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Duquesne Faces Massive Test in Regular Season Road Finale Against VCU

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Duquesne basketball

Duquesne heads into their final week of regular season play, by starting off with their last game on the road against a good VCU team Tuesday night.

Duquesne Outlook

Duquesne played George Mason in Fairfax, Va. on Saturday, where they started poorly, finding themselves down 14-2 with 13:50 left to go in the first half.

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The Dukes eventually got back into the game, thanks to the Patriots’ shooting poorly, and cut the lead at halftime to 24-21. They then took the lead to start the second half, but the Patriots would battle them throughout, with each team holding an advantage at different stages.

George Mason held a 46-43 lead with four minutes remaining, but Duquesne used an 8-0 run to take a 51-46 lead with 2:22 left that they never relinquished, earning the 59-51 victory on the road. 

Senior guards in Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III commandeered Duquesne to victory, as Grant led with 13 points and made three steals, while Clark scored 12 points and led with four steals. Graduate student forward Fousseyni Drame scored 10 points and made all six of his free throws, as Duquesne converted 18 out of 22 foul shots for an 81.8% mark from the line in the win.

The win is the ninth in the past 12 games overall and the eighth in the past 11 A-10 games for the Dukes, who now stand at 18-11 overall and 8-8 in conference play. After losing their first five games in the Atlantic-10, the Dukes now are positioning themselves for a First-Round bye and a potential top six-seven finish.

Duquesne vs. VCU History

VCU leads the all-time series 8-2 over Duquesne since they joined the Atlantic-10 conference prior to the 2012-13 season.

Despite the lop-sided affair, the Dukes have won two out of the past three meetings, after the Rams put together seven consecutive victories from 2013-19. The Dukes won 80-77 in overtime in March 2020 and 79-70 last season in January 2023.

VCU holds a 4-1 record at the Spiegel Center and has a victory in the last meeting there against Duquesne, 71-62 in February 2022.

VCU Outlook

VCU started out A-10 play with two losses at home to St. Bonaventure and George Washington, but picked it up with winning streaks of four games and five games in a stretch of nine wins out of 10 to improve to 9-3 by mid-February. During that time, they picked up wins against the top three teams in the conference in Loyola Chicago on Jan. 23, in-city rival Richmond on Feb. 3 and then ranked No. 18 Dayton on Feb. 9, all at home.

They have split their past four games, beating Saint Joseph’s and Rhode Island at home, but suffering a blowout defeat to UMass, 74-52 on Feb. 20 on the road and losing their last game to Richmond at Robbins Center on Saturday.

The losses for the Rams keep them from winning an A-10 regular season title, but they still hold an 11-5 record, good for fourth best in the conference.

VCU went into the transfer portal this offseason and while it took a while for everyone to benefit the team on the court, it’s all coming together at the right time.

The program hired Ryan Odom as their new head coach starting this season. Odom came from Utah State and brought two talented players with him in senior guard Max Shulga and graduate student forward Sean Bairstow.

Shulga leads the team scoring 15.0 points per game, good to rank tied for 12th best in the A-10. The Ukrainain is an excellent shooter from behind the arc, making 2.5 3-pointers per game and shooting 41.6% from 3-point range, fourth and seventh best in the conference.

Bairstow suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot during practice in mid-October, forcing him to miss the first 11 games of the season and not play until late December. The Australian has served as one of the best players on the team since his return, ranking third in A-10 play with 4.6 assists per game to lead the team and No. 9 in conference play with a 2.2 assist/turnover ratio.

Senior guard Joe Bamisile didn’t make his appearance until late December, but unlike Bairstow, his had to deal with a transfer issue. Coming back home to Virginia for his fourth school in four years, (Virginia Tech, George Washington, Oklahoma), the NCAA chose not to award him a waiver to play, after doing so when he went from GW to Oklahoma.

Duquesne's 2024 March Madness Tournament coverage is sponsored by Leon's Billiards & More, Moon Golf Club and Archie's on Carson! Their contributions have allowed us to cover the Dukes run in Omaha, Nebraska. We appreciate their support!

He eventually came back after missing the first 10 games, thanks to a ruling that stopped the NCAA’s year in-residency requirement. Bamisile is second on the team scoring 13.5 points per game in A-10 play and excels from behind the arc, making 2.6 3-pointers per game and shooting 40.6% from deep, ranked tied for third best and No. 14 in A-10 play, respectively

Sophomore forward Toibu “Tobi” Lawal is an incredibly effective player for the Rams, leading the conference by shooting 67.9% from the field and the team with 5.9 rebounds per game as well, 14th best in the A-10. The British forward also ranks tied for No. 12 in the A-10 with 1.0 blocks per game.

One important part of the offensive game plan for VCU is allowing senior guard Zeb Jackson to create opportunities for his teammates. He is second in A-10 play with a 3.3 assist/turnover ratio and ranks tied for No. 11 in the conference with 3.6 assists per game. Jackson also is first on the team with 1.3 steals per game, ranked tied for No. 11 in the A-10.

Some other players to watch out for include Cal graduate transfer forward Kuany Kuany, who ranks first in A-10 play shooting 51.6% from 3-point range, as well as sophomore center Christian Fermin, who is eighth in the conference with 1.5 blocks per game.

Keys to Victory for Duquesne

VCU is a great defensive team, ranking No. 3 allowing just 66.8 points per game and an opponent field goal percentage of .405, respectively, No. 1 with an opponent 3-point field goal percentage of .303, No. 4 with 26.7 defensive rebounds per game, No. 3 in opponent rebounds per game at 32.7 and No. 5 in blocks at 4.34 per game.

Duquesne themselves also play great defense. They led the conference allowing opponents to shoot 28.6% from behind the arc, No. 3 in opponent scoring at 66.8 points per game and No. 6 in opponent field goal percentage at .429, all in A-10 play. Duquesne also ranks third with 7.31 steals and 4.40 blocks per game, respectively, in A-10 play.

The Dukes are 14-1 this season when they hold an opponent to under 70 points and 70-17 in Keith Dambrot’s seven seasons as head coach.

A low scoring affair is something that Duquesne is comfortable with and not afraid to engage any opponent in, especially when they have succeeded so far this season.

Clark leads the A-10 with 2.3 steals per game and will need to continue to perform exceptionally on the defensive end. Same goes for forwards in graduate students Dusan Mahorcic and Drame, senior Tre Williams and sophomore David Dixon, who is sixth in the A-10 with 1.7 blocks per game.

If the Dukes contain players like Bairstow, Schulga, Bamisile and others, they’ll just need to stay efficient offensively to get the win.

A-10 Tournament Implications

The Atlantic-10 Tournament takes place next week at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. after the conclusion of regular season games this weekend.

Duquesne comes into this game tied with St. Joe’s with an 8-8 record, but Duquesne has the tie-breaker due to St. Joe’s losing twice to top of the standings Loyola Chicago and them only losing once, giving them the No. 7 seed.

A win against VCU and then a likely one against bottom of the standings George Washington on Saturday would put Duquesne at 10-8 on the season, making it back-to-back years with double digit wins in conference play. They also have a chance to finish as high as sixth, depending on how St. Bonaventure and St. Joe’s do this weekend.

If VCU wins one game this week, they ensure a top four spot and a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament. Two wins for VCU this week and they have a chance to finish as high as No. 2, but two losses and they could miss out on that double-bye.

Odds

Duquesne come in as underdogs as this matchup, with ESPNBet and FanDuel putting them as +5.5 underdogs against VCU.

How to Watch/Tip-Off

No television, outside of MASN in the Richmond area, for this game. ESPN+ will broadcast the game for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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