PITTSBURGH (AP) – A non-conference game between unranked teams, played smack in the middle of the hectic sports crush between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Not surprisingly, the final score might have been overlooked.

Duquesne 98, Boston College 93, OT.

Considering the circumstances and the outpouring of emotion it caused, it might have been one of college basketball’s most startling outcomes of an already upset-filled season.

For an adversity-stricken team that barely had enough healthy bodies to field a starting lineup a few weeks ago, it was a score worth shouting about. The Dukes did exactly that, too, loudly enough for ill coach Ron Everhart to hear them back in Pittsburgh.

“It borders on the unbelievable,” assistant coach Kim Lewis said of the first road victory against an Atlantic Coast Conference team in Duquesne history.

The 44-year-old Everhart, who has spent way too much time in hospital rooms since mid-September, believes it is the first big step in the healing process of a team that is trying to recover from the worst episode of violence in college basketball history. “We’ve been looking for a game that would put Duquesne back on the college basketball map,” Everhart said Friday, hours before he was released from the hospital where he spent five very long days. “I hope this is it.”

Hope is something Duquesne sorely lacked after five players were shot following an on-campus party Sept. 17. Only one is playing, and the two most seriously injured are expected to miss the season. One player, Sam Ashaolu, may not know for months if he will play again.

Yet somehow, an undermanned team composed mostly of freshmen managed to pull off a totally unexpected road upset of Boston College (7-3) on Thursday. It helped Duquesne that BC was without Jared Dudley, the conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, and two other injured players.

Still, the Eagles – winners previously over Maryland and Michigan State – lost on their home floor against an undersized, ailing opponent that won only three of 27 games last season and was 3-7 coming into this game.

BC blocked 18 shots, 13 by Sean Williams, and got 30 points from Sean Marshall, 29 from Tyrese Rice and 19 from Williams, yet couldn’t hold a 10-point lead in the final five minutes.

After the Dukes won – making seven free throws in the final 20 seconds of overtime – they got on a cell phone and, led by guard Aaron Jackson, yelled at their hospital-ridden coach, “We did it! We did it!”

Everhart, stricken by a gastrointestinal disorder on Christmas Day, almost had to wipe away tears when he heard it.

“I told them, “This is why you came to Duquesne, not just to play in big games like this but to win them,’ ” Everhart said.

Everhart nervously watched and listened to the game in his hospital’s computer room as his three assistants – Lewis, Daryn Freedman and Richard Pitino – ran the game from courtside hundreds of miles away. The online video lagged behind radio announcer Ray Goss’ account, so it wasn’t until 30 seconds after a play that Everhart and athletic director Greg Amodio could see it.

There was another concerned coach in the room, too. Jamie Dixon of No. 10 Pitt, the Dukes’ biggest rival, dropped by after practice and watched the first half, commiserating and encouraging Everhart.

“I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, that he would spend the time and come by and visit,” Everhart said. “It’s a busy time for him, and for him to reach out to us like that was much appreciated.”

Everhart hopes the upset will boost his inexperienced players’ confidence as they head into the Atlantic 10 schedule next week. The Dukes are picked to finish next to last, yet now know they have enough talent, drive and determination to play competitively.

Their two top scorers against BC, Robert Mitchell (20) and Scott Grote (19), are freshmen.

“We didn’t back down,” said Grote, whose 3-pointer sent the game into overtime. “We went through some ups and downs, but really played as a team in the second half. Beating an ACC team is huge. This is a real confidence booster for us.”

“Now,” Everhart said, “Duquesne is part of the basketball world again.”

AP-ES-12-29-06 1420EST


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