The Grand Dukes (2024 Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship)

Danny Suriel/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

NEW YORK — As Duquesne held a big lead, and its fans were making as much noise as it had all game, school-hued red, white and blue streamers came tumbling down from the ceiling and onto the court, fitting of the celebratory mood the school and its basketball team was in at the moment.

There was only one problem: almost 18 minutes were still remaining in the game at the time the streamers cascaded down onto the Barclays Center floor. Soon after, the Dukes’ play cratered, and the ultimate riches-to-rags story had started to unfold in real time.

In the end, however, the Dukes held on for the victory and, eventually, be the subject of the post-game festivities. And thank goodness there were more red, white and blue pieces of paper in reserve for the actual celebration of an accomplishment 47 years in the making.

No. 6-seed Duquesne completed an improbable run of four wins in four days in the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which it won 57-51 over fifth-seeded VCU on Sunday. The win secured the automatic bid for the Dukes into the NCAA Tournament, an event that the school had not participated in since former Los Angeles Laker and NBA All-Star Norm Nixon starred in Pittsburgh.

The Dukes go into the Big Dance winners of eight straight, a far cry from when the team started 9-8 and lost each of their first five conference games. From then on, Dukes head coach Keith Dambrot said that the team found itself and its identity, and that soon turned around the team’s fortunes.

“A lot of people quit on us,” Dambrot said about the team’s winless run to start A-10 play. “And our guys, man, they practice hard every single day. We knew we were pretty good … we just had to hang in there and stay the course. We found the right niche for our team. We just became rock fighters and mud slingers, and just became a tough, hard-nosed group. And I think those losses helped us win these games in the tournament.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s contest, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Danny Suriel. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 15 pictures in total.

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Tags : Atlantic 10 ConferenceCollege BasketballDuquesne DukesVCU Rams

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