PITTSBURGH — With time ticking under a minute in Duquesne’s game against cross-county rival Robert Morris at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night, the Dukes had the ball and needed a shot.
They worked the ball around to driving freshman guard Mike Lewis II, who made a running layup to give Duquesne the lead with just a tick over 30 seconds remaining. Robert Morris would eventually come back to win the game on an Isaiah Still drive at the other end. But for the game to be placed in the hands of Duquesne’s first-year guard and for him to come through is a moment that may transcend Duquesne’s 64-60 loss to Robert Morris.
Lewis has been a big player in all situations for the Dukes. He’s third on the team in scoring with 10.7 points per game, he’s the teams most prolific three-point shooter and at 81.5 percent, one of the few sure bets from the foul line. He’s also developing a knack as a guy that can hit some big shots.
“We trust him,” said graduate senior Emile Blackman. “Coach trusts him. You put the ball in his hands, he’s going to make a play.”
Senior Robert Morris point guard Kavon Stewart was tasked with defending Lewis and came away impressed with the young guard’s play.
“He’s real tough,” Stewart said. “They have some good guard play and I think that was a good test for our guards.”
That’s not to say that he still won’t make some mistakes. He is, after all, still a freshman, and Ferry would like to see him cut down his 11-21 assist-to-turnover ratio, specifically by taking care of the ball a little bit better.
But on the whole, things are very looking promising for Lewis and fellow freshman Isiaha Mike. The two have played a ton of minutes and are gaining valuable experience in close games. Though the Dukes are 4-6, eight of their 10 games have been decided by single digits. Win or lose, there have been big moments down the stretches of those games that have provided valuable learning experience.
“Of course it gets frustrating after a while, especially [the Robert Morris loss], because it was the exact same situation [we had faced before],” Lewis said.
“I understand they’re frustrated,” Ferry add. “For those two guys, they’re not the reason that we’re losing games close.”
Lewis has been award the Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week award three times this season and each of the last two weeks, and he took a step towards his third straight such honor with his 15 points against the Colonials. Ferry has taken care to balance the frustration of some of the team’s tough losses with encouragement over the way thing are going thus far with Lewis’ season.
“We talk to the whole team that way,” Ferry said. “I just tell the truth. … They’re tough enough, they can handle the truth. You show them the film at practice and just get better. It’s just experience for them. I think everyone’s frustrated, even the older guys.”
The good news is that Ferry’s freshmen are gaining these tough-to-learn experiences during the non-conference portion of the schedule, which continues Saturday with a home date against Central Connecticut State. If the Dukes can turn around some of those close deficits come time for conference play, they could surprise in the Atlantic-10.