With seconds left in the game, the Dukes found themselves in a familiar spot. Trailing RMU by one, they had the ball and a chance to close out the game, an area where Duquesne has struggled all season. One of the heroes in Friday’s win, Emile Blackman attempted to deliver again. But as he drove in the lane for the layup, the Colonials’ Isaiah Still blocked the attempt.
The Dukes could not get the rebound and the Colonials took possession. RMU made their ensuing foul shots, holding on to win 64-60.
Coach Ferry’s message afterward was the same it’s been for much of this season.
“We got to learn to finish these games and try to win these games,” Ferry said.
Coming off the most significant win since the millennium, things were trending up for the Dukes before Tuesday. They were the toast of Pittsburgh after upsetting Pitt, breaking a 15 year losing streak in the series. It was almost too perfect for a cliché letdown loss to happen against a 2-7 team still trying to figure things out. And to top it all off, despite this game being played a block away from Duquesne, RMU was the home team for the game, a set of two they will play at PPG (December 17 vs Buffalo).
Though a lot people will look at this disappointing loss as a hangover from the Pitt win, Blackman dismissed that notion quickly.
“Robert Morris just played harder than us,” Blackman said, who finished with 12 points. “It wasn’t a Pitt hangover. They just played better than us. Credit, they are a good team, but they played harder.”
RMU was able to pull this game out thanks to a strong performance by Still, who led all scorers with 22, and poor foul shooting by the Dukes. Their 9-19 effort on the stripe went a long way in deciding this one. Nakye Sanders was the main culprit, going a meager 1-7 from the line. Though he struggled at the stripe, his work in the paint and boards was at a high level.
Sanders finished the game with his first career double-double, posting 11 points and 16 rebounds. On the year, he was averaging under 5 in both points and rebounds, a similar stat line to the one he posted in start versus Pitt.
Ferry was going to start Sanders again tonight if not for a violation of team rules. Still, with 30 minutes off the bench, it’s clear he likes what the sophomore brings to the table.
“He’s a tough kid, it’s experience and he’s getting better,” Ferry said.
A move to the starting lineup for the sophomore would relegate senior Darius Lewis to the bench. Lewis has had a sluggish start to the season, looking at times to be out of his element. But as the senior fades, the Dukes freshmen Mike Lewis II and Isiaha Mike continue to progress in their first year on The Bluff.
Lewis II won his third A-10 rookie of the week last week for his stellar game against the Panthers. This week, he may earn it again after leading the Dukes in scoring with 15 points. Mike has had an up and down start to his college career, but he played well against the Colonials, finishing with 7 points and 9 boards.
When asked about the development of his freshmen, Ferry said they still have a lot growing to do as players.
“I think they have to mature,” Ferry said. “They have to be a little bit more consistent. I thought Isiaha Mike made some strides today not just settling, going inside out a bit more. I like their effort we just need to mature faster.”