NEW YORK

- La Salle played 13 road games this season. The Explorers won one. And that was in late November, against Division III Rowan, where coach John Giannini had won a national championship 20 years earlier.

But they'd won two of their last three coming into the 40th Atlantic 10 Tournament, which for whatever reason isn't being played at Gola Arena.

It's been a forgettable season for a program that made a captivating three-win run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tourney as a 13 seed in 2013, while it awaits the addition of three promising transfers who were forced to sit this journey out. The last time the Explorers lost more times was 1995-96, when they went 6-24 in their inaugural season in the A-10 after leaving the Midwest Collegiate Conference following a demoralizing three-year stay.

For La Salle, this season has mostly been about too many guys having to play way too many minutes. It takes a toll. And it's shown, especially on a team that starts three sophomores.

Yet this is what conference championships are for, to give everyone a second chance. Even if that mulligan means attempting to win five games in as many days.

Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn - where the ACC will bring its show the next two years while the A-10 goes to Pittsburgh and then Washington - the last-place Explorers drew 11th-seeded Duquesne in the second half of the opening-round doubleheader. They'd lost to the Dukes in western Pennsylvania in late January, by 27. Duquesne won its regular-season finale at Saint Joseph's to end an eight-game losing streak.

The only certainty was that one of them was going to get to play at least one more time, against Davidson (18-11) - which had a bye - late Thursday night.

Turned out the team that extended its season is the one that calls Philadelphia home.

Your final was 88-73. We can only assume the Explorers (9-21) packed some extra stuff.

They improved to 8-3 when scoring at least 70. The 88 was a season best, beating the 83 they got in their third game against Lafayette.

"We were really determined," Giannini said. "We played like a team that did not want to get on the bus and go home.

"We wanted to have a positive experience here at the end."

La Salle led, 43-38, at the half, at which point the Dukes, who at times look uninterested, had 11 turnovers.

The Explorers were up by a dozen with only three minutes to go when the lights went off for a short period. Maybe they should have played at Gola.

Jordan Price, after not making any of the all-conference teams, topped the Explorers with 36 points, one off his career high, to break a La Salle A-10 tourney record of 28 that he'd shared with Rasual Butler and Mike Cleaves (both in 2002).

He shot 13-for-27, 5-for-12 from the arc. The Explorers made 11 of 22 treys.

"This week isn't for personal (stuff)," Price said. "The goal is to win.

"This week is for my teammates."

Cleon Roberts had 18, on 5-for-6 and 3-for-4, as the Explorers shook off the bad loss to the Dukes.

"We lost to them pretty bad," he said. "We knew we had to come and fight."

Duquesne, which got 26 (9-for-15, 6-for-10) from senior guard Micah Mason, dropped to 16-16.

This was only the second time these teams had met in the A-10 tourney. The other was 2008, when La Salle took an 82-79 first-rounder in Atlantic City.

Price, a junior guard in his second season at 20th and Olney, passed Joe Bryant (1,118 points in 1973-75) on the school's all-time scoring list. He needed 13. It took him only a little over 15 minutes.

"I saw something in terms of confidence and competitiveness," Giannini said of his players. "They showed more of that. They thought they could advance, and they went after (Duquesne). There's a difference between working hard and competing, that you're not going to let the other guy beat you."

La Salle lost at Davidson exactly a month ago, by 13. Maybe, for the second straight game, it won't matter.

In the first game, St. Louis (11-20) beat George Mason (11-21), 83-78. The Billikens will now play George Washington (22-9), which at the moment is still part of the ever-fluid Selection Committee bubble, according to bracketologists everywhere, in Thursday's 6:30 opener.

Fourth-seeded Saint Joseph's (24-7) doesn't play until the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon, against an opponent to be determined. The Hawks have dropped their last two and might need a win to secure a spot in the 68-team, four-letter field.

kernm@phillynews.com

@mikekerndn