By Andrew Holman | The Duquesne Duke
Less than a week removed from a disheartening 76-74 loss to the Dayton Flyers, Duquesne saw another double digit lead go to waste on Sunday, falling to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 108-99 in overtime.
There is no telling when the bleeding is going to stop for Duquesne.
What started as a promising season with the Dukes boasting a 10-2 record has quickly turned into another disappointment for fans of the Red & Blue. Since that 10-2 start, Duquesne has gone 5-8 with 12 of those 13 games in Atlantic 10 conference play.
With three straight losses to Davidson, Dayton and now UMass, the Dukes have dropped from 6th to 9th in the conference standings.
But where do you go from here? Look at the positives.
And the biggest positive is Josh Steel. The freshman sharpshooter played 17 minutes and scored 11 points on 80 percent shooting in Sunday’s loss. Steel had previously been averaging just 8.7 minutes and 1.8 ppg this season. However, he looked completely comfortable in the extended role that he played versus UMass.
Steel can provide something that Duquesne desperately needs— production off of its bench. TySean Powell is the clear 6th man on this team and also the only consistent contributor off the pine averaging 6.4 ppg and 5.1 rpg.
Steel’s ability to score quickly is something that can really help this Duquesne club in the long run. When it comes time for the A-10 Tournament, Derrick Colter and Micah Mason are going to have a tough time playing 40 minutes night after night, so guys like Steel are going to have to be able to come in and produce immediately.
Although he only has 23 3-point attempts on the season, Steel is shooting a remarkable 48 percent from behind the arc. He is a guy that can impact this team throughout the remainder of the season, and especially beyond.
For Steel to see more playing time he needs to focus on boxing out and ensuring that he is not a defensive liability for his team. If he can improve on those key areas, there is no reason that Steel should not be a legitimate 7th man off of the bench.
Don’t be surprised if Steel becomes the 4th leading scorer behind Colter, Mason, L.G. Gill and Eric James down this final stretch of the regular season. In order to become that fourth scoring threat on this team, he would only need to be averaging roughly 7ppg.
His career best performance against UMASS should be enough of a confidence booster for him going forward. Steel should not be afraid to put up 3 to 5 shots per game from behind the arc and his teammates could really use the lift.
If the Dukes have any hope of making a deep run through the A10 Tournament, guys outside of Mason and Colter will need to step up big. This duo is no secret anymore and teams are selling out on them defensively. A guy like Steel who has the ability to spread the floor and knock down shots could become a dangerous weapon for Duquesne.
Duquesne’s shot of receiving an at large bid to the NCAA tournament has washed completely away, but the final six regular season games are a prime opportunity to test out these reserve guys like Steel and determine who is ready to become the X-factor in the A-10 Tournament.