Julian Routh | News Editor
It’s not a word you hear very often during basketball conversations, but in talks about Duquesne’s 94-88 win over the University of Maryland-Baltimore Country on Wednesday night, there’s no way around it.
To go from a game against Pitt, a team that plays zone defense, to a game against a UMBC squad that specializes in full-court press can be a daunting task. And it was in the first half, as the Dukes turned the ball over six times and had problems inbounding the basketball.
But Duquesne came out of the gates in the second half refreshed and composed. They started combating the full-court defense by running faster in transition and making better decisions passing the ball.
What changed at halftime? Junior guard Tra’Vaughn White said coach Jim Ferry told the team at halftime to “be aggressive,” a mantra that has been reiterated over and over early in the season.
“Don’t hold it as much,” White remembered Ferry saying. “For me and [Colter], really just make plays. We feel like we’re quick enough to beat anybody.”
Six games into the season, the Dukes have been quick, but they haven’t been very lucky. Rarely has everything clicked. Perhaps it’s because you can’t learn to get the lucky bounces. You can’t learn to swish every free throw.
But you can learn how to adapt to different situations. When it comes time for conference play, the teams who stick to one style of execution will be solved quickly, and in the second half on Wednesday night, Duquesne could not be solved. They were unpredictable. There’s not many ways to defend a team that can adjust its style quickly.
There’s not many ways to defend players who can adapt to the flow of a game, either. Sophomore guard Derrick Colter only played nine minutes in the first half because of two sloppy turnovers, but in the second, the sophomore dropped 15 and held onto the ball more carefully. Colter said he was “thinking too much” in the first half, and Ferry noticed.
“I thought he really went in against that pressure…He went in so timid. That’s just not the way we play,” Ferry said. “I thought Derrick really stepped up in the second half and responded.”
White also adjusted to UMBC’s defensive style at halftime. White, who Ferry said can “score in a multitude of ways,” scored 14 of his season-high 22 points in the second half.
When Penn State comes to town next Wednesday, they will bring with them a pair of players who score over 19 points per game and layers of depth off of the bench. Of course, the Dukes will need to be adaptable again.
We might just have to wait until the second half to notice it.