Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor
No. 17 Virginia Commonwealth University came into the Consol Energy Center on Saturday afternoon riding a nine-game winning streak, but the Duquesne men’s basketball team wanted to change that.
The Dukes trailed by just two points and had possession of the ball with less than three minutes to go, but they could not get a bucket to tie the game and fell to the Rams 70-64.
With 2:26 left in the game sophomore center Darius Lewis grabbed a pass from junior point guard Derrick Colter and stuffed the ball through the rim to cut the VCU lead to 2 points. Following the jam, the Red & Blue’s defense forced a miss, and junior forward Jeremiah Jones was there for the rebound.
The Dukes got up the court and got into their offensive set, but they could not create a good shot and with two seconds left on the clock junior guard Micah Mason lost the ball.
On the ensuing possession the Rams found junior guard Melvin Johnson in the left corner, which had been open all game for the Rams, and he hit a 3-pointer.
Down 5 points with 57 seconds on the clock, Coach Jim Ferry tried to implement the same offense that had worked on the previous few possessions.
“We went with three guards and we were spreading them out,” he said. “We were beating them with the side and high ball screens and we continued to try to attack that. They stepped up their pressure and we ended up with a tough shot.”
Sophomore forward L.G. Gill missed on a 3-point attempt, and VCU regained possession. Lewis was forced to record his fifth foul, putting him on the bench the rest of the way. The Rams’ sophomore guard Mo Allie-Cox knocked down both free throws, and the game was out of reach.
The Dukes trailed by 14 points at the half, but were able to cut into the lead by improving their dismal shooting. The Dukes were 1-of-8 from three in the first half, but they came back to hit five triples in the second half, led by Mason’s three.
The Dukes out-rebounded the Rams 44-28 thanks to a combined 12 from senior forward Dominique McKoy and Lewis. L.G. Gill added seven off of the bench. Lewis finished with 8 points and McKoy added 12. Colter led the team with 14 points and a team-high four assists.
Gill had his best offensive game since the Dukes played Howard University back on Dec. 2 with 11 points. He also had a steal and a block and was one of only three Dukes who did not commit a turnover. He played the third highest minutes on the team with 27.
Ferry was glad to see the return to form for Gill.
“That is the way L.G. has been playing prior to his little slump, I guess, and that is what we said, ‘Welcome back,’ because I think he could be a fantastic player … If he can play like that then we will have a chance to win,” he said.
“I just let the game come to me,” Gill said. “It’s always good to get in a rhythm especially because I wasn’t really scoring so I have to find other ways to get my rhythm whether it is rebounding, steals or deflections or anything like that.”
The Dukes were trying to catch up at the end and they had a chance with 38 seconds left when they were down 69-62. Then just as the Dukes were setting up for an offensive play officials called a travel on McKoy on the left wing.
A visibly upset McKoy explained his perspective of the call.
“It wasn’t a travel. [The referee] said someone on our team bumped into me. He said my feet shifted a little bit, so, he said he had to call it a travel, but I didn’t travel,” McKoy said.
The Rams athletic defense in a full court press was a problem for the Dukes. Senior guard Briante Weber contributed to the Dukes’ 16 turnovers by grabbing four steals, on par with his NCAA-best four steals-per-game. Sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis led the Rams with 16 points on 3-of-8 from 3-point range, and Johnson added 14 points. The Rams shot 40 percent from deep and forced nine steals.
The Dukes will play at home on Thursday against Saint Bonaventure (10-6, 3-2 A-10) at 7 p.m., before heading on the road to face George Washington (14-4, 4-1 A-10) on Saturday at 2 p.m.