As Dante Jackson pumped his fist heading to the bench, having just stole a pass and gone coast-to-coast for his career-high 19th point of the night, Xavier head coach Chris Mack clapped his hands and patted his senior on the back.
Jackson’s bucket at the 5:53 mark was the focal point of a 20-4 second-half Xavier run, erasing a six-point Duquesne lead and carrying the Musketeers to a 71-63 win Sunday afternoon in front of 10,509 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
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The win broke a first-place tie between the two schools, giving Xavier a half-game lead over Temple and Richmond in the Atlantic 10 standings.
“It feels great,” Jackson said. “Our team has worked [the] entire season. After we got beat by Charlotte [on Feb. 2] we knew we would have to come here to decide who controls things for the rest of the season.”
The decisive Xavier run began inauspiciously, after XU shooting guard Mark Lyons committed his third offensive foul of the game to foul out with 11:34 to play.
The Musketeers responded by holding Duquesne without a field goal for 9:17, as Jackson scored six of his 19 and Tu Holloway scored 10 of his 20 points in the run.
“We just stopped being aggressive,” Duquesne senior wing Bill Clark, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds, said. “We couldn’t make free throws, we couldn’t make jump shots and it hurt us down the stretch.”
Xavier took away part of Duquesne’s aggressiveness by going inside, where 7-foot Kenny Frease and 6-foot-8 Jamel McLean each had at least three inches over the Duquesne defender