Everhart blended a pair of 1,500-point scorers in Damian Saunders and Bill Clark with an all-freshman backcourt of T.J. McConnell and Mike Talley to produce a team that finished tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10 Conference - the school's best league finish since 1994 (T3rd).
The Dukes stood at .500 (5-5) on Christmas Day following a double-overtime home loss to eventual NCAA Tournament participant George Mason. A 91-64 New Year's Eve win over Northwestern State started an 11-game win streak that saw the Dukes bury opponents by an average of 18.8 points per game. Included in that streak - during which every win was by a double digit margin - was a 78-66 win over No. 19 (AP) Temple. DU sent shock waves through the A-10 by jumping out to a 22-2 lead against the Owls.
The streak, which was the school's longest since 1971, ended on a last-second 3-pointer at St. Bonaventure after which the Bonnies student body stormed the court.
The win streak caught the attention of national media as writers from both Sports Illustrated and USA Today paid visits to campus as the Dukes received votes in the AP poll for three consecutive weeks from Jan. 24 through Feb. 7 (research could not determine the last time DU received votes in the poll).
DU found itself tied for first in the A-10 as late as the second week of February, before 71-63 loss to Xavier in front of a sellout crowd of 10,509 at CONSOL Energy Center on Feb. 13 dropped the Dukes into second.
The Dukes, despite dropping six of their last eight, managed to secure a bye to the A-10 Championship by finishing with a 10-6 conference record. Saint Joseph's, the No. 12 seed, upset the fourth-seeded Dukes 93-90 in the second round.
DU accepted a bid to the College Basketball Invitational where it became the only team in the 17-game tournament to win a road game. The season ended with a 77-75 loss at eventual CBI champion Oregon.
The margin between a good and great season was a thin one for the Dukes. Eighteen of the 19 wins were by double-digit margins, conversely DU suffered nine losses by six or fewer points including six that came down to the last possession (losses of three or fewer points).
Clark (16.3 ppg., 1,628 career points, 680 rebounds, 227 3-pointers) and Saunders (12.6 ppg., 1,511 career points, 1,019 rebounds, 300 blocks, 277 steals) were both named Second Team All-Atlantic 10. While Saunders, who set school records for steals, blocks, games (127), starts (116) and dunks (166) was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row. McConnell (10.8 ppg., school record 91 steals) was named ECAC & Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.
For a comprehensive look at the 2010-11 season, click here.
NOTES FROM THE DUKES CLIPBOARD
• Duquesne, which played in the National Invitation Tournament in 2009 & College Basketball Invitational in 2010, made its third-straight postseason appearance in 2011 (CBI). It was the first time since 1968-71 (NIT, NCAA, NIT & NCAA) that DU made three consecutive postseason appearances.
• DU, which has gone 10-19, 17-13, 21-13, 16-16 & 19-13 in five seasons under head coach Ron Everhart, has posted 15+ wins in four straight years for the first time since 1968-73. Duquesne was coming off a 3-24 season, and had finished above .500 once (1994) in the 21 years prior to Everhart taking over in 2006-07.
• This was just the second time in the past 30 years Duquesne won 18 games. Both have come under Ron Everhart. (The other was two years ago when the 21-13 Dukes advanced to the A10 title game.)
• Duquesne used a starting lineup that went 5-10 (Mike Talley), 6-0 (T.J. McConnell), 6-5 (B.J. Monteiro), 6-5 (Bill Clark) & 6-7 (Damian Saunders) for the majority of the season
• The Dukes led the nation in assists (17.8 apg.), steals (9.9 spg.) and turnover margin (+6.7). DU also ranked among the Top 20 in assist/turnover ratio (15th at +1.33), scoring offense (16th at 77.9 ppg.) blocked shots (19th at 5.3 bpg.) and scoring margin (20th at +9.9 ppg.).
• Duquesne, which averaged an Everhart Era "low" 70.3 ppg. in 2010, returned to their running ways, averaging 77.9 ppg. (16th nationally) in 2011. Everhart's Dukes have led the Atlantic 10 in scoring in three of his first five seasons (2007, 2008 & 2011).
• Duquesne's ten Atlantic 10 wins tied the school record set in 1980-81 (10-3) and matched in 1990-91 (10-8). DU's tied for fourth place finish in the A-10 was the school's best since the 1994 NIT team finished tied for third.
• This was just the second time since 1971 that Duquesne won eight road games (8-7). The other was in 2009 (8-7).
• Everhart's Dukes have posted 29 road wins in five seasons. Of the 29 wins, 22 have been by double digits. In the 10 seasons prior to Everhart's arrival, Duquesne went 17-106 on the road with three double-digit victories. All eight of DU's road wins in 2011 (8-7) were by double-digit margins.
• Duquesne, which had an 11-game win streak snapped on Feb. 5 at St. Bonaventure, went 9-0 in the month of January. The last time Duquesne went undefeated in January was in 1970-71 when the NCAA Tournament Dukes (21-4), in the midst of a 15-game win streak, went 14-0 to start the New Year (they won their final game in December, went 7-0 in January and won their first seven in February). The 11-game win streak was the longest since 1970-71.
• Duquesne opened 8-0 in conference play for the first time in school history. The previous best was 3-0 by Ron Everhart's 2008-09 NIT Dukes. The eight-game conference win streak was the longest in school history. The previous best was five A-10 games in a row in 1980-81 and 2006-07.
• Duquesne won five in a row on the road (Dec. 8 through Jan. 26) for the first time since a two-season streak of five that ended in December of 1985. DU's four A-10 road wins tied the most in school history (1981 & 2009 are the others).
