After snapping their season-high eight game losing streak with a blowout win versus UMass, the Dukes were looking to build momentum Sunday afternoon at A.J. Palumbo Center against George Washington. In the team’s first matchup in D.C., the Colonials were able to squeak out a 65-63 victory after a late push in the final minutes by Duquesne. But like in the previous meeting, similar mistakes that hurt the Dukes in the Nation’s Capital doomed them today in the rematch.
Despite limiting their opponent to 37% from the field, the Dukes could not overcome the length of the Colonials (14-13, 6-8) in route to a 77-70 loss. This latest loss drops them to 3-11 in the Atlantic-10 and 10-17 overall.
Coach Ferry pointed out too many negatives on their part cost the Dukes in the end.
“That was a really frustrating loss,” Ferry said. “It’s hard enough overcoming a Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe, but then you just keep making all these mistakes. That’s on us. We defended at a high level then they crushed us on the offensive glass. In the second half they couldn’t guard us until we guarded ourselves with the decisions we made. That’s really frustrating, that’s on all of us.”
Not only were the Dukes unable limit their mistakes in the loss, they were victimized from the beyond the arch. After hitting 11 threes in their first meeting in D.C., the Colonials hit 12 threes today, including going 7-13 from deep in the second half. By contrast, the Dukes were completely anemic from three after knocking down a season-high tying 14 in their win over UMass. Just like in first game at George Washington, they only could get four shots to fall from beyond the arch. The Dukes did have a better percentage from three this time around at almost 31% compared to 19% in the first game.
Sophomore forward Nakye Sanders, who had a game-high 14 rebounds in his second straight game off the bench, indicated the success the Colonials have from three is due to their ability on the inside.
“They are pretty good inside posting up so it draws a lot of attention to that,” Sanders said. “They get a lot of kick out three pointers. They are pretty long at that position so it’s a longer close out than normal.”
The Colonials are not only a matchup nightmare for the Dukes, but for most teams in the A-10. When a team has that much length and size across, you are going to get a lot of unfavorable matchups throughout the game. Isiaha Mike was tasked with defending A-10 player of the year contender Tyler Cavanaugh for most of the game. Though Mike and the Dukes played great defense against him, limiting him to 2-8 from the field, he was still able to lead the Colonials in scoring with 19 after going 13-14 from the foul line. But having to face a player like 6-foot-9-inch swing guard Yuta Watanabe creates another problem, and it hurt them on both ends of the court. Graduate transfer Emile Blackman drew the matchup with Watanabe at the beginning of the game and struggled, allowing him to score nine of the Colonials first 15 points. Senior Eric James and along with Blackman was able to limit the Japanese guard for the rest of the game, though he still finished second in team scoring with 14 points.
Freshmen Mike Lewis II, who went 2-6 (5 points) in the first half but rebounded for 17 after halftime for a game-high 22, was matched-up against Watanabe for much of the Dukes’ offensive possessions in the second half. Being 6-foot-1-inch, it’s hard enough giving up eight inches to a defender let alone facing a player as disciplined defensively.
“It’s extremely tough,” Lewis said. “He’s a great defender. Some guys go for the fakes and certain things, but he doesn’t. He’s solid, long and lengthy and gets in the passing lane. He’s definitely a tough guy to go against.”
The Dukes wrap up their three game home stand on Wednesday night when they play host to the Fordham Rams. In their first conference game of the season, the Dukes were able to hold on to beat the Rams 75-72 in the Bronx after leading by 12 at halftime. Prior to the game, the team will retire former Duquesne great Mike James’ number 13. James, who played with the Dukes from 1995-98, spent 12 years in the NBA most notably with the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.