I don’t understand the point in formulating a strong opinion one way or another after the Duquesne vs Clarion scrimmage. Sure we can learn some things like who will play and how well the team has adjusted to the increased tempo. I can tell Jeremiah Jones has gotten better at the FT line. However, I don’t want to make conclusions about how good or bad the team will play based on one game against a Division II school. Yes, the defense looked bad and the turnovers were gratuitous at times, but its not worth worrying about for now.
The Dukes struggled to defend Saturday and I won’t argue to the contrary. However, there are three reasons why I take their play with a grain of salt. First, Jim Ferry didn’t coach the game the way he normally would have. The Dukes went 2-3 in the second half and clearly, it wasn’t working. In the regular season, Ferry would call a timeout and go back to the relatively better man to man they played in the first half. However, he stuck with the zone just to get the reps in. It doesn’t matter that the Eagles matched the Dukes scoring wise for the first twenty minutes of the second half. The 2-3 clearly needed practice and practice it they did.
Some of the soft defense we saw on Saturday probably had something to do with the new emphasis on defenders keeping their hands off ball handlers. Merely touching an offensive player will draw a foul and players must adjust the way they defend. This won’t happen overnight and in general, scoring numbers have increased in these scrimmages for our conference mates. Though not a good defensive team to begin with, Dayton has allowed an average of 74.5 points per game in their two D-II exhibitions, 7.8 points higher than they did against D-I schools last year. Cal U scored 54 points against VCU this weekend. While that doesn’t seem like a lot of points, consider that Wichita St scored only 53 in their win against the Rams and Florida Gulf Coast’s Dunk City only managed 57.
I’m also not certain the Dukes gave their best effort yesterday especially after going up 20 at the half. Don’t get me wrong, they played hard and physically, but I feel like I’ve seen several Dukes hit a higher gear.
Yesterday, I looked turnovers quantifiable and today, I took the qualitative approach. I’ve said it in the past, the turnovers under Ferry will frustrate us but they come as part of the risk his system requires to create easy baskets. While the team did turn it over a number of times in transitions Saturday, it worked a lot more than it failed. The Dukes had fifteen fast break baskets and not all of the turnovers happened in transition or even because the Dukes pushed the tempo. Some happened in the half court because a player went one way and the ball went the other. I recall one instance where Gill started moving towards the hoop and Ridenour passed the ball behind him anticipating an open three for the young forward. Ridenour passed to the spot where Gill should have gone but was credited with the turnover when he wasn’t there. Another turnover happened when Ridenour