Put up your Dukes! No. 11 seed Duquesne provides some March Madness with NCAA upset of BYU

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — As his players celebrated around him after springing the first big upset of the NCAA Tournament, Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot joked that they had refused to let their retiring coach reach “the promised land” with their down-to-the-wire win over BYU.

The promised land is a better description for the second round of the NCAA tourney anyway.

Dae Dae Grant scored 19 points, including four clinching free throws in the final 10 seconds, and the No. 11 seed Dukes held on after blowing a 14-point lead in a 71-67 victory over the sixth-seeded Cougars on Thursday.

Jakub Necas added 12 points and Jimmy Clark III had 11 for the Atlantic 10 tourney champs, who won four games in four days there just to qualify for their first dance in 47 years, and now have their first win on the NCAA stage since 1969. The Dukes (25-11) will play third-seeded Illinois for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday.

“I'm trying to retire,” the 65-year-old Dambrot said, “but if we keep winning games, they're going to make me an old man.”

The sweat-it-out ending Thursday would age any coach in a hurry.

The Cougars (23-11) trailed 46-32 in the second half before drawing even when Fousseyni Traore, who had struggled all game, slammed down the second of back-to-back baskets to knot the affair at 60-all with 1:45 to go.

Clark was fouled at the other end and made two free throws for Duquesne, and when Traore missed a floater, he got to the line again. Clark only made the first of two foul shots this time but helped tie up a loose ball after the second, and on the next play, the slick guard broke down the defense for a layup and a 65-60 lead with 26.9 seconds left.

Dallin Hall tried to give the Cougars a chance with four free throws and a deep 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds, but Grant — one of the nation's best foul shooters — was stoic from the line to help send the Dukes into the weekend.

"Bust them brackets, baby! Bust them brackets, baby!” Clark roared as Duquesne headed back to the locker room.

Jaxson Robinson had 25 points for the Cougars, who have lost five straight in the NCAA Tournament, the last four to double-digit seeds. Traore and Spencer Johnson added 11 points apiece, and Hall also finished with 11.

“Just a devastating day for us for sure,” BYU coach Mark Pope said, “and it's devastating because we lost, devastating because we won't move on, and most devastating because we won't get in the gym together again.”

Indeed, the Cougars were bloodied and bumming for most of the game.

Hall took a shot to the face that left him with tissues shoved up his bleeding nostrils in the first half. Richie Saunders got an elbow to the midsection that left him doubled over on the floor. Johnson even lost a shoe while playing defense, and the Dukes took advantage of the opening for a dunk that helped them build a big early lead.

“We made them work for everything they got,” Dambrot said.

Robinson, voted the top backup in the Big 12 this season, tried to keep the Cougars afloat with 12 first-half points, but Necas — a Czech freshman averaging 2.3 a game — countered with eight of his own to help Duquesne take a 38-30 lead at the break.

The pressure of the NCAA Tournament seemed to boil over in the opening minutes of the second half.

The Dukes' Fousseyni Drame got tied up with the Cougars' Noah Waterman on a rebound and both went to the floor, where they started to wrestle as official Pat Driscoll leaped between them. Driscoll was shaken up and both players got technical fouls, and that wound up foreshadowing a game that would be a fight all the way to the finish.

“It was a tough game. They’re super physical,” Dambrot said. "The biggest thing is our toughness was on display, and if you're a tough team both mentally and physically, you have a chance to win.”

UP NEXT

Duquesne lost in the first round of its past two NCAA Tournament appearances in 1971 and '77, making the win its first since there was still consolation games in 1969. Now, the Dukes will face Illinois for the first time since 1988, and try to give Dambrot a second NCAA tournament win. He had been 0-3 as the coach at Akron.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness