With 15:20 remaining in the game, Mike Lewis II drove in for a layup to give the Dukes a 55-37 lead over St. Louis, their largest of a game where they had yet to trail. For most teams, this would be a comfortable, safe margin, but not for Duquesne. In a season where there has been heartbreak after heartbreak for this young team, their biggest heartbreak was saved for the last game of the year.
Fast forward to the end of the game, graduate transfer Emile Blackman, a 77% free throw shooter, stepped to the line with 9 seconds left, the Dukes now only up one. Lewis II had been in the same situation four days earlier in their loss to St. Joe’s, missing both shots with the Dukes down one. Like his teammate, Blackman missed both of his attempts giving the Bilikens a chance to win it. A Davell Roby tip-in gave St. Louis their first and only lead of the ball game with 1.6 seconds remaining. A late second attempt by the Dukes was no good, giviing the Bilikens a 72-71 win eliminating Duquesne from the A-10 tournament and ending their season at 10-22.
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“I don’t think I’ve ever really been involved in a more devastating loss, especially at the end of the season, like what just transpired,” a dejected Jim Ferry said following the third straight and seventh loss this season by three points or less. “I don’t care if this game was played in Tillary Street Park in Brooklyn, man. Something like that is just devastating.”
Ferry commended his guys for continuing to fight through a season with so much adversity.
“I thought these kids played really hard,” Ferry said. “They showed a lot of character, being able to fight through and come back day after day after day, practice really hard, and then go out tonight and really battle.”
St. Louis coach Travis Ford summed up the night in one quote.
“If that’s not March Madness I don’t know what is,” Ford said whose team faces the #6 George Washington tonight at 8:30.
Unlike some of their previous games at PPG Paints Arena, the Dukes came out with a lot of energy and motivation. When they faced Dayton back in January, they went 3-21 beyond the arch in a blowout loss. Wednesday they eclipsed that total with 9 minutes gone in the first half. At halftime, the Dukes were 7-13 from three, the exact number they had made combined in their last two games. The second half started much of the same with Lewis II hitting two three’s in the first two and half minutes. But after going 9-15 , the Dukes went 1-7 from beyond the arch for the rest of the game.
When asked about their efficiency at the end of the game, sophomore Tarin Smith believes you can’t just look to this game to see that they had struggled in that category.
“I think their press put us into taking some quick shots,” Smith said. “I thought we moved the ball and we got what we wanted. Looking back on it,it’s easy to say we should have took some more efficient shots.”
At the end of the day you have to feel terrible for Blackman. For a someone’s collegiate career to end in such a horrifying fashion like his did is just heartbreaking. You could see the emotion pouring out of him after the final buzzer. Speaking to the media for the final time of his college year, Blackman thanked Ferry for giving him the opportunity to play his last year of college basketball at Duquesne. Though this chapter of his basketball career may be over, he hopes that his teammates continue to build on what he taught them this season.
“We all know that point comes at some time,” Blackman said. “I just hope that this year that I had is very impactful and I hope that they can be better going forward. I hope that I set a good example and I hope that everyone in the locker room learned everything that I tried to convey to them, just how to be a leader, just how to show up every day, and you know, work hard, try to get the most out of not just yourself but everyone around you each day.”
The question now remains whether Duquesne will retain Ferry after this season. Speculation is that the school could move on from him following another poor season. Whatever the result is, after a year like this the only place the Dukes can go is up.