Dayton did what coach Anthony Grant feared most in Saturday’s Atlantic 10 conference opener, provide host Duquesne a rallying point.
That and game-deciding runs to end both halves enabled the Dukes to post a 70-62 defeat of the Flyers at historic A.J. Polumbo Center.
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Kostas Antetokounmpo, the developing 6-foot-10 redshirt-freshman, slammed home a rebound with time running out in the first half. The dunk narrowly missed Duquesne’s 6-9 center Chas Brown. The two barely cleared the key area on the return possession when they squared off.
Coaches and players went on the floor. No blows were taken, but Kostas and Brown were assessed technical fouls. Duquesne converted both technical free throws and Dayton’s Trey Landers missed both. Advantage, and rebooted crowd enthusiasm, to the Dukes.
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“Obviously, when you’re on the road, you don’t want to give the other team any momentum or rallying point and that seemed to do that for their team,” said Grant.
What hurt Dayton’s chances even more were being outscored 13-4 to close the first half. Duquesne trumped that with a game-ending 10-1 run.
“Give Duquesne credit,” Grant said. “They were able to make plays. In the first half, obviously we were able to build a little bit of a lead but didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
Senior Darrell Davis led Dayton (6-7) with 19 points on 8 for 19 shooting. No surprise in that; he’s the Flyers’ leading scorer. Josh Cunningham added 14 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block in another standout performance.
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Jordan Davis added eight points and Jalen Crutcher and Landers each added seven points. UD was without junior guard John Crosby, which seemed to disrupt the Flyers after initial offensive success. He was injured during practice on Thursday and is undergoing concussion protocol despite not having been diagnosed with a concussion.
Crutcher’s two free throws with 4:46 left finally regained the lead for Dayton, 61-60. But little else went right offensively for the Flyers after that and the Dukes closed with a rare defeat of UD.
“We have to try and win the small things,” first-year Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “We’re not going to win the big things. We made enough plays when it mattered to win. They believed in themselves for a team that’s been relatively fragile.”
Ren Castro-Caneddy led Duquesne (10-4) with 21 points and five assists. Eric Williams Jr. added 15 points and seven rebounds and Mike Lewis II added 12 points.
• Dambrot ended a long and successful run at Akron to rekindle Duquesne’s program. The Dukes had five junior college players on the bench who won’t become eligible until next season. They’ll join five incoming freshman who have signed for what athletic director Dave Harper labeled the best Dukes’ recruiting class in a while.
A Bellbrook native and Alter High School grad, Harper was UD’s vice president for advancement until taking over at Duquesne in 2015. He’s spearheading an extensive $50 million makeover for the Palumbo Center that should be complete in three-four years.
He played football at Alter for Ed Domsitz and basketball for Joe Petrocelli.