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McConnell’s Career-High Not Enough As Dukes Lose In OT

By: Aly Cohen
(Photo Credit: Duquesne Athletics)

(Photo Credit: Duquesne Athletics)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — In any team sport, the constant is that one team always wins and one team always loses, but in Duquesne’s 84-82 loss to Saint Joseph’s last night, the loss stung as the Dukes blew a 16-point lead.

“Very disappointing, because I thought we outplayed these guys for the majority of the game,” said Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart.

The night was a tale of two halves in the Atlantic 10 opener. With Duquesne’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, B.J. Monteiro out with a hand injury, the obvious conclusion was that someone else needed to step up. Although sophomore T.J. McConnell chose to be that guy, his complete performance wasn’t enough. He had a career high 28 points, 19 coming in the first half, on 10 of 16 shooting, going 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, grabbed four rebounds and dished five assists.

The Dukes (9-6) held St. Joe’s (11-4) to just 27 points on 36 percent shooting in the first half, including holding the A-10’s leading scorer, junior guard Carl Jones, to just six.  Duquesne went 7 of 11 from beyond the arc and out-rebounded them 19 to 17.

“I told them at halftime that I didn’t know who they were.  I didn’t recognize anything that we did in the first half…forget the Xs and O’s, we had a guy step in on a free throw, we had guys bang into each other on a layup. I just told them at the end of the game, whatever they did today can’t be repeated, because road wins are like gold and the stars were aligned for us,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said.

Duquesne would have loved the story continue on in the second half as it did in the first, but St. Joes changed the script, making sure their first-half play stayed there. The Dukes’ defensive intensity was gone, while Jones and sophomore guard Langston Galloway combined for 29 of their 37 points for the Hawks in the second.  Jones found his rhythm getting to the hole and pulling up, including his fadeaway with six seconds that sent the game to overtime, while Galloway got hot with his jumper. Galloway finished with 19 points and six assists, while Jones finished with 18 and four.

“We didn’t guard anyone from the 15-minute point on.  You just have to practice the next day, and guard people. We have to get ready for St. Bonaventure, because if we don’t guard them, they’re going to make us pay as well,” said McConnell.

After two back-to-back three’s from freshman Kadeem Pantophlet and a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Mike Talley that put the Dukes up 62-46, SJU went on a 15-2 run with just under 10 minutes in the game. A jumper and a three from McConnell stretched the lead back to eight for the Dukes, but Jones answered with a three of his own.

Junior guard Sean Johnson, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the last 14 minutes of regulation, missed 2 of 4 free throws within the last minute.  The game went into overtime after Johnson didn’t finish on his drive to the hole.

In overtime SJU led 84-82, with the Dukes’ gaining possession with 30 seconds left after a defensive rebound by Pantophlet.  The Dukes played through and senior guard Eric Evans got a good look to lay it in a few feet from the hoop, but it didn’t fall.

With the Hawks bigger lineup in the last half of the game, Duquesne had some trouble contesting in the paint and on the perimeter, had big men Jerry Jones, Mamadou Datt and Andre Marhold in foul trouble, and were out-rebounded 25 to 11.

“I think that we stayed with it.  It wasn’t a system, it wasn’t a stylistic win, but it’s a road win and they’re invaluable,” said Martelli whose team is now 2-3 on the road.

Saint Joseph’s shot more than 20 percent better in the second half, including 62.5 percent from beyond the arc and improved their foul shot percentage from 45 percent in the first to nearly 77 percent in the second.

The fourth youngest team in the nation had five players finish in double-digit scoring tonight.  SJU had two guys finish with double-doubles, leading rebounder Halil Kanacevic with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Ronald Roberts with 13 and 10.  Sophomore C.J. Aiken, who’s ranked second in the county with 4.2 blocks per game, had nine total blocks; more than both teams combined.  Aiken also finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Pantophlet finished with 11 points and six boards for the Dukes, while Talley added nine points and four assists.

In case you wanted to know…

  • The Dukes play St. Bonaventure (8-5) at home on Saturday, Jan. 7th at 4PM.
  • T.J. McConnell is tied for first in the nation in steals per game with 3.1.
  • Ron Everhart has started 6 different lineups in the past 6 games.
  • B.J. Monteiro could miss up to 3 more games with stitches in his hand.  He was the 35th Duke to be added to the “1000-Point Club” when he had 24 points in their win over Houston Baptist on New Year’s Eve.

Aly Cohen
The Aly Way
Twitter.com/alyco32