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Dukes top Penn State

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Eric Evans scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as Duquesne shook off a slow start to defeat Penn State 66-59 before a crowd of 7,046 at CONSOL Energy Center

Prior to Saturday night’s game at the Consol Energy Center, it had been 40 years since a Big 10 opponent traveled to play Duquesne at home. And after the Dukes’ gutty 66-59 come-from-behind victory over Penn State (6-5), it may be 40 more years before a Big 10 team takes that risk again.

Senior Eric Evans led Duquesne (6-4) with 20 points, including 15 in the second half, while Jerry Jones scored a career-high 14.

“I’d like to congratulate our kids on a great effort, especially in the second half,” Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. “I personally thought that they were a very good basketball team. I felt like Penn State had Big 10 athleticism and Big 10 physicality.

“I thought our guys executed the game plan very well.”

Despite the win, it was the second consecutive game in which the Dukes struggled offensively, shooting just 41-percent from the field and hitting only 5 of 24 three-pointers. But unlike Tuesday night’s loss at Robert Morris, Duquesne was able to overcome its struggles.

The Dukes and Nittany Lions exchanged leads six times throughout the first half. But after Jones hit a three with 8:24 left to give Duquesne a 24-22 lead, the Dukes were held scoreless for over six minutes. However, Penn State was unable to take advantage, scoring just six points over that stretch to take a three-point lead into the half.

Everhart believes his team’s defense during that time changed the game.

“I thought that the defensive effort we had late in the first half saved us tonight,” he said. “That could have easily been a 10 or 12-point deficit at halftime had we not defended them like that.”

When the second half started, the Dukes appeared more focused on the offensive end. Evans and guard T.J. McConnell hit 3-pointers on two of the first three possessions after the two combined to go 0-for-4 in the first half.

Evans believes the team got back to playing their game.

“In the first half, we weren’t playing Duquesne basketball. We were playing kind of sluggish,” he said. “In the second half, we were able to make some hard cuts and finish.

“If we get out and run and push the ball, a lot of good things will happen.”

The Dukes forced 13 Penn State turnovers in the second half, allowing them to stretch a small halftime deficit to an 11-point cushion midway through the half. The Nittany Lions continued to battle, but were unable to cut the deficit to any less than four.

First-year Penn State coach Patrick Chambers believes the Dukes defensive intensity was the difference in the second half.

“I think Duquesne did a great job,” Chambers said. “They sped us up, and when you’re in a tight game on the road you get a little nervous and we made poor decisions. I have to do a better job of continuing to teach.”

Duquesne will now have a week off before traveling for back-to-back road games. The Dukes play at Western Michigan next Saturday, before playing at George Mason on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

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