Men bounce back against Bonnies
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2012 00:01
The Duquesne men's basketball team (10-6, 1-1) used a second half surge against St. Bonaventure (8-6, 1-1) to secure its first Atlantic 10 win of the season 66-52 at the A.J. Palumbo Center Saturday evening.
Andre Marhold's two blocks on consecutive possessions and eight of Sean Johnson's game-high 17 points sparked a 13-0 Duquesne run midway through the second half that put the Dukes out in front 52-37 with 9:04 remaining.
Johnson, who said he wasn't feeling well during the game, only produced two points on two shots in the first half before taking the reins in the second, nailing five of nine shots while going 4-for-4 from the foul line for 15 second-half points.
"In the first half, I wasn't so aggressive. So I was letting the game come to me," Johnson said. "Last game, I was forcing a lot of shots, so [tonight], I was just letting the game come to me and letting my teammates find me."
Coach Ron Everhart said Saturday's performance was important for Johnson, who was feeling the effects of the Dukes' 16-point collapse against Saint Joseph's Jan. 4.
"This was big for him. We had a lot of kids who were hurting in that locker room after that last game, and Sean was one of those guys," Everhart said. "This was a bounce-back type of effort. I thought today we responded with an effort that matched the type of intensity in the last four minutes we should have had in the last four minutes of the last game, and I think Sean was the leader in that regard."
Prior to the Dukes' late run, the team couldn't penetrate the Bonnies' stout baseline defense, which towered over the outsized Dukes. Duquesne only managed 12 points in the paint in the game's first 29 minutes.
While St. Bonaventure's defense was good, Duquesne's was better, giving up a season-low 52 points. The most telling moment of the game may have come just six minutes into the first half, when forward Andrew Nicholson picked up his second foul and was forced to watch the rest of the half from the bench.
Nicholson, who averaged 21.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in seven-career matchups against Duquesne, entered the locker room at halftime scoreless with only one rebound. Nicholson started out fast in the second half, scoring 11 points in its first 6:28, but Marhold and company held him in check for the rest of the half, again only allowing the forward to pick up one rebound.
"We were basically trying to keep the ball out of [Nicholson's] hands," Marhold said. "We focused on not letting him touch the ball. I just didn't want to give him anything. No foul shots, not anything."
Duquesne's defense waited for its offense to click, and it eventually did. After shooting only 33 percent in the first half, the Dukes nailed 52 percent of their shots in the second which, coupled with holding St. Bonaventure to 28 percent from the field in the second, allowed them to maintain a comfortable lead late.
After scoring a career-high 28 points in the Dukes' 84-82 overtime loss to St. Joe's, T.J. McConnell had another impressive performance Saturday, racking up 13 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
"We were able to get the ball out into the open floor, and when T.J. gets in the open floor, we're a pretty dangerous team," Everhart said.
While Everhart said the defense carried the Dukes, he was impressed with their offensive execution in the second half.
"We executed pretty well, especially in the second half," Everhart said. "I thought offensively we got in transition and made some really good decisions."
The Dukes lost to Xavier Wednesday night and will play at Rhode Island Saturday at 7 p.m.