PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — In their all-red, “Bulls-like” throwback jerseys honoring the former Duke and first African American to be drafted in the National Basketball Association, five players scored in double digits for Duquesne (14-9, 5-4), led by Eric Evans’ 17, to defeat Richmond (12-12, 3-6) 81-72 in the third annual Chuck Cooper Classic in front of a sellout home crowd.

It makes sense to try to exploit a team’s weakness and limit their strengths when developing a game plan.  In last night’s win over the Spiders it was obvious that the Dukes used their defense to limit a key advantage Richmond has had all season long—taking care of the basketball.

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The Spiders average just 10.8 turnovers per game, 13th in the country.  They had nine in the first half.

“That was the big dilemma we had in terms of game plan.  Do we contain them and try to keep them out of the paint, not let them dribble drive it, make them shoot it over our hands or do we just get out and make it one of those Mike Tyson heavyweight fights, pressure them and stay on them from start to finish. We made that decision early on to do that.  Obviously sometimes you roll the dice, but I think in this case it was the right move, because we were able to turn them over,” Dukes head coach Ron Everhart explained.

In the first 12 minutes of the game the Dukes forced seven turnovers and scored 11 points to take a 23-14 lead, including a 9-0 run in the first four and a half minutes.

They then did not force a Richmond turnover for the next seven minutes until just under two minutes to go in the half.  During that time Richmond went on a 7-0 run outscoring the Dukes 17-13 going into the half.

Richmond finished the game with 16 total turnovers, allowing Duquesne to score 24 points off of those careless possessions.

Strength number two for Richmond is their leading scorer, the 29th most efficient 3-point shooter in the country at 42.4 percent, junior guard Darien Brothers.  The Dukes limited his production as well to just four points on 2-for-11 shooting, 0-for-8 from beyond the arc.  Going into the game, Brothers averaged 17.6 points in the team’s last 14 games.

“We knew he could shoot it.  He had a game this year where he had like eight three’s, so we just wanted to get out and make him take some tough shots.  I think he took some tough ones early and it kind of threw him off a little bit,” said Duquesne senior swingman B.J. Monteiro who finished the game with 10 points and seven boards.

While one player on the floor was struggling to find his rhythm, another, Evans, seemed to find his early in the second half on drive after drive to the hole.

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“After the first couple of times I got the ball I saw a clear lane, so I wanted to keep attacking and that’s what I did, I think I did it three times in a row,” said senior guard Evans, who is just nine points shy of 1,000 career-points.

Evans was 6-for-11 from the field and had six rebounds and three assists.

The three other players in addition to Monteiro and Evans to round out the double-digit scoring for the Dukes were sophomore guard T.J. McConnell, junior guard and leading scorer Sean Johnson  (15.1 ppg.) and sophomore swingman Jerry Jones with 13, 14 and 14 respectively.

Duquesne also capitalized on a specific weakness for Richmond, rebounding.  Although rebounding has given the Dukes some trouble this season to say the least, with a -6.5 rebounding margin, Richmond is  slightly worse at -6.7.  The Dukes outrebounded them 39-31, finishing 17 second-chance points to the Spiders’ four.  Richmond had just six offensive rebounds for the game, most coming in the last minutes.

Freshman guard Kendall Anthony led the Spiders with 21 points off the bench, while sophomore guard Cedrick Lindsay had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.  Sophomore forward Derrick Williams added 16 points.

Duquesne’s largest lead of the night was 16 at 8:23 left in the game.

“When you look back on it, we’ve had a lot of games with these guys that were down to the wire, that were last possession type-games and we haven’t been able to come away with any of them,” said Coach Everhart.  “I am really satisfied that we were able to do that tonight, not in so much that it was against Richmond, but in terms of who we were honoring, what it meant and what Chuck Cooper meant to basketball, period.  He’s basketball’s Jackie Robinson—that transcends time.”

In case you wanted to know…

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  • The Dukes continue to struggle at the stripe.  Going into the game they averaged a 67.6 percent free throw percentage, and shot just 18-31 (58.1 percent) last night.
  • McConnell is 14-41 from the arc in Atlantic 10 play. He finished with a game-high four steals.
  • The Dukes were three below their season average in assists with 13. 
  • Duquesne had 42 points in the paint compared to Richmond’s 24.
  • This is Everhart’s first win against the Spiders, previously 0-5 with three games being decided by a total of 10 points. 
  • Richmond leads the series 14-9, with eight of the Dukes’ wins before last night all before Richmond joined the A-10. 
  • Last night’s game was played before a sellout crowd of 4,481, the first Palumbo Center sellout since Feb. 7, 2009 (a 72-68 win over No. 9 (AP) Xavier) . DU’s last home sellout was last year against Xavier at CONSOL Energy Center (10,509).
  • Chuck Cooper was captain of the Dukes in the 1949-50 season.  That year the team went 23-6 and was the first Dukes team to be ranked (6th in final AP poll) for the entire season.
  • Cooper was selected by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 1950 draft.  He spent a total of six years in the NBA.

Aly Cohen
The Aly Way