• Duquesne was the only team to win a CBI road game (the other teams in the field were a combined 0-16). The Dukes traveled to Missoula, Mont. to defeat Montana 87-76 in the first round. The then 21-10 Grizzlies entered the game 13-1 at home. The win it was DU's first post-conference tournament win since a 75-73 victory over Charlotte in the First Round of the 1994 NIT at the Palumbo Center. It was DU's first post-conference tournament win at a road or neutral site since a 75-72 NCAA Tournament East Regional consolation game win over St. John's at Cole Field House in College Park, Md. on March 15, 1969. It was also the first career post-conference tournament win for Ron Everhart.
• Five of the seven Duquesne opponents that earned bids to the 2011 NCAA Championship (Pitt, West Virginia, George Mason, Richmond & Temple), advanced to the second round. Of the seven, one was guaranteed to lose since Penn State faced Temple in the opening round. The Dukes defeated the then-No. 19 (AP) Owls, 78-66, on Jan. 15 - Duke was the only team to defeat the Owls by a larger margin in 2011. Xavier joined Penn State as the other first round loser on DU's 2011 schedule. Six of DU's 13 losses came to NCAA Tournament teams.
• Eighteen of Duquesne's 19 wins were by double digits, with eight by 20 or more. On the other hand, 10 of DU's 13 defeats were by single digits, including six one-possession losses (three or fewer points). The Dukes held a lead at some point in every game in 2011. DU managed to build at least a seven-point lead in 28 of 32 games.
• DU tied the school record with 17 steals at Houston Baptist. In that game Bill Clark tied the single-game mark with seven (Clark shares the record with five other players). The Dukes matched the team mark for the second time in four games at La Salle on Jan. 19 and did it again at UMass on Feb. 16.
• The Dukes had five or more double-digit scorers in 12 of their 19 wins.
• Duquesne, which is assisted on over 65 percent of its field goals, averaged 17.8 assists per game - the seventh-highest in Atlantic 10 history. Five players handed out 70 or more assists.
• Six players attempted at least 70 3-pointers. Every returning player from 2010 shot a better percentage from the arc in 2010-11 than he did last season.
• The Dukes played their first 10 games (5-5) without junior point guard Eric Evans, who underwent foot surgery on Oct. 27. Evans, who had streaks of 66 games (every game of his DU career) and 32 starts snapped by the injury, was cleared to resume practice on Dec. 21. He saw action for the first time vs. Northwestern State on Dec. 31. Duquesne went 14-8 following Evans' return.
• The 2011 senior class of Bill Clark, Damian Saunders and Dave Theis, which was the first to not experience a losing season since 1972-75, was responsible for 73 total wins. The 73 victories were the most over a four-year period since 1970-73 (74 victories).
• Fifteen hundred-point scoring seniors and second team All-Atlantic 10 picks Damian Saunders and Bill Clark led the way for the Dukes in 2011. Saunders, who finished his career as DU's career blocked shot (300), steals (277), games played (127), games started (116) and dunks (166) leader, also ranked 11th in career points (1,511) and third in career rebounds (1,019). Clark, whose 227 career 3-pointers ranked third all-time, ranked 7th on the scoring list with 1,628 points and 10th in career rebounds (680). Saunders and Clark, who never experienced a losing season at Duquesne, finished their careers ranked first and second in career games played (127 for Saunders and 126 for Clark).
• 2010-11 marked the first time in school history that two players with 1,500 points played side-by-side in the same game (Saunders and Clark both reached the 1,500-point Mark Prior to the season-ending CBI loss at Oregon).
• The 6-7 Saunders finished his career as THE ONLY PLAYER IN NCAA HISTORY to post more than 250 assists (281), steals (277) and blocks (300) in a career. Saunders, who averaged over 2.0 per game in all three categories, had more assists, steals and blocks than turnovers (251) in his career.
• Saunders, one of just four two-time A-10 Defensive Players of the Year (2010 & 2011), broke the DU career steals record with his 219th theft against George Mason on Dec. 22. Saunders (72 steals) and T.J. McConnell (91 steals) were the only A-10 players to average over 2.0 spg.
• Saunders became Duquesne's all-time leading shot blocker with his four rejections at Penn State on Dec. 4. The old mark of 229 was set by 6-10 Derrick Alston in 114 games from 1991-94. Saunders broke the record in his 101st game.
• Saunders finished his career with 36 career double-doubles, the third-most on record at Duquesne. He posted nine in 2011. All of his 36 double-doubles came in his last 94 games.
• True freshmen T.J. McConnell and Mike Talley started 25 times side-by-side in the backcourt. McConnell (39) and Talley (37) ranked second and third on the team in 3-pointers made. The duo finished with 216 assists and 103 turnovers (2.1-to-1 ratio) between them.
• 2011 A-10 Rookie of the Year T.J. McConnell's five Rookie of the Week mentions tied the school record set by Robert Mitchell in 2006-07 ... McConnell (91 steals in 32 games) broke the Atlantic 10 freshman record for steals (86 set by Temple's Pepe Sanchez in 31 games in 1996-97) and the Duquesne the school record of 89 set by Damian Saunders in 32 games last year.
• Duquesne averaged 9,123 fans for its three home games at the new CONSOL Energy Center. A crowd of 8,059 was on hand for the WVU game, 8,802 - including a game-day walk-up of over 1,000 turned out for the Dayton game and a sellout crowd of 10,509 witnessed the Xavier game. The new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, located one block from the Palumbo Center, opened its doors in August 2010.
• DU received votes in the AP poll for three weeks from Jan. 24 through Feb. 7.