Dukes Suffer Diappointing Loss in City Game

If I had written this last night, it would have been an emotionally charged piece with prose that can likely be choppy and incoherent. I wanted to avoid that so I am writing on the day after to hopefully provide a more thoughtful analysis of what went down. Pitt came back from a 16 point deficit with 17 and a half minutes left to play but they came all the way back. In his post game press conference Ron Everhart summed up his players performance in the second half well. He said “I thought our kids gave a great effort–I didn’t think we were the most intelligent team in the world tonight…and we did all night.”

The first half of this game rendered my pregame analysis almost moot, but then the second half happened. I stated yesterday that if either of these teams shoot the lights out, that team will win. For the first 23 minutes of the game that was the case and it looked like the Dukes were going to pull off the victory. The final shooting percentages averaged out to be 33.9% for Pitt and 31.8% for Duquesne, so it turned out I was right although I didn’t want to be. Right around that 17 minute mark the Panthers switched to a 2-3 zone which was a rather counter intuitive move in retrospect. A team has been raining threes over your head for the entire game and perhaps the best way to defeat a 2-3 with only 2 perimeter defenders is to shoot over top of it. Shoot the Dukes did for the remainder of regulation and the overtimes. Another way to attack a 2-3 is to get the ball in the middle and make the defenders move to open lanes for cutters and potential open shots. That’s where the basketball IQ or lack there of in this case kicks in. It seemed as if the Dukes were just standing around and waiting for the game to come to them rather then taking over the game.

It is likely that the root cause of the failure to attack the zone in the second half was fatigue. The Dukes called the number of eight guys, two of which played for a total of 10 minutes and Rodrigo Peggau steeped up and played 27. So, six players played a total of 240 of 250 total floor minutes in the game yesterday. Now, had coach Everhart read his Dukes Hoops Digest he could have taken my advice and play his bench guys more, especially Sean Johnson. (Note: I totally forgot about Peggau, P-G beat writer Colin Dunlap reported he didn’t play on Sunday because of a sore knee, so I didn’t expect him to make such a big splash–silly me.) If a team’s goal is to run, then there must be enough guys that can go out there and spell the starters. That simply didn’t happen, the Dukes got tired and started missing their shots.

I implied in the last paragraph the Duquesne’s goal was to run, which apparently it wasn’t. Ken Pomeroy’s site reveals that the pace of the game yesterday was 56 possessions per 40 minutes which is not how the Dukes should be playing. Right now they may not have a choice with a number of players still wet behind the ears, but mark my words: if the Dukes don’t start pushing the tempo as they head toward conference play there will be trouble. I assume that Everhart and the coaches are trying to break in the new guys so that when they begin to play bigger minutes they will be ready to contribute. That may be the correct strategy, looking at Peggau’s performance yesterday. The Brazilian has waited along time to get his shot and performed well on a big stage.

Another key concern for the Dukes yesterday was the lack of a pressence of Damian Saunders. I surmised yesterday that Duquesne would have an edge with Saunders over McGhee, but they played pretty much to a draw while McGhee was able to come up big when Saunders fouled out. Now, Damian fouled out of yesterday’s ballgame with the help of at least three suspect calls. That seems to be a problem for the Dukes’ lead post player. He gets called for fouls that he often didn’t commit or simply weren’t there. I don’t expect that story line to fade in the near future, so again I would implore the coaches to get him some game time help with Oliver Lewison and Morakinyo Williams, if only to give Saunders a break. His shoulders are broad but he can’t carry the load all by himself. He simply is not the kind of offensive player that can get the ball on the block and score. Such a presence for this team would be a huge addition.

Speaking of foul trouble, I also mentioned in the preview a key stat would be free throw attempts, and such was the case. Pitt went a pathetic 23-42 from the line but they made more free throws than the Dukes even attempted. The Dukes posted a 7 of 14 mark giving the Panthers a +16 margin which was more than the nine point difference on the final score sheet. Simply put, Duquesne took too many fouls and didn’t draw enough fouls, and they likely lost the game because of it.

I was really hoping during the game that I would be wrong, and the Dukes would just continue to shoot the lights out as they had done in the first half. However, with every three pointer jacked up in the second half my mind went to the same place. That place is one of fear and dread, I just foresaw the end and it was not pretty. Taking those lazy shots and not working to get anything going against that zone made my premonitions come true, and how I wish it were not so. Maybe next year guys.

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