March Madness: BYU falls to 11-seed Duquesne in the first round

OMAHA, Neb. — BYU fell to No. 11 seed Duquesne in the first round of the NCAA tournament by four points.

Duquesne had a game plan — to slow down BYU’s offense, which it did. The Cougars were 0-7 for the first five minutes of the game. It was a punch in the face — literally for Dallin Hall. All this momentum, obliterated by the physicality of this 11th seed. 

“I think their physicality in the first half, they were grabbing, holding, and we weren’t able to fight through that,” said sophomore guard Dallin Hall. “It took us too long to get to the point where we were the aggressors.”

Eight minutes left in the first half, Jaxon Robinson shot two free throws after a personal foul to make it a two-point game. The BYU fans erupted. Noah Waterman stole the ball and Robinson made a three-point jumper for the Cougars’ first lead.

Robinson was the leading scorer with 13 points at the end of the first half. Whereas, Duquesne’s had a balanced offense making the final score before half 38-30. 

“My teammates were finding me open shots. Dallin did a great job of just being a facilitator. He’s been there all season for us,” said Robinson. 

In the second half, BYU’s start was not its usual explosive self. However, like the first half, Robinson came in and gave the Cougars a spark for any hope of advancing to the second round. He shot a three-pointer with five minutes left and the momentum changed with a 7-0 run. 

It was a neck-and-neck battle. With 2:54 left on the clock, Duquesne’s senior guard Jimmy Clark III’s had a one-hand dunked on a fast break turnover. How did BYU respond? Fousseyni Traore answered with a one-handed dunk himself which ultimately tied the game. What once was Duquesne’s game grew tight. 

With 49 seconds left on the clock, Duquesne missed its free throw, which left the Cougars only down three. However, Duquesne’s Jimmy Clark III got the offensive rebound and made a layup, pushing the Dukes lead to two possessions.  

Despite BYU’s best efforts, Duquesne came out and did what they did best — defend. Duquesne kept BYU to 38% in field goals and 33% in 3-point field goals. Robinson hoped to get some things going, but his 25 points were not enough. 

“We needed to shoot more and get to the offensive glass more as well,” said sophomore guard Richie Saunders.

The end is not what the Cougars had in mind, but the team overperformed relative to preseason prognostications.

“It’s been a privilege to be a part of this team, to compete with my brothers and this coaching staff,” said center Aly Khalifa. 

“To watch all of us grow through the course of this year . . . there’s no words for it. But it’s been incredible. So grateful,” said senior guard  Spencer Johnson. 

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