... his blocked shot total is the second-highest ever by a DU freshman (the record of 54 was set by Derrick Alston in 1990-91) ... fellow freshman Bill Clark, a one-time Rookie of the Week (Mar. 9), has hit three or more 3-pointers in a game five times ... Clark, at 6-6, ranks third on the team with a 4.3 rpg. average ... Clark, who hit at least one three in 13 of his first 15 games, ended a five-game streak without a 3-pointer (0-of-13 over that span) by going 2-of-6 from the arc vs. Richmond ... Clark scored all 15 of his points in 12 second half minutes in helping the Dukes rally from a 13-point deficit against the Spiders ... he went 2-of-5 from the arc in scoring 14 at Charlotte and was 3-of-5 from 3-point in adding 13 at Temple ... Kieron Achara played just six minutes at Rhode Island after suffering a mild concussion and loosened tooth early in the second half ... with Shawn James on the bench in street clothes (knee injury) the Stirling, Scotland native - fresh off a pair of root canals done the previous day as a result of the tooth damage suffered in URI game - posted 18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in 28 minutes vs. St. Bonaventure on Jan. 23 ... Achara had his front tooth knocked out early in the second half vs. Saint Joseph's, had a root canal the next day then delivered 21 points and a career high-tying five blocks at La Salle ... with James sidelined again (shoulder injury) Achara stepped up to hit a career-high five 3-pointers (in six attempts) in scoring 24 at Temple ... closed out his home career in memorable fashion with 24 points (12-of-12 from the line) and four blocks vs. Saint Louis ... is shooting .816 from the foul line ... DU is 11-3 when Achara scores in double figures ... Gary Tucker, who had 30 assists and 29 turnovers in 28 games last season, has 55 and 37 this year (1.5-1 ratio) ... he ranks second on the team with 31 3-pointers (he was 14-of-52 last season) ... is shooting .383 from the arc (18-of-47) in 14 games away from the Palumbo Center (including neutral-site game vs. Cal State Northridge) ... third on the team - at 6-1 - with 11 dunks.