Jackson scores 21, Dukes upset No. 9 Xavier 72-68
PITTSBURGH (AP)—On a night full of surprises, perhaps the biggest wasn’t that Duquesne shot 81 percent in the first half against No. 9 Xavier.
Or that the Musketeers, winners of their previous 11, led only once. Or that Duquesne hadn’t beaten a team ranked as high as Xavier in 35 years.
No, it was that Duquesne, which hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1977 and has had only one winning season since 1994, expected to win. And then went out and won exactly like it planned.
Aaron Jackson made five free throws in the final minute while scoring 21 points, and Duquesne held on despite going the final 7:44 without a basket to stun Xavier 72-68 on Saturday night and hand the Musketeers their first Atlantic 10 loss.
Bill Clark scored 18 points and hit a series of big shots as Duquesne (15-7, 6-3 in Atlantic 10) opened a 15-point lead at 45-30 by shooting 17-of-21 in the first half.
B.J. Raymond scored 18 points but Xavier (20-3, 8-1) led only once, at 2-0, in losing for the first time in seven road games. It was the second time in three seasons the Musketeers were stunned at Duquesne, but they were not ranked when they lost 93-91 in 2006-07.
Freshman Melquan Bolding added 12 points in one of Duquesne’s biggest victories since it was a national power in the late 1960s. Duquesne hadn’t beaten a team ranked in the top nine since defeating then-No. 9 Providence 88-87 in overtime on Jan. 31, 1974.
“Words can’t describe how I feel,” Clark said. “It’s just crazy.”
The upset was Duquesne’s first against a top 10 team since a 91-84 win over then-No. 10 Florida State on Dec. 15, 1992, and ended the Dukes’ 24-game losing streak against ranked teams since they beat then-No. 16 Xavier on Jan. 25, 1997.
Xavier has been dominating the Atlantic 10, winning its first eight by an average of 18 points, and had won its last 15 games in February, when conference races often are decided.
Still, Jackson said the Dukes watched Xavier’s losses to Duke and Butler on video tape and decided what they had to do.
“We knew we had to come out aggressive,” Jackson said. “We saw the losses they had and those teams jumped on them and didn’t let them come back. We knew we had to do that, and we went out and took care of business.”
So much so, Xavier coach Sean Miller said it wasn’t a case of his team losing but Duquesne winning.
“They played great,” he said. “It’s one thing to give up a high percentage, but it’s a whole different thing to give up 81 percent. That’s insurmountable for an opponent.”
No matter, the upset was one of the biggest in major college basketball this season, if only because of how far Duquesne has come in so little time.
The Dukes are only two-plus years removed from the on-campus shooting of five players, including Jackson, and three years removed from a 3-24 record that was the worst in school history.
Also, the Dukes are one of the youngest teams in Division I, with eight freshmen scholarship players, and also one of the shortest with no starter taller than 6-7.
All of that didn’t matter as the Dukes made sure Xavier never mounted a run that might have turned the game, even though Clark’s basket with 7:44 remaining to make it 61-48 was their last of the game. Duquesne’s final 11 points came at the foul line.
“We were climbing uphill, and just didn’t have enough,” Miller said.
David Theis, only 5-of-14 at the line previously this season, made two key free throws with 46.2 seconds left to make it 66-59 after Jason Love missed a chance to get Xavier closer by making only one of three free throws.
After that, Jackson made five of six at the line during the final 31 seconds to hold off the Musketeers. Holloway scored 16 points a game after being held without a basket.
Duquesne, which lost to top 10-ranked Duke and Pitt earlier in the season, went on an 11-0 run started by Damian Saunders’ 3-pointer and ended by Bolding’s 3 to take a 20-7 lead with 13:26 left in the first half.
Xavier looked a little flat-footed at the start against Duquesne’s pressure defense, perhaps because the Musketeers were playing their second game in three nights after beating Temple 83-74 on Thursday night.
“That wasn’t to our advantage, but you play games a day apart in the NCAA tournament,” Miller said. “You have to be able to deal with it.”
Duquesne cooled off as Xavier went to a zone defense in the second half, shooting only 29.2 percent (7-of-24), but still finished at 53.3 percent (24-of-45) for the game.
“We did a great job of attacking their zone,” said Dukes coach Ron Everhart, previously 0-6 against ranked teams. “Aaron Jackson controlled the game at point guard—he made big shots and he also got a lot of guys a lot of good shots.”