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Duquesne Basketball

Dukes to Host Streaking Richmond

Dukes to Host Streaking Richmond

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Duquesne will look to keep it rolling at home Wednesday night when it welcomes Richmond to the AJ Palumbo Center.

The Dukes have won ten straight games at home, the longest home streak since 1992 and second longest in the history of the Palumbo Center. The last two wins have come in thrilling fashion—triple-overtime and double-overtime—and fans will probably settle for a win in regulation.

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A win against Richmond will improve Duquesne to 6-2 in the Atlantic 10 and represent the team’s 13th home victory of the season, the most ever at the Palumbo Center. It seems as if every game, this year’s version of the Dukes are tying or breaking some record.

Mike Lewis II (1) drives the lane against George Mason on January 20, 2018 — DAVID HAGUE

In Saturday’s 95-89 defeat of George Mason, freshman Eric Williams Jr. hit a program-record nine threes en route to scoring 34 points. The 6-foot-5 swingman ranks fifth among all freshmen in the country with nine double-doubles.

The Dukes’ backcourt of Williams Jr., Mike Lewis II, Rene Castro-Caneddy and Tarin Smith accounted for all but 14 points against the Patriots.

Richmond’s biggest strength is its backcourt, too. All five starters average more than 10 points per game, and De’Monte Buckingham leads the Spiders in rebounding with seven boards a contest.

Richmond’s 6-13 record is deceiving. The Spiders start two freshmen and two sophomores and played the 10th-most difficult non-conference schedule in the country, according to RPI. Since starting 1-8, they’ve righted the ship under head coach Chris Mooney and carry a three-game winning streak into the matchup with Duquesne.

Mooney was a four-year starter under legendary Princeton head coach Pete Carril, and the Spiders’ offense is rooted in Carril’s four-out, one-in motion sets. The Dukes will have to be disciplined in defending off-the-ball cuts and defending the three-point shot. On the season, Duquesne ranks third nationally in three-point defense, limiting opponents to 28 percent shooting. In A-10 action, the Spiders are shooting 38 percent from behind the arc.

A key matchup to watch will be Richmond’s Grant Golden versus Duquesne’s Chas Brown. Golden is a big presence at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds. During the Spiders’ three-game winning streak, the redshirt freshman is averaging 20 points and shooting at a 62 percent clip. Brown has struggled to stay out of foul trouble in A-10 players, especially against skilled big men like VCU’s Justin Tillmon and Saint Louis’ D.J. Foreman. Golden presents a similar challenge.

No other Richmond starters stands taller than 6-foot-4. Keith Dambrot may get creative and employ Tydus Verhoeven on Golden. Verhoeven is coming off arguably his best performance of the season, knotting a Duquesne freshman record nine blocks in Saturday’s win. His length and shot blocking abilities might be able to disrupt Golden enough and keep Brown in the game. Of note, the Spiders have outscored opponents by 38 points in the paint during their current winning streak.

In his postgame press conference Saturday, Dambrot revealed the coaching staff is scaling back the intensity in practices to keep the Dukes fresh for the stretch run. There were moments against George Mason where players looked fatigue, yet they managed to dig deep after falling behind by seven in the first overtime to force an extra second sessions. Will the Dukes have their legs after three days off?

Wednesday’s contest looms big with a weekend trip to conference-leader Rhode Island on tap. The Dukes are entering a key stretch where they’ll play three of four games away from the Palumbo Center. While winning the league is probably a long shot at tis point, Duquesne must continue to pile up wins to better position itself for the conference tourney. Richmond is playing well and can’t be overlooked.

The Spiders have dominated the series of late, winning nine of the last 10 meetings against Duquesne. Richmond won last year’s meeting, 101-90, behind A-10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline’s triple-double.

Follow @pghsportsnow on Twitter for in-game updates. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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