It was supposed to be a special night at the A.J. Palumbo Center Wednesday night. The Dukes were set to retire their sixth jersey in program history, Mike James’ #13. A 12 year NBA veteran, the longest of any Duquesne player, James bounced around the league for much of his career, playing for 8 teams. In his lone season with the Toronto Raptors, he set a career-high with 20.3 points per game including four straight games with over 30 points. As this game went versus Fordham, the Dukes were in need of a scorer like James.
The Dukes managed only 17 total baskets from the field and were held to a season-low 52 points in a 70-52 loss to the Fordham Rams (13-15, 7-8). They have now lost 10 of their last 11 games, dropping their record 10-18 and 3-12 in the Atlantic 10.
Fordham used a combination of defensive looks, but killed the Dukes when they went to their 2-3 zone. The zone scheme limited their ball movement, holding them to only two made threes on the night, a season-low. Coach Ferry was not surprised his team was shut down by the Rams given their success defensively over the past few games.
“You just have to give Fordham credit for the way they are playing defensively right now,” Ferry said. “They just held three Atlantic 10 teams basically under 50 points. They held Rhode Island to 43, they held St. Louis to 40 and they held us to 52, so you have to give them all the credit in the world defensively with their matchup zone and changing things up.”
As Ferry pointed out in his postgame press conference, this game was a complete flip from their first meeting in the Bronx back in December. In that game, the Dukes jumped on the Rams early thanks to complete domination on the glass, winning the rebounding battle by 27. A late push by Fordham brought them back in the game, but the Dukes were able to hold on by three. Tonight, the Dukes lost the rebounding battle by 12 despite having the clear size advantage.
The difference according to reigning A-10 Rookie of the Week Mike Lewis II, who struggled from the field finishing with 12 points, was they didn’t have the same mentality as in their first meeting.
“I think it just comes down to toughness,” Lewis II said. “We did a great job up there on the boards. Tonight, it just came down to toughness and they beat us on that.”
While Lewis II and the rest of the team struggled to fine their stroke, graduate transfer Kale Abrahamson came off the bench in a big way for the Dukes. Abrahamson scored a season and team-high 14 points, making 7-10 shots from the field. He was the only Duquesne player to make more than two baskets in the game. A déjà vu to their first meeting when the transfer from Drake dropped a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
When asked about the success he has had against Fordham, Abrahamson thinks he just reaps the benefits of getting more minutes.
“For whatever reason I get a chance to play a little bit more in this game and I just think I take advantage of it,” Abrahamson said. “I think I’m a decent player. I think I can do that most of the time.”
Guaranteed at least four more games this season including the A-10 championship, the Dukes are looking to finish the season strong despite their poor run over the past month. Abrahamson believes there is still a chance they can go on a run like many teams do this time of year.
“Anyone can get hot in March I think you’ve all seen it,” Abrahamson said. “There are examples of teams that haven’t had the greatest run and just got hot at the right time we just gotta find a way to do that. I don’t know what the magic formula is, if you guys have the drink you can hand it over and we’ll take it.”
The Dukes will hit the road for the first time in two weeks when they travel Rochester, New York to take on St. Bonaventure Saturday afternoon. In their first meeting in Pittsburgh, the Bonnies won 71-64, holding Duquesne to 35% from the field. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.