Duquesne improved to 2-0 Tuesday night behind the duo of Mike Lewis II and Tarin Smith, as they combined for 43 of the team’s 77 points.
After shooting 2-13 in the opener against St. Francis Brooklyn, Lewis II hit his first shot against VMI and never really cooled off, hitting four first half threes and finishing with a game-high 22 points.
He accomplished this on just nine shots, demonstrating a remarkable efficiency. In addition, the sophomore guard frequently got to the free throw line where he’s almost automatic. In 18 attempts this season, Lewis II has missed just once.
– Smith added 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half, and you have to wonder if the junior guard is emerging as the Dukes’ closer? He scored eight straight points in the second half against St. Francis Brooklyn and had a similar sequence against VMI—scoring six straight after the Keydets had cut the lead to five.
Dambrot praised Smith for “playing to his strengths,” passing up several jump shots and opting to attack the basket instead. He stuffed the stat sheet with six rebounds, three steals and three assists.
– Through two games, the Dukes have committed just 19 turnovers, a number that will certainly draw the praise of Dambrot. Last year, Duquesne averaged more than 14 turnovers per contest, and it was an area of emphasis for the first-year head coach leading up to the season.
Defensively, the Dukes have forced 36 turnovers, which have directly led to 43 points on the other end. Points off turnovers are an added boost for an offense still trying to establish an identity.
– For the most part, the Dukes were fairly disciplined against the Keydets’ Princeton-style cuts, especially in the first half. As Dambrot alluded to in the post-game, fatigue played a factor with VMI’s surge in the second half. The guards still go through lapses where they struggle to stay in front of opposing guards and improvements must be made against defending the pick-and-roll, but you can easily see where this team is vastly improved compared to last year.
– Tydus Verhoeven has five blocks in two games, but he’s also managed to foul out of both contests. He’s clearly Duquesne’s best rim protector at this point and until Chas Brown returns, he has to avoid unnecessary fouls. For example, Verhoeven picked up his third foul against VMI during a rebounding sequence where he clearly was out of position to grab the ball. The Keydets quickly threw him into a pick-and-roll situation and the freshman was whistled for his fourth. Two fouls in less than 15 seconds. With only three healthy interior players, Verhoeven must learn to balance being aggressive and playing with poise.
– It didn’t take all that long in the post-game comments for the focus to shift towards Sunday’s crosstown matchup with Robert Morris. The Colonials will play their third game of the season tonight at San Diego before traveling back to Pittsburgh. The Dukes will have four days to prep.
Mike Lewis II said the returners were not pleased with last year’s result against Robert Morris and the goal is to win the city “championship.” With both Robert Morris and Pitt still searching for their first win, it’s a very real possibility. A sweep of the two programs would be a huge victory for Dambrot in his first season. He gets his first crack Sunday.