Duquesne beats Dayton 77-66 to reach A10 final

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)—Duquesne is a win away from its first NCAA tournament berth in 32 years, just 2 1/2 years after five basketball players were shot in the school’s worst incident of on-campus violence.

Aaron Jackson and Melquan Bolding scored 24 points each and the seventh-seeded Dukes won their third game in as many days with a 77-66 victory over Dayton in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Friday night.

Duquesne (21-11) will play fourth-seed Temple (21-11) on Saturday night for the A10 title and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. The Owls upset No. 19 Xavier 55-53 in the opening semifinal at Boardwalk Hall in this casino resort.

“When you sit in the locker room and the coach says ‘Bring it in,’ you realize you are playing for a championship,” said Jackson, a senior guard and the only player who was shot who remains on the team. “It’s something basketball players dream of their whole career.

“I won two championships in high school and I thought about it after my freshman year in college that I might not get a chance to win a championship again,” he added. “Now we’re playing for a championship tomorrow, a college championship in a good conference. I’m so excited.”

Jackson even joked that he would get a Duquesne tattoo if the team wins, a violation of coach Ron Everhart’s rules.

When Everhart reminded him during the postgame news conference, Jackson laughed.

“I’m out of here,” he said.

The postseason run is a welcome bright spot for a program that endured a dark moment on Sept. 17, 2006, when players Sam Ashaolu, Kojo Mensah, Shawn James, Stuard Baldonado and Aaron Jackson were injured when they were shot as they left an on-campus dance.

Eric Evans added 12 points as Duquesne won its third straight tournament game and posted its second straight upset in knocking off the third-seeded Flyers (26-7). They beat second-seeded Rhode Island in the quarterfinals.

If Duquesne wins, it would give the city of Pittsburgh three teams in the NCAA tournament with the Dukes joining Pittsburgh and Robert Morris.

“The good part is we made it a realistic situation for us,” Everhart said. “Hopefully our guys understand that. They have had a great grasp on how to handle tournament play. If you would have told me a month ago, two months ago that this group of guys with eight freshmen and Aaron as our only senior would handle this situation that way I would have doubted that seriously. It’s amazing to me how fast this ballclub has grown up.”

Duquesne has not been to a postseason tournament since 1994, when it made the NIT.

Mickey Perry had 15 points to lead Dayton, which beat Duquesne twice during the regular season. Charles Little added 13 points and Chris Wright had 12 for the Flyers, who will have to wait until Sunday to find out whether they will get their first NCAA tournament berth since 2004.

“Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do something special next week,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory said.

Bolding hit two of his career-hit seven 3-pointers during a 14-5 first half spurt that gave Duquesne a 29-19 lead. The Dukes took a 35-29 lead to the locker room and they never lost it in the second half.

“I just felt like I couldn’t miss today,” said Bolding, who was 7 of 10 from long range. “My teammates did a great job of passing me the ball and I just knocked down the shots.”

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