With Duquesne known for its dedication to the arts, it’s no surprise the men’s basketball team has developed a flair for the dramatic. Coming into Saturday, they have held the lead with under 30 seconds to go three times, all ending in a loss (Canisius, UT Martin and RMU). It came down to the wire again versus Central Connecticut State, but this time one finally went the way of the Dukes.
CCSU led the Dukes by 5 with less than 2 minutes left and looked to have the game wrapped up. But freshman Isiaha Mike had different plans. Mike dished out a thunderous block on CCSU’s Eric Bowles, leading to a rebound and assist on Emile Blackman’s running layup, cutting the deficit to two with 1:18 to go. With a chance to win or tie the game with 17 seconds, Mike knocked down the biggest three of his college career, giving the Dukes a 68-67 lead. They would hold CCSU on their next possession to win 70-67 and are now 5-6 on the year.
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Though he could have held the ball until only seconds remained, Mike, who tied a career and game high with 17 points, pointed out the shot was too wide open not to take it.
“Coach Ferry drew up the play for Mike to come off the ball screen and I was supposed to pop,” Mike said. “I did (pop) but Mike took the extra dribble to draw my defender and it was wide open.”
Mike Lewis II added their experience in those earlier tough losses helped them pull this game out.
“Mentality wise we knew we had to get one last stop and one rebound,” Lewis II said. “Coach told us on the bench that he believes in us and let’s go out and get this one. That’s what we did.”
The Dukes have been on quite the emotional roller coaster over the past week. After beating Pitt in one of the biggest victories in recent memory, they took a hard loss on the chin to fellow rival RMU Tuesday night. Saturday’s game was ugly for much of the first half, which was no surprise to Ferry.
“I felt we came out really sluggish which I kind of felt we were going to be,” Ferry said. “I tried to rest these guys as best I could. Yesterday we only practiced for 45 minutes and today we didn’t even shoot around. I wanted us to have our legs but I sensed real early that we moving real slow and our offense was out of sync. “
Lewis II was one of the guys who came out sluggish. He was benched after the first few minutes following an air ball three. Talking with him after, Lewis II saw it as a motivation from Ferry.
“The past few games I had been coming out in attack mode like he’s wanted me to,” Lewis II said. “Today I came out and played extremely slow and made some simple mistakes on defense so he sat me down to open my eyes.”
The motivation worked. When Lewis II was put back on the court with 12:29 left in the first, the sluggishness seemed to fade away. The freshmen ended the first half with 8 points and finished the game tied with Mike for the game high in points with 17. This performance will more than likely give Lewis II his third straight A-10 Rookie of the Week award.
After the busiest start to a season in program history, the Dukes will have some down time thanks to fall semester finals. Duquesne will next play on December 19 versus Jackson State at the A.J. Palumbo Center. Tipoff is set for 7 pm.