By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
Trailing by 18 early in the second half, the University of Dayton men’s basketball team’s needed its defense to step up in the crunch.
Using an 18-3 run in the final 7:30 of the game, Dayton came back on the road, defeating the University of Duquesne 57-54, Saturday, Feb. 22, at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Dayton held Duquesne to 15 points in the second half, and without a field goal over the final 7:54 of the game.
“Any time you can get a win on the road period, especially in late February, every game is very very difficult,” head coach Archie Miller said. “We’re obviously very excited, but we’re also very fortunate.”
Dayton (19-8, 7-5) trailed 51-39 with just under eight minutes remaining. After seven straight points from sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre and senior forward Devin Oliver, redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert hit a three to tie the game with 3:29 to go. Sibert then on UD’s next possession drove the baseline, and made a two-handed slam dunk to give UD its first lead of the game and complete a 14-0 run.
In the final seconds leading by one, Dayton inbounded from their own end and got a breakaway jam by Sibert. Duquesne got off two off-balance looks from three in an attempt to force overtime, but couldn’t get either to fall.
Sibert scored 18 points to lead UD, including three 3-pointers. Oliver added seven points to go with his 11 rebounds, and Pierre had 10 points.
Miller said it was Sibert’s play earlier in the half that helped Dayton find its offense.
“Jordan Sibert making a few 3-point shots kind of sprung the game open a little bit,” he said. “The game was so packed in the paint for us. Our guys were really having a hard time adjusting to the bodies that were in front of them.”
Dayton remains undefeated in February at 6-0, its best February start since the 1970-71 season.
Duquesne shot 15 percent in the second half, going 4 of 27 from the floor.
“I really don’t have an answer,” Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry said. “…You hold an fantastic offensive scoring team to 57 points and 39 percent, that’s heartbreaking. I don’t know if a team of mine has ever scored 15 points in a half that I remember.”
Duquesne senior guard Ovie Soko led Duquesne with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He was the only player to score for the Dukes in the final Dayton run.
“They made some plays and I had a chance to bring our team back but I didn’t do what seniors are supposed to do,” Soko said. “Those guys made plays, I didn’t.”
Dayton fell behind 17-2 six minutes into the game and couldn’t get any easy looks against the Duquesne defense. They trailed 39-25 at halftime, behind 19 first half points from Soko. The Dukes hit eight of their 12 first half 3-point attempts and outscored the Dayton bench 15-13.
At halftime, Miller said there wasn’t a lot of talk about basketball to get his team refocused.
“It was more about the edge we took the floor with,” he said. “A little bit more disappointed with the approach. No one is going to give you anything, and just because you’re playing well or you feel good about yourself that everything will go your way. I felt the first half we didn’t attack, we weren’t aggressive at all.”
Sanford led UD with 10 points in the first half, as UD shot 6 of 17 from inside the arc.
This was the second meeting between Dayton and Duquesne at the CONSOL Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. The Dukes had won the first meeting 82-64 Jan 30, 2011.