Dukes Season Ends at Oregon

It is fitting that the final seconds of the 2010-11 Duquesne Dukes mens’ basketball season were sealed with the two primary shortcomings of the team. Down three with 1:54 remaining on the clock Oregon possessed the ball with a chance to get a basket and control the clock. What occurred was an all out defensive effort by the Dukes making sure to contest every shot.

There was only one problem. After running the shot clock down Oregon guard Malcolm Armstead put up a shot, which missed but was corralled by the Ducks allowing them to run more clock culminating in another shot which was grabbed off once more by Oregon.

Finally another miss was rebounded by T.J. McConnell who outletted the ball quickly resulting in a Bill Clark layup with 10 seconds left to play. The Dukes, one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation, allowed Oregon to run 1:40 on the clock in one possession essentially sealing their fate.

The Clark layup briefly gave the Dukes a reprieve. Following a foul of Oregon forward E.J. Singler and two made free throws, the Dukes had 7 seconds to tie the game with a three point shot. In that possession, Sean Johnson cleverly used his deceptive shot fake to get Oregon’s Armstead off his feet leading to a shooting foul and three foul shots.

Johnson was then on the line with the ability to tie the game. The former New York City Catholic League MVP, who led his team to a league title in high school, missed the first attempt complicating matters for the Dukes. He would go on the make the second and miss the third on purpose with the hopes of a Duke scooping up the ball and making a game tying shot. No such luck.

Johnson’s miss was reminiscent of the two free throws he missed in the quarterfinal game against St. Joseph’s with Duquesne up two which could have effectively sealed the game for the Dukes. These failures at the charity stripe are glaring examples of a team that ranked among the dregs of Division I in free throw shooting percentage. Poor Defensive rebounding and abominable foul shooting were the markers of what could have been for this Duquesne club. Its a fitting denouement to a down-and-up and-back-down campaign.

Choruses of “what could have been” are sure to echo through Dukes nation. Were the team able to knock down free throws it would have earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1977 with potential wins over West Virginia, Penn State and George Mason.

While it is easy to point to Johnson’s miss, it should be noted that it was his first free throw of the night which is typically the most difficult to make and it was only one of eight attempts compared to 26 for the Ducks. It seems the home team was favored by the officials which is an all to familiar sight for mid-major teams who receive travel compensation to play at a big time school. The home cooking is what won this game for Oregon. All other factors can be taken into account but the uneven officiating stands out as the deciding factor. If the calls were more even, the Dukes would have been victorious despite being a poor foul shooting team. Nobody can tell me differently.

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