When you look at mid-major teams in college basketball, there is no better model for success than VCU. Six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament including an appearance in the Final Four sent this program from middle of the road to one of best outside the Power 5.
For Duquesne, they hope one day to be a bonafide program like the Rams. In their clash Wednesday night with VCU, they showed flashes of a team on the rise. But in the end, they simply ran out of gas against one of the best in the A-10.
Coach Ferry complemented his team’s effort following the 94-87 loss, which drops the Dukes to 8-7 and 1-1 in conference play.
“I thought it was a really hard fought game and our guys really competed hard,” Ferry said. “I don’t necessarily think we played well but I thought we competed.”
Grad transfer Emile Blackman, who was second on the team with 19 points, believed they had a chance to win if not for some mistakes on their own part.
“They are a really good team we got to give them credit but we did some things to beat ourselves,” Blackman said. “It didn’t matter who was on the floor on their side it’s the things that we did.”
Despite allowing VCU to shoot over 50% in the first half, the Dukes were able to keep pace thanks to foul trouble. The Rams committed 16 fouls in the first half alone and 25 for the game, but the Dukes would struggle from the stripe. They connected on only 8-17 and 20-30 for the game, their worst effort from the line since their lose to RMU back in December.
Ferry was upfront with his team’s faults from not just the free throw line, but their miscues inside.
“You gotta make your free throws,” Ferry said. “When you wanna beat a team like this you gotta make your lay ups and your free throws. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve used that phrase all the time. Lay ups and free fouls can beat a team like that, upset a team like that and we didn’t do that. I thought we struggled to make some lays ups earlier and our free throws could’ve allowed us to have a lead at half.”
In the second half, the Dukes were able to go on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 40 with 2 minutes gone by. The teams would go back and worth for the next 4 minutes with the Dukes even taking a lead for 11 seconds, but they would run out of steam. The Rams began to impose their will on the Dukes like an elite level team would do. Minutes later the VCU lead was double digits and they were able to coast through the final 10 minutes of the game.
Ferry was not surprised this happened to his team knowing who VCU’s roster his built.
“You look at their roster and you look at their depth what they do to teams is they wear you out physical and mentality and I thought that happened to us,” Ferry said. “I thought they started pounding it inside, attacking inside and with their depth I thought they wore us out.”
The guy wearing the Dukes out was the Rams’ 6’7 senior Mo Alie-Cox. Averaging 10 PPG coming into the night, Alie-Cox dominated the Dukes inside, setting a season-high with 18 points, going 9-9 from the field. The size and skill set of the Rams forward has garnered the attention of some NFL teams. Many see Alie-Cox as a future tight end and with his 6-foot-7, 250 lb. frame and a 7-foot-1 wingspan, you can see why.
And though he wasn’t too sure of Alie-Cox’s future on the gridiron, Ferry was still amazed by his size and what he brings to the table.
“Will Wade (VCU’s head coach) said he hit a genetic homerun,” Ferry said. “I’ve never seen a body like that. He’s a true competitor and tough kid and I wish him all the best.”
The Dukes will head to Philadelphia for their next A-10 showdown when they face La Salle Saturday night at 8 pm. The Explorers are 7-5 on the season and 1-1 in conference play. They defeated St. Louis Wednesday night 75-54.