Around The A-10: Nov. 30

St. Joe’s Falls to Rider: There was only one Atlantic 10 team to play today. That team St. Joe’s lost to Rider College by a score of 81-73. St. Joe’s went out to an early lead but a late first half run put the Broncs of Rider ahead and the lead oscillated from there on out. The Hawks went on a 12-0 run but then gave up a 14-1 run en route to a loss. This game falls in line with the recent tendency for St. Joe’s to not sustain offensive success. With this defeat, the Hawks fall to 3-3 and notch their third straight loss. Their biggest issue seems to be a lack of offense from their big men with the departure of all league performer Ahmad Nivins. The Hawks have posted a pathetic 43.9 % shooting from inside the arc. St. Joe’s will face reigning Ivy league champion Cornell on Sunday in Ithaca which means it won’t get easier for St. Joe’s fans.

Dukes Overcome Radford

On Sunday, the Dukes overcome a strong challenge by Radford which played with Duquesne for much of the game. B.J. Montiero put forth his biggest scoring effort of his short career with 21 points going 9-14 from the field (2-3 from three) and Damian Saunders chipped in 14 points accompanied by 16 rebounds. Monteiro and Saunders led the effort with valuable contributions by Eric Evans (11-2-6) and Bill Clark (14-6-2) culminating in a 71-63 victory.

The contest was much closer than the score may suggest. It was not until about five minutes in to the second half that the Dukes took control of the game for good. At 14:14 remaining the Duquesne lead stood at two points (37-35), from that point on the Dukes outscored the Highlanders 44-28. The top performers for Radford included 6’11” Belorussian center Art Parakhouski who posted a 26-20 line, shooting guard Blake Smith who scored 14 points and Pittsburgh native Amir Johnson who chipped in 9 assists and effectively ran the point for the Highlanders posting only two turnovers.

The Radford scoring attack can be hardly considered balanced. Adding Parakhouski’s 26 and Smith’s 14  accounts for over half of the Highlanders points scored. Parakhouski has a favorable match-up against 6’7″ Saunders and the Dukes fouled the center multiple times which accounted for 7 of his points. Nonetheless the Dukes put up a strong effort defensively against Parakhouski often blocking his shot and usually limiting him to one shot. Overall, the Dukes defensive effort was at a maximum with players shifting well and giving Saunders help down low on the opposing center (including a Bill Clark block).

A possible chink in the Dukes’ defensive armor may be Jason Duty who seems to be incapable of guarding most two-guards. His issue seems to be lack of foot speed since his effort appeared to be at a maximum. Duty’s inadaquacies were especially noticeable with the defensive performance of freshman Sean Johnson who helped spur the Dukes rally in the second half. Altogether, Sunday’s game was a good sign after the two previous games which showed some sign of concern for the Duquesne defense giving up an effective field goal percentage of 44.1 against Arkansas-Monticello and 58 percent for Western Carolina. Sunday’s performance seems to indicate the troubles experienced in those games was fatigue related due to playing three games in three consecutive days.

On the other side of the court, the Dukes put forth a bipolar effort. In the first half, the Dukes plodded along running a robotic motion offense as they all too often do. However in the second half Everhart took off the reigns and let his guys play which was the biggest factor in changing the momentum of the game. The first half was marked by long drawn out possessions with much shooting indecision. The second half however was a run and gun affair where Duquesne was able to control the tempo and let the superior athletes take over the game and thereby tiring Parakhouski who quickly went from 1 to 4 fouls. Nonetheless the 6’11” center played all 40 minutes.

Watching the games against Iowa on TV and Radford in person I remained infuriated by the coaches insistence on running the motion offense, when that is clearly not what the Dukes should be doing with the ball. Everhart has recruited during his tenure players that are superior athletes and are lacking in either size or skill. Thus it is to the Dukes advantage to let their players exploit other teams by demonstrating superior athleticism. The Dukes however are not just pure athletes, they can as evidenced by the game on Sunday move without the ball effectively and also make quality passes (especially outlet passes). Going forward this is one of the major improvements that can be made, and all that is necessary is the coach letting his guys play.

Similarly, room for improvement can be found on the foul line where the Dukes shot a paltry 18 of 34. Duquesne remains awful from the charity stripe giving little credence to that moniker. Coach Everhart needs to work his players hard at the line. If he does not, I fear that the Dukes will give up many winnable games especially against league opponents because of this inadequacy.  There was much good and some bad that came out of Sunday’s game but the Dukes came out victorious winning a game they should have won.