Pat Higgins | Sports Editor
Coach Jim Ferry called it “somewhat of a rock fight in the first half,” but the men’s basketball team made enough plays in all facets of the game to notch its second conference win of the season over the visiting George Mason Patriots.
The Dukes held the Patriots to 13.8 percent (4-of-29) from the field in the first half and took a 22-15 lead into the intermission. The Red & Blue shot just 29 percent from the field themselves, but outrebounded the Patriots 28-21 in the game’s first 20 minutes.
In the second half, the Dukes stayed focused on defense and maintained a comfortable lead until the final buzzer. They sank 14-of-16 free throws, outrebounded the Patriots 45-41 and outscored a team that runs its offense through the low post 32-16 in the paint.
But what matters most is that they finished this one out to snap a six-game losing streak.
“The biggest thing about tonight’s game is the team effort, and these guys finished the game,” Ferry said. “They weren’t talking about, ‘Hey let’s not blow it,’ they were like ‘Hey let’s win this one and finish this one.’”
For a team with seven players who have logged meaningful minutes as either freshmen, sophomores or players in their first year on the Bluff, every win is important, especially at this point in the season.
“It’s so important because we’ve had opportunities where we haven’t succeeded. To do it in live play, to prove to them that they can do it, they can,” Ferry said. “Make your free throws, don’t turn it over, proper execution defensively and rebound the basketball, and that’s what we did.”
It’s apparent over the first 20 games of the 2014-15 season that there is plenty of talent on the roster. Six of eight players who logged minutes scored eight points or more. The players who didn’t (forwards L.G. Gill and TySean Powell) provide plenty of length along the baseline in the 2-3 zone as well as on the boards.
The Dukes have done a lot of things well this season. They continue to grow on defense. They compete on the boards on both ends of the floor. Players like TySean Powell, L.G. Gill and Darius Lewis, who played a combined 46 minutes on Saturday, are developing each time they check into the game. Experience doesn’t come overnight, or even in a half of a season of conference play.
Although they’re 2-7 in the Atlantic 10, there’s still plenty of reason to keep on an eye on this team. Junior guard Jordan Stevens can find his shot from anywhere on the court. Darius Lewis continues to build his game, and needs to play the way he did against George Mason down the stretch to open things up for the shooters around the arc. Junior guard Derrick Colter is currently ranked 16th in the nation in 3-point percentage, shooting a shade under 49 percent on the season.
Dominique McKoy played like Pac Man on the boards. There was a stretch in the first half in which he grabbed four rebounds in just one minute. He finished the game with 16 in total.
Looking ahead on the schedule, the Dukes will travel to North Carolina to face Davidson at 7 p.m. on Saturday. After that, five of their final nine games will be against teams they already played this season.
If you want to keep an eye on the way these Dukes are progressing, look at the way they compete in the next month as they face the A-10 a second time around. Don’t sleep on the Red & Blue. There’s still plenty of basketball on the schedule left to play.