Conference play has not been to kind to the Dukes this season. After splitting their first four Atlantic-10 games, they had dropped their previous five matchups heading into Wednesday night’s showdown with St. Bonaventure. Turnovers and inconsistent shooting have plagued the Dukes over their losing streak, something you can expect from such a young team and it was no different against the Bonnies.
The Dukes losing streak now stands at six following tonight’s 71-64 loss. Their latest defeat drops them to 10-13 overall and 2-8 in the A-10, tying UMASS for last place in the conference. Mike Lewis II, who earned another A-10 Rookie of the Week Award, led the Dukes in scoring with 20.
With a young team like this, Coach Ferry knows you have to keep faith.
“We always talk about confidence in yourself,” Ferry said. “I tell these guys to just fall back on our core values, unselfish, tough and discipline, and we will be okay. With these young kids you bring them in, you show them tape and you give them a hug. It’s what you got to do. This is all experience.”
The Bonnies 1-3-1 defense played havoc on the Dukes for much of the game, especially in the first half, leading to 15 turnovers.
“We’ve seen it this year and done fine against it,” Ferry said. “I thought their length bothered us. They got into the passing lanes and our point guards had five turnovers. When it worked it bothered us.”
Despite turning it over 15 times in the first half, the Dukes took a one point lead at halftime, 34-33, thanks to a Rene Castro three. The Bonnies were able to outshoot Duquesne by five field goals, but they failed to convert a three in the first half going 0-7. They finished the game 1-13, which was the best three point defense from the Dukes this season.
But things would unravel in the second half. Two quick turnovers sparked an 8-0 run out of the break and the Bonnies were back in control of game. Even after they fell behind by double digits, the Dukes would not yield like they had done in the past. They were able to cut the lead to 60-58 with 4:23, but shooting inconsistency doomed them over the final minutes. The Dukes shot 2-for-12 in the last five minutes and were held without a point until an Eric James free throw with 1:15 left stopped the bleeding.
When the shoots aren’t falling, Emile Blackman, who was second on the team with 15, tries to keep his teammates upbeat.
“We just encourage each other, stay together and each shooting,” Blackman said. “Mike missed a couple of shots I like keep putting it up don’t worry about it, they are going to fall. Nobody’s going to shot 100%.”
The shots were definitely not falling for freshmen Isiaha Mike. Coming off of a 23 point performance at Richmond, Mike dropped a goose egg versus the Bonnies, shooting 0-7 from the field. This isn’t the first time the Canadian freshman has had a bad game following a scoring outbreak. After recording a career-high 24 points in their last win over St. Louis, Mike followed it up with only 4 points in a loss to Dayton.
Ferry knows Mike is going through the growing pains of being a freshman.
When they become sophomores they become more consistent,” Ferry said. “He took the same approach, he practiced just as hard, he just struggled tonight. He’s going to get older, he’s going to get better because he cares and he works at it.”
The Dukes will look to end their six game slide (and try to get some payback) when they travel to east Ohio to take on Dayton Saturday afternoon. The Flyers won 76-57 in Pittsburgh back on January 14 when the Dukes committed a season-high 22 turnovers and shot 3-21 from three. Tipoff is set for noon on NBCSN.