It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.
Fielding a lineup that resembled a Division II team, the UMBC Retrievers looked to be a great matchup for the Dukes. But by games end, the Retrievers showed they had plenty of fight and a hot shot from deep, to roll the Dukes 81-72 Wednesday night, dropping them to 3-5.
The Dukes lead by seven with 12:22 left in the first, but a 20-5 run completely shifted the momentum and game to UMBC, who led by nine at the break. Coach Jim Ferry was not pleased with his team’s first half performance defensive.
“We just got shredded in the first half on defense,” Ferry said. “They just moved so quick we couldn’t get out on three point shooting. They broke us down quickly we were so slow and we struggled.”
It was no secret the Retrievers would attack the three point line against the Dukes. Coming into the game, they were averaging 26 attempts from the beyond the arc, converting 36.4%, about nine per game. And going back to last season, the Dukes have struggled defending the three. The mix of these two created a powder keg and UMBC went a season-high 12-23 from deep.
Junior Rene Castro, who led the Dukes in scoring with 15 coming off the bench, admitted ball movement of the Retrievers threw them off for much of the game.
“I mean we knew it coming in and they were swinging it really fast,” Castro said. I feel like we played with a lack of urgency in the first half. In the second half we did a better job and played much harder so they didn’t get threes off.”
At one point UMBC was able to stretch their led to 16 with 13:27 left in the game. But the Dukes didn’t give up. With 4:20 remaining, they had cut the Retrievers’ lead to five and had a chance to make it a one score game the following possession. But as it went most of the night for Duquesne, the cards were not in their favor as the Retrievers converted their foul shots late and sealed the win.
Grad transfer Emile Blackman, who led all starters with 12 points but fouled out, stated they made it close after they started doing what they had practiced preparing for the game.
“We just followed the scout like we should of did in the first half,” Blackman said. “We just gotta pay attention to the scouting report. Coaches prepare us for certain things and we need to pay more attention to it and apply it when we get to the game.”
Ferry acknowledged they had a chance to comeback, but they didn’t do the little things to make that possible.
“Even when we got stops late they got some scrappy 50/50 rebounds, which you got to get when you’re down that much at half,” Ferry said as he banged the table. “You gotta have those plays if you wanna comeback and win it.”
The Dukes now get set to take on the Pitt Panthers in the annual City Game at PPG Paints Arena Friday night at 7 pm. The Panthers are 6-1 on the year and are coming off of a 73-59 win at Maryland Tuesday night. Pitt has won 15 straight and 18 of the last 20 in the series.