For better or worse, the No. 10 Saint Louis Billikens had their 19 game winning streak snapped by the Duquesne Dukes at home on Thursday night. The team came in overconfident against the Dukes and might have been looking ahead to their game against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday. They were making poor decisions on both ends of the floor and did not have the same fire that they normally bring to the court. This caused the Bills to drop their first A-10 conference game of the year, 71-64.
Duquesne claimed its first victory over a top 10 team on the road since 1962 when they defeated Bradley University. It was also their first victory against a top 10 team since defeating Xavier in 2009. This was huge victory for the Dukes as they rebuild their men’s basketball program under second year Head Coach Jim Ferry.
This loss snaps SLU’s longest winning streak in school history. This was the Bills first loss since Dec. 1 when they lost to Wichita State. The Billikens remain in first place in the A-10, but now hold a two game lead in the conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season. Saint Louis now enters the toughest stretch of their schedule playing Virginia Commonwealth on the road, Dayton at home and closing the regular season at Massachusetts. However, this loss against Duquesne will be difficult to stomach.
"I thought our kids really came in with great focus and belief tonight," said Duquesne Dukes Head Coach Jim Ferry. "We just bounced back off two really tough losses with 30 seconds to go and I thought they showed a lot of character coming in here. The game played out pretty similar to the first time that we played them. I thought our key was keeping our defensive focus and composure when things got rough in the first half."
Saint Louis appeared overconfident and flat throughout the game. They hit a few early buckets, but then began to make some questionable decisions on both ends of the court by forcing passes in tight windows and having odd defensive breakdowns. That allowed Duquesne to claim the lead.
The Dukes came ready to play. They hit their three-point attempts early, but their leading and the nation’s three-point shooter Guard Micah Mason picked up his second foul early in the first half. After that point, Duquesne went 1-5 in three-point shooting. They matched Saint Louis’ play until the end of the first half.
SLU Forward Rob Loe sparked a 6-0 run for the Billikens with 5:35 left to play in the first half. That mini-run gave the Bills a 22-21 lead. The team had been playing flat up until that point.
Just before halftime, SLU Guard Jake Barnett hit a key three-pointer to up them up 4 points going into halftime, but Duquesne was not fazed by this brief shift in momentum.
Micah Mason’s return allow the Dukes to get back into the game. Even when SLU extended their lead to 7 points, they responded. Mason lofted up a three with one second left in the shot clock that went in to cut the Billikens lead down to 4 points and shifted the momentum in Duquesne’s favor. They claimed a 45-44 lead with 11:09 left in the second half and never looked back.
The Billikens left their fans wondering what was going on with it usual fundamentally sound team. They had a lot of unforced errors and did not play their brand of team-oriented basketball. Their defense struggled as the Dukes found opening down the middle of the lane against the normally strong Bills defense.
Duquesne Guards Jerry Jones and Ovie Soko led the charge for their team in the second half. Jones ended the game with 19 points while Soko contributed 12 points in the huge victory over Saint Louis. Mason’s scoring ability down the stretch also contributed in the upset over No. 10 Saint Louis.
SLU pulled within 4 points with 58 seconds left in the game, but Duquesne broke SLU’s press and hit a bucket to seal the game. The Billikens were just out of sync offensively the entire game.
"We just never really got it going at any point during the game," said SLU Forward Dwayne Evans. "We made a push to try and get back, but we never really got in rhythm."
Saint Louis will have to forget this loss quickly. On Saturday, they will go on the road to play the VCU Rams at 6 p.m. eastern time. Duquesne will return to Pittsburgh for their final home game of the year against Massachusetts on March 5 at 7 p.m. eastern time.