By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
The 2016-17 basketball season is officially here and with Derrick Colter, Micah Mason and Jeremiah Jones all graduated, the exhibition contest against the Mansfield Mountaineers was the fans’ first chance to catch a glimpse of the new-look Duquesne Dukes.
A lack of communication on both sides of the court led to a 79-74 loss to the Mountaineers at the A.J. Palumbo Center. Senior center Darius Lewis and newcomers Mike Lewis II and Emile Blackman led the way for Duquesne in the loss.
“Got to give Mansfield great credit. I thought they really came in with a chip on their shoulder and really set the tone with toughness in this basketball game.,” head coach Jim Ferry said. “I was just really disappointed against a team like that, we let them set the tone … Everything that had to do with toughness, I thought they beat us up on.”
In the first half the Dukes rushed out to an early 11-3 lead as freshman guard Mike Lewis II put on quite a show offensively in the exhibition and had eight of his team’s first 11 points. However, Lewis II managed to play only four minutes in the first half due to early foul trouble.
Still, he tied for the team lead in points in the first half (8) with senior center Darius Lewis. Lewis also added seven rebounds to lead his team at the break, in which the Dukes found themselves down 35-33 to Division II Mansfield.
Lewis II continued his impressive play on the offensive end through the final whistle as he finished with a team-high 16 points. However, Ferry wasn’t too quick to compliment his talented freshman out of Chaminade, because of his work on the defensive side of the court.
“He did some dynamic things,” Ferry said. “But, some of the fouls Mike had were just bad fouls and it stymied us offensively.”
After 20 minutes of play, it was apparent this team not only has a new look roster, but is also going to be forced into playing a much different style of basketball than they were accustomed to playing in 2015-16.
Duquesne went just 2-13 from downtown in the first half and 5-24 overall after shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc last season.Without the backcourt no longer composed of a pair of graduated sharpshooters in Micah Mason and Derrick Colter, who combined to score 36.3 points per game a season ago, the Dukes will need to find some scoring — fast.
The scoring came in a balanced attack in the second half with Blackman scoring all 12 of his points in the final 20 minutes. However on the defensive side of the ball, the Dukes were still having troubles.
Mansfield senior Jeremiah Worthem had a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead the charge for the upset-minded Mountaineers. Duquesne led 68-57 with 8:08 remaining on the clock, but a mixture of untimely fouls and defensive miscues combined to surrender the lead and the game to Mansfield.
The Mountaineers also out-battled the Red & Blue on the boards as they won the rebound battle 42-33 and were able to grab 17 offensive rebounds compared to just 5 for the Dukes.
Duquesne’s post-man Lewis had a big night tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, but still wasn’t able to will his team to a victory. Duquesne suffered from 16 turnovers and failed to close out a game they could have won — two areas of the game that have haunted them over the past few seasons.
The individual talents are there for the Dukes, but unsurprisingly with so many new players, chemistry issues plagued them and will need to be tightened up before the regular season begins on Nov. 11 versus Loyola Maryland.