By Adam Lindner | Asst. Sports Editor
A promising outing from freshmen Mike Lewis II and Isiaha Mike, who combined for a monstrous 54 points, provided Duquesne with a much-needed victory to end an agonizing eight-game losing streak. Mike Lewis II had a career-high 31 points, the second-most ever for a Duquesne freshman, and the Red & Blue won their first game since a Jan. 11 win at Saint Louis in resounding fashion.
“It feels really good. Really good,” Isiaha Mike said. “Because regardless of the outcome of the game, we’ve been putting in a lot of work in practice, and just to finally get out of the slump feels really good.”
While Duquesne (10-16, 3-10) relished in its best shooting outing of the year – connecting on a dreamlike 14 of 26 three-pointers – a major key to the win was supplementing its offensive prowess with lockdown defense. The University of Massachusetts only managed to shoot 38.7 percent for the game, and the Dukes forced 14 turnovers. Luwane Pipkins led the Minutemen with 16 points.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Duquesne shot 50 percent from the field, and an even better 53.8 percent from three-point range. Behind Lewis II’s 31, the Dukes benefitted from strong outings from Mike (23), Rene Castro (11) and Emile Blackman (10).
“I think the confidence that coach gives us, you know, we take a lot of open shots, and tonight they just happened to fall at an almost perfect rate,” Mike said about his team’s hot shooting. “It’s just that we have to continue to take and look for those open shots.”
Early on, it was evident that Duquesne was confident and much more visibly energetic than usual. Off of the opening tip, Mike hit a corner three, followed by a triple from Emile Blackman and two free throws from Lewis to get the Dukes off to an encouraging 8-0 start.
Duquesne would only forfeit the lead once, following an uncontested dunk by UMass guard C.J. Anderson at the 15:30 mark. From that point on, the Dukes would regain the lead and never look back.
Holding a modest lead throughout most of the first half, Lewis provided the Dukes with a nice cushion and some enthusiasm heading into the halftime break.
Following a floater from the right side of the paint with seven seconds left in the half, Mike Lewis stole the inbounds pass and converted on an improbable, across-the-body heave from half-court to give the Dukes total control of the momentum and a 51-34 lead.
It didn’t take long after the intermission for the Dukes to take complete control of the contest. Following eight straight points from Lewis, and with the score sitting at 61-39, the Duquesne coaching staff, players and fans could rest assured that that elusive victory was no longer in doubt.
Duquesne, which would lead by as much as 42 with 5:45 remaining, coasted to the finish line as walk-ons David Haus and Caleb Davis saw action in the last few minutes of the game.
Luwane Pipkins led the Minutemen with 16 points. UMass had just one other player in double figures, DeJon Jarreau, who finished with 10 points and a team-high four assists in the loss.
While such a huge victory like this feels tremendously liberating for a program that had been riding an eight-game losing streak and sat at a deplorable 2-10 in conference play, Duquesne must sustain this high level of play if it hopes to rise out of the cellar that they find themselves in in the A-10 standings.
“The ball went in today because the ball moved today,” head coach Jim Ferry said following the game. “We didn’t turn it over, we had assists and [everybody was touching the ball].”
Up next for the Dukes is a home contest against George Washington (13-13, 5-8) on Sunday, Feb. 19 at noon followed by another home game against the Fordham Rams on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the A.J. Palumbo Center. The Dukes hope to build on tonight’s triumph in their final five matchups and move themselves further up the A-10 rankings as the end of the regular season nears.