When Pittsburgh and Cleveland meet on the gridiron, the end result in recent memory typically goes the way of the Steel City.
It was no different Sunday afternoon on the hardwood as the Dukes defeated Cleveland St. 78-71 ending a three game losing streak. The win brings their record to 3-4 on the year.
But like it’s been all year with this Duquesne squad, it didn’t come without its fair share of drama.
With Duquesne leading by 18 with 9:40 left, the Vikings began to chip at the deficit with a combo of the full court press and cold shooting by the Dukes, eventually tying the game with 5:18 remaining.
Although they squandered their lead, the Dukes didn’t lose their heads.
“It is something we practice every day (playing against the press),” Mike Lewis II said. “Coach Ferry does a good job breaking it down in practice with different plays and different outlooks. Today we finally capitalized on it.”
Lewis posted a career high 20 points including 4 in the final minutes. The freshman has struggled since earning A-10 rookie of the week after scoring 19 points in a loss at Penn St. Afterwards, Lewis was more concerned about his team getting a much needed win than his individual success.
“I’m just glad I came out tonight and helped my team,” Lewis said. “We been struggling in the second half and coming out slow in games. I’m just glad I helped my team on the scoring side where we needed it most. It still is a confidence booster though.”
Despite fighting back into the game, the Vikings never were able to grab the lead. The Dukes took the lead back seconds later and controlled the game from thereafter. Coach Ferry was happy with the resilience of his team.
“They stormed back with some presses but we showed some fortitude and made plays,” Ferry said. “It was the opposite of what we did the other night, but we stayed aggressive. We made some free throws late some buckets late. More importantly we defended.”
During the rough patch down the stretch, senior Darius Lewis kept the team focused.
“Stay together and stay tight,” Lewis recalled saying to his teammates. “We knew we were going to win the game it didn’t matter what the other team was trying to push on us.”
Lewis recorded his second career double-double in the win with a season best 13 points while pulling in 10 rebounds. Prior to this game, it has been a difficult start to his senior campaign for the Lexington, KY native. This could be, as Ferry pointed out in his press conference, playing against smaller lineups and not playing against true big man (Lewis is 6-11). But at the end of the day, Ferry wants Lewis to play with better tempo and regularity.
“Darius needs to slow down a bit on offense and speed up a bit on defense,” Ferry said. “The next thing is consistency. Darius had a good game earlier in the year and he hasn’t had a good one until now. He needs to be consistent with what he is giving us every night.”
The Dukes will play their third straight home game Wednesday night when they host to the UMBC Retrievers. The Retrievers are 4-1 on the season and suffered their first loss of the year at Navy last Wednesday. Tip-off is at 7 pm at the A.J. Palumbo Center.