This time out, graduate student Kieron Achara was the 6-foot-10 forward/center (the other junior Shawn James) who got more playing time. Helped some to compensate for his early second half exit this past Wednesday in the Dukes' 102-88 home win versus Saint Joseph's (second time this year Achara needed an oral surgeon following a game).
And, like the first St. Bonaventure game when James was on the bench with an injury, he delivered. This time a 21 point, six rebound and career-best five block outing in 28 minutes of action. He was 7-of-9 overall, 1-of-3 from three-point range, and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.
Junior Kojo Mensah, DU's assist leader and second leading scorer, was in street clothes because of strep throat. Coach Ron Everhart primarily used a 7-man rotation. Sophomore Jason Duty saw four minutes of action for the second time in a row.
Mensah's missing contributions came from three upperclassmen guards:
The anchor was junior Aaron Jackson who played 38 minutes. Nice numbers here also: 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. He had six turnovers, though many happened when he was surrounded by 3 or 4 bigger guys in white jerseys.
He got banged up a little when he took an offensive foul near the basket on a play where senior Gary Tucker had already run into a solid La Salle pick in the backcourt. Both guys got up and continued playing.
Tucker had 16 points, including a pair of alley oop dunks via passes from senior and four-year teammate Reggie Jackson.
This Duquesne Jackson scored 19 points and tied his career-high of nine assists. He played 31 minutes, Tucker 30.
(Tuck and R. Jackson were in the backcourt at Southern Union College in Alabama before transferring to DU last season.)
James, coming off his fifth career triple-double against St. Joe's, added 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. He was a perfect 5-of-5 from the line.
Freshman Damian Saunders led all players with 10 rebounds and a number of outstanding plays on both ends of the court. (His mom and dad in the stands, and after good plays by Damian, his dad led the cheer, red and blue poms swinging in the air.)
Duquesne did a strong defensive job on the Explorers' leading scorer Darnell Harris, especially in the first half where he scored just two free throw points.
Harris, who battled throughout, come away with 14 points. Normally making over 50 percent of his three-pointers, Harris made a quarter of his long range attempts (2/8). He was 2-of 3 on shots from other parts of the court. Harris also played 38 minutes.
Freshman Jerrell Williams, along with his brother Terrell, are the tallest La Salle players at 6-foot-8. Jerrell has been starting. He had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Williams made 3-of-10 FG attempts, though he was perfect from the foul line (5-5).
The Dukes won the rebounding battle, 42-31, and had 11 blocks to the Explorers' three. Both teams were strong at the foul line: La Salle at 88.5 percent (23/26), DU 85.7% (24-28).
La Salle, which came in with a 0.82 assist-to-turnover ratio, had 15 assists, 11 steals and 16 turnovers (0.94 a/to). The Dukes, who had the second best ratio in the A-10 at 1.14 prior to today, had 28 assists, 10 steals and 20 turnovers, a 1.40 ratio.
The Dukes sealed the game from the foul line, hitting 21 of 23 in the second half (91.3%).
La Salle shot exactly 40.0 percent from the floor, short of their 44.3% average. The Explorers, who were just .001 from first place in the league in three-point accuracy (.395), made only 5-of-22 (22.7%) Saturday.
The Dukes finished 55.6 percent from the floor (avg. was .466), and 36.8% from beyond the arc (avg. .310, 14th in the league). Over 50 percent from the floor for the second straight game after a disappointing and uncharacteristic performance at St. Bonaventure (36.2% and 22.2%).
This week, Duquesne won two straight games vs Philadelphia A-10 foes, with the 3rd next month at Temple (3/5). At 15-7, they are guaranteed no worse than .500 this season with opportunities down the road to be much better.
Last season after nine league games, DU was also 5-4 in the conference. DU won the next game at the same Gola Arena (6-4) but none after that ending the season with an A-10 mark of 6-10.
Duquesne is playing excellently right now. All games should be, and probably will be, competitive. Something different is happening at Duquesne.
My first year as a student at Duquesne, I expected things to be like it was for my older brother, winning seasons every year.
Duquesne was 7-15 in 1966-67. After that: 18-7, 21-5, 17-7, 21-4, etc. Could be the pattern for Coach Everhart's teams.
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