By David Borne | Staff Writer
The Duquesne Dukes were unable to slow down the quick, run-and-gun offense of the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers on Wednesday night at the Palumbo Center, falling by an 81-72 score.
Wednesday’s contest was just the fifth ever meeting between the two teams, and Duquesne came in undefeated (4-0) against UMBC. Wednesday’s game was the first win over Duquesne in program history for the Retrievers. The win improved UMBC’s record on the season to 5-1.
“Our urgency to get back in conversion, we were so slow, they moved it, they broke us down quickly and we really struggled,” head coach Jim Ferry said. “Then in the second half, you hold them to 29 points, but again you turn the ball over 17 times and our margin of error is very, very small ,and if we continue to turn the ball over like we do, it makes it even more difficult.”
Duquesne started off strong as they lead 21-16 halfway through the opening period but the Retrievers refused to lay down for the Dukes. UMBC hit a handful of threes, and found themselves ahead of Duquesne in the final minutes of the first half. Rene Castro hit a three-point shot for the Dukes at the buzzer, to bring the Dukes within nine, down 52-43 headed to the break. The Retrievers ended the first half shooting 8-15 from beyond the arc.
The Dukes initially came out of the locker room hot, and a pair of baskets from freshman Mike Lewis II brought the Red and Blue within 3 with just under 17 minutes remaining in the game. However, the Retrievers three-point barrage carried over into the second half, and a three from Rodney Elliott put the Dukes down 13 with 14:39 on the clock. UMBC finished the game 12-23 from downtown.
Down 73-63 with 7:13 remaining, Duquesne managed hold the Retrievers scoreless and put five consecutive points on the board, and trailed by 5 with 3:34 left in the contest. Duquesne struggled to get anything going offensively in the final two minutes, and was forced foul and send UMBC to the free-throw line in a final effort to make a comeback. Again struggling to get points on the board, Duquesne’s last-minute comeback effort was unsuccessful, and UMBC took the win by a score of 81-72.
Turnovers plagued the Dukes throughout the entire game, and they ended the night turning the ball over an absurd 17 times. Both graduate transfer Emile Blackman and junior Rene Castro acknowledged that the team must do a better job keeping possession in order to win ball games in the future.
Blackman mentioned that the opposing teams aren’t forcing a good number of the turnovers, but a lack of on-court chemistry on roster that has played very few minutes together is creating some issues.
Blackman finished the game with 12 points, shooting 5-9 from the field, and 2-3 from three-point range.
Castro, who came off the bench and led the Dukes in scoring with 15 points, also spoke on the the impact the turnovers have on the team’s performance.
“We’ve been working on that every day,” Castro said. “Little turnovers that we don’t need, it’s really affecting us.”
Mike Lewis II ended the game with 11 points, while sophomore Tarin Smith added 10 points and three assists. Junior Jordan Robinson scored eight points in just 9 minutes of action.
Ferry was impressed by Robinson’s performance against the Retrievers and even spoke on the possibility of increasing his minutes.
“Jordan’s done a good job for us,” Ferry said. “Again, it was a little funky when they went with those four and fives that can shoot threes, so it’s hard to play Jordan and it was hard to play Darius [Lewis] in that game.” Ferry said.
The loss dropped Duquesne’s record to 3-5 on the season. The Red & Blue must now shift their focus to their crosstown rival, the Pittsburgh Panthers, and the annual City Game at PPG Paints Arena on Friday. The Dukes have lost 15 straight games, and 18 of the last 20, against the Panthers and hope to break their losing streak and re-claim city bragging rights. Ferry and his team will have to put forth a better effort in order to accomplish that.