Special guest article by Jarrod Prugar, on assignment in Happy Valley
A 19-point night from Mike Lewis II was not enough for the Duquesne Dukes to overcome the Penn State Nittany Lions as they fell 82-74 Saturday night at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
The Dukes struggled to contain a freshmen trio of Nittany Lions who accounted for 59 of the 82 points as Mike Watkins (15), Tony Carr (20), and Lamar Stevens (24) pushed Penn State to victory.
Early Season Woes
For both sides, this game had every bit of the feel of an early season match-up between two young teams who are still trying to get acclimated to playing with each other.
Duquesne had as many scores as turnovers (13) in the first half against Penn State as the offense of the Dukes struggled to get anything going early. Duquesne Coach Jim Ferry described the performance in the first half as looking like “balls bouncing all over the walls.”
“Having 13 turnovers in the first half, our guard play was not where it needed to be at,” Ferry said following the game.
It’s a work-in-progress for the Duquesne squad as they adjust to playing with one another early on and that factor was not lost on Ferry following the game.
“We’re just trying as a group to get better and better and get used to each other each day,” Ferry explained.
In the second half the Dukes cleaned their game up in impressive fashion as they only turned the ball over five times. Led by Lewis II and his 14-point outburst in the second half, Duquesne was able to put up 45-points and swap leads with Penn State throughout the half.
New Faces Coming Up Big
While Lewis II paced the Dukes with 19-points, he was not the only newcomer who found success, as fellow freshmen Spencer Littleson and Isiaha Mike pitched in eight points of their own Saturday night.
Many times throughout the contest, senior Darius Lewis found himself as the only player who had game experience in a Dukes jersey before.
“Most of the time we only have one player on the floor that’s actually worn our uniform and that’s Darius Lewis,” Ferry said. “We have all these new guys on the floor.”
Limiting Penn State Scorers
“I thought we did a great job on Shep Garner and Payton Banks, but their freshmen got comfortable and made some big plays,” Ferry said of his team’s defensive performance.
Garner, who scored 25-points in the season-opening loss to Albany for the Nittany Lions, was held to six points with all of them coming in the second half. The team captain for Penn State found ways aside from scoring to contribute as he finished with two rebounds and five assists for Penn State.
Banks came into the game averaging 14-points per game, but the Dukes stifled his impact in the 33-minutes he was on the floor to nine points and four rebounds.
The freshmen trio picked up the slack for the Nittany Lions as Carr’s 20-point night pushes his season average to 17-points per game. Carr led all players for Penn State with seven rebounds and also chipped in four assists.
“They have a lot of offensive weapons out there so you got to choose your poison,” Ferry said. “Tonight, we were forcing other guys to beat us and they did.”
Fatigue key late
Coach Ferry acknowledged that fatigue played a major role in extinguishing any chance the Dukes had of defeating the Nittany Lions for a second year in a row.
The Dukes were in a dogfight with Penn State until the 10-minute mark in the second half when fatigue began to set in for Ferry’s team.
“I felt we broke down defensively and got a little fatigued.” Ferry said of the defensive woes late. “They got us in conversion then we started playing catch up and some of our young guys struggled with it.”
Last year Penn State was on the receiving end of fatigue as the Dukes dictated their pace of play in their victory over the Nittany Lions.
“It was very similar to what we did last year to Penn State, we played at such a fast rate making all those threes I thought we broke them down.” Ferry said. “We were trying to keep some of our guys fresh.”
Duquesne returns home for a non-conference match-up against Saint Francis University at the Palumbo Center Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. The Dukes beat the Red Flash last December at the Cambria County War Memorial 67-65.