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Soko leads Duquesne over Fordham in A-10 opener

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Ovie Soko scored 29 points and collected 9 rebounds to lead Duquesne to an 87-81 victory over Fordham as the Dukes opened Atlantic 10 play at the A.J. Palumbo Center Wednesday night.

Just before the first half came to a close at the Palumbo Center Wednesday night, a whistle blew, sending Fordham’s Branden Frazier to the line for two shots.

Before the first attempt, Duquesne’s players linked arms in the key, forming a huddle. Fordham center Ryan Canty approached the huddle, spread his arms wide and threw them over the shoulders of several Duquesne players.

“What’s the plan?” Canty asked, spurring an eruption of obscenities from Duquesne’s five.

Duquesne was up 43-28 at that point and eventually won the game 87-81. Still, it featured lots of chirping, pushing and shoving from each teams, and a lot of complaints filed to officials.

A total of 44 fouls were called on the night and the game featured plenty of no-calls.

“You’ve got to give credit to those bigs inside,” said Duquesne forward Jeremiah Jones of the Dukes forced interior physicality. “They’re getting it done.”

Duquesne forward Ovie Soko led Dukes scorers with 29 points and 9 rebounds. He has now scored 20 points in the past five games, the longest streak of such by a Duquesne player since Bryant McAllister in 2006.

“He looked like a young Amare Stoudemire there,” said Fordham coach Tom Pecora of Soko. “For us we have the two big guys and they had a hard time defending him away from the basket and if you play him small, he’s able to take you into the post and score in the post.

“He goes out of his way to grab rebounds on both ends.”

Duquesne got their first lead of the game – the Atlantic 10 opener for both squads – three minutes into the game and did not render it for the rest of the night.

Nonetheless, the Rams did not go down without a fight. Down 10 with 3:34 left on the clock, Fordham’s prized freshman Jon Severe and senior Branden Frazier hit three consecutive 3-pointers to crawl within three – 77-74 – with just over two minutes remaining.

The Dukes made some clutch free-throws down the stretch and Fordham resisted fouling after the Rams found themselves down six.

Pecora said that it was difficult coaching against a team in the Dukes that shot 48.5-percent from the floor in the first half. He said at halftime that defense would win the game.

“I went in at halftime and wrote on the board ‘we have to play with greater effort than the Dukes for 40 minutes.’ That was one of our keys,” Pecora said.

The Rams’ offense centered around Severe, who finished with 35 points, including seven 3-pointers. He also contributed with six assists.

“That’s why we recruited him so hard,” said Duquesne coach Jim Ferry, who had offered a scholarship to Severe but not landed him. “The kid makes baskets. He’s a shot-maker. Those guys are hard to find and good for Fordham that they have him.

“If he scores 35 and we win over the next four years, I’ll take that every night,” Ferry added.

Duquesne sharpshooting-sophomore Micah Mason had seven assists on the night, a career-high.

Duquesne has now collected five straight wins, the program’s most consecutive since 2011 when the Dukes won 11 straight.

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