By Adam Lindner | Asst. Sports Editor
Saturday afternoon at the A.J. Palumbo Center was a chance for the Duquesne men’s basketball team to secure either a redemptive, marquee win over a quality A-10 opponent, or possibly falter in another bitterly narrow loss at the hands of a conference foe.
And of course, it ended in the worst-case scenario for the Dukes as they instead suffered a blowout loss. More specifically, a 21-point trouncing that saw the Dukes outscored 50-26 in the paint by the Rams of the University of Rhode Island.
“Anything that had to do with toughness today, we got destroyed on,” head coach Jim Ferry said after his team’s 90-69 defeat. “They beat us to every 50/50 ball, they crushed us on the glass … Start of the second half, I thought our guys had that glazed look on their face, and I was just playing guys who were going to compete.”
With the game out of reach early into the second half, Ferry did just that, giving little-used freshman Kellon Taylor an opportunity to provide the sort of energy the team had been lacking with a large majority of the game still left to play.
Taylor took advantage of the extra minutes, scoring a career-high eight points on 3-5 shooting along with two rebounds in 13 minutes of action. Taylor got to the rim numerous times and played inspired. Though his contributions to the game were mostly cosmetic, the effort Taylor exerted was noteworthy.
Coming off of a tight 65-63 road loss to conference opponent George Washington University, it can be conceived that Duquesne was a bit disheartened. Having lost their fair share of close games this year, perhaps it has started to dampen the spirits of the once-optimistic Dukes.
With close losses to Canisius (78-77), Tennessee-Martin (66-63), Robert Morris (64-60) and numerous other competitive defeats, the lack of resounding victories may have finally culminated into dulled enthusiasms and a negative mindset.
Whatever the lack of energy and resolve is attributed to doesn’t really matter. Being outscored in the paint at home by a 50-26 margin and allowing 19 offensive rebounds to an extremely talented lineup that already demands a team’s best effort is unacceptable.
The blame must start at the top and work its way down. While Ferry is certainly correct in saying that his team exerted minimal effort and lacked toughness, these Dukes are still a product of his coaching staff and are too talented to be embarrassed on their home floor in this fashion. That being said, coaching adjustments may need to be made.
On the floor, the lack of defensive proficiency starts on the inside and continues out to the three-point arc. Securing defensive boards is the first step in eliminating second-chance opportunities for the opposition. Additionally, getting out on the break and capitalizing with transition baskets is an easy way to score for a team that sometimes becomes stagnant in a half-court offense.
On the offensive end, the lack of a true playmaker is painstakingly obvious. Too often, the ball isn’t moved fluidly around the court, and the Dukes often find themselves settling for contested jump shots as the shot clock counts down.
All of these same issues plagued the Red & Blue in the first half of their contest at Davidson College where they trailed the Wildcats 39-16 at the break. It was a sold-out crowd at the John M. Belk Arena as the school honored their most famous basketball alumnus and current NBA superstar, Stephen Curry. While this could have also contributed to a sloppy first half for Duquesne, it was another unacceptable display of basketball.
On the other hand, the Dukes made quite a surge in the second half as they cut a once 23-point deficit all the way down to six and remained in the game until the game’s final moments. Although they eventually fell by a final score of 74-60, the second half performance at Davidson showed the potential of this team when they play motivated, focused basketball, but it is time to quit with the excuses and begin finding a way to play a full 40 minutes of quality A-10 basketball.
This team is far too talented to sit at 9-12 overall, 2-6 in conference, and lose games in the manner in which it did at home to Rhode Island. With ten games remaining on their schedule, the Dukes still have an opportunity to salvage their record, season, respect, etc., in an attempt to put themselves in a good position for the A-10 Tournament that will come to PPG Paints Arena early this March.