“It was an early season ugly basketball game.”
These were the words of Jim Ferry following the Dukes 65-60 win over Loyola MD in their home opener Friday night. Ugly basketball is something you can expect from a team in transition, especially one starting two freshmen, forward Isiaha Mike and guard Mike Lewis II, for the first time since 2006-07.
“It’s a process playing all these new guys together,” Jerry said. “It’s something we have to focus on everyday getting better. ”
Lewis finished with 7 pts while Mike collected 7 pts and 2 steals, but they weren’t the only freshmen to see major minutes tonight. 6’4 guard Spencer Littleson led all bench players in scoring with 8 and led in minutes with 21. The lengthy freshmen, who finished third in voting for Michigan Mr. Basketball, showed tremendous upside on both ends of the court, hustling after lose balls and draining the only two Duquesne three’s of the night (rest of the team was 0-11 from deep).
When asked whether Littleson could see more time going forward, Ferry did not hesitate saying it goes within the flow of the game.
“Anything is up for anything,” Ferry said. “Mike Lewis would have played he fouled early and Spencer came in and did a great job. We are going to go with who is playing well at that time. It’s that type of team.”
Some of the other new faces on this team include graduate transfer guard Emile Blackman, who came over from Niagara, and Nebraska transfer Tarin Smith. Smith came into the game with only eight practices under his belt after undergoing knee surgery. The rust did show, but the New Jersey native ended up leading the Dukes in scoring with 13.
“It’s the swing of getting used to it, but I’m just happy to be out there,” Smith said afterword. “My teammates helped me keep my confidence up.”
Ferry added Smith showed glimpses of himself tonight but he’s still not back to his old self.
“You’re not going to see the real Tarian for a couple of week.”
The Dukes were coming off a tough 79-74 exhibition loss to Division II Mansfield where they committed 24 fouls. Though Coach Ferry was looking to clean this up against Loyala, Duquesne still committed 20 fouls in tonight’s win. Smith stated they played a lot better on defense than their loss on Saturday but they still need to limit their fouls.
“We played a lot more scrappy today,” Smith said. “We’ve been protecting the rim better, but we foul way too much.”
After losing the rebound battle in the exhibition, the Dukes edged Loyola in boards 43-39 including 30 defensive rebounds. They also had 12 blocks, which tied for the most in the Ferry era. Blackman lead the team with 10, a whopping 8 on defense, to go along with 8 pts. Forward Eric James, who came off the bench and collected 6 rebounds of his own, said they want to be identified by their presence on the boards.
“We wanna be a tough team and out rebound all the teams we play,” James said.
The Dukes will now travel to Happy Valley for a their first game of the season against Penn St Sunday at 6pm. Last season Duquesne throttled the Nittany Lions at PPG Paints Arena 78-52. Penn St. will be looking for revenge and their first win of the season after falling to Albany 87-81 at the Bryce Jordan Center.