Dukes off to best start since 1979-80 with win over UMBC

Courtesy of the Athletic Department
Courtesy of the Athletic Department

By Andrew Holman | The Duquesne Duke

It was evident that Duquesne was focused and ready to rebound from its loss to Pitt. The Dukes played aggressive defense from the opening whistle, forcing turnovers and getting active on the glass on their way to defeating UMBC 89-70. This win advanced the Dukes to a 7-2 record— the team’s best start in 36 years.

Duquesne knows they are a much better team than the one that the city watched get blown out by Pitt 96-75. Duquesne made sure to take care of the basics, defense and rebounding, knowing that their offense would be a beneficiary of that.

“[We focused on] our same principles. When we played against Pitt, we went away from what we do defensively,” said senior Jeremiah Jones. “We didn’t do anything that we practice everyday. We just got back to the foundation of our defense and we worked on that for two days and we came out and we did it tonight.”

After a game where it seemed Coach Jim Ferry was severely outcoached by Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, it was obvious that Ferry ensured his team would come out ready to play against UMBC. His team was ready for just about anything the Retrievers could throw at them, and it seemed they knew all of the ins and outs of the opponent’s offense, recording three steals in the opening three minutes.

Coach Ferry was shouting, “BACK… BACK… BACK,” at his guys all night making sure they didn’t let up on the defensive end.

“I thought our guys really came out in the way I thought they were going to come out after we took that thumping Friday night,” said Ferry. “I think our seniors really led the group and really came out with great focus, with a disposition to really defend and play really, really hard and challenge shots, which we did not do on Friday night.”

This is the kind of energy Duquesne needs to bring every night. They won’t always be the most talented team on the court, but there is always potential to win the hustle battle and that is exactly what Duquesne did on Tuesday night. Blocks, rebounds, steals, fast break points and points in the paint were all dominated by the Red & Blue.

When a team like Duquesne, who scores 85.7 points per game, can win in each of those statistical categories they are going to find success. Nobody questions whether or not Duquesne can keep up offensively with high level competition. It’s the defense that limits just how good this 2015-16 Dukes team can be.

The issue that remains with the Dukes is their consistency. They need to bring this defensive intensity and hustle every night for forty minutes. It can’t just be in the first half and it can’t only come against undermatched opponents. When Duquesne proves that they can defend at the highest level consistently against quality opponents, that’s when it is time to consider them a contender.

Nonetheless it was a nice bounce back win for Duquesne and an outstanding night for junior L.G. Gill whose 22 points, 10 rebounds, and six 3-point field goals were all career highs. He was a big provider of the energy that helped spark this Duquesne win as this was the first double-double of his career.

The quest for consistency begins Saturday afternoon against Saint Francis, where it will be seen if the Dukes can come out with the same intensity and defensive prowess that they showed Tuesday night against the Retrievers of UMBC.