Jim Ferry has been down this road before. It’s the game before Christmas break. Your team is facing a squad with two wins on the year and currently riding a six game losing streak. Where will your team’s focus be at?
“Sometimes you got kids halfway out the door ready for the Christmas tree.”
Luckily, the Dukes were not thinking of opening presents just yet. They were able to handle their business versus Colgate, 70-57, to close out their non-conference slate at 7-6. Ferry called it a great team win.
“Everyone who played really contributed offensively and defensively,” Ferry said. “Guys really stepped up and played for each other. We continue to improve defensively and when we don’t turn the ball over we win games.”
Thursday’s eight turnovers marked only the second time this season the Dukes did not commit double digit turnovers. That took place in their upset victory over Pitt at PPG Arena. It wasn’t the only similarity their win over Colgate had with their win against Pitt.
The Dukes held the Raiders to 4 for 24 from three, the second lowest percentage since they held Pitt to 3 for 22. Overall, they have improved drastically defending the three since UMBC went 12 for 23 from deep at the end of November. Rene Castro, who led the Dukes bench in scoring with 11, believes the improvement has come from just playing better defense.
“I think we have been able to just get out to the shooters,” Castro said. “We’ve used our athleticism and have been able to contest.”
For the first time this season, it seems like the Dukes finally have built some momentum after a rough start to the year. A big reason has been the freshmen. Mike Lewis II and Isiaha Mike have grown up a lot this debuting for the Dukes a month and half ago. Lewis dropped 12 points in the win while Mike rallied a career high 19 points in the win.
Afterwards Mike stated he just got into a rhyme out there.
“My teammates just found me in the right position,” Mike said. “The open shots were flying and I was just on today.”
As the season had progressed, Mike has attacked the basket more and more, driving to the lane with the authority of an upperclassman. Ferry has liked how Mike’s game has developed since the start of the season.
“When he first got here he settled just for being a perimeter shooter,” Ferry said. “He’s starting to use all of his skill level. He’s driving the ball, he’s rebounding, he’s getting to the foul line a bit more and he’s a competitor. He’s starting to develop and understand the ability to use his whole game.”
Now the Dukes get set to head into Atlantic 10 conference action. But like every year, it will be an uphill battle. The Dukes have not posted double digit wins in conference since 2010-2011 when Ron Everhart was coach. Ferry has yet to win more than six conference games while at Duquesne. His biggest conference win game back in 2015 when the Dukes upset #10 St. Louis on the road.
Their first conference game will be next Friday on the road against Fordham. Tipoff is set for 7 PM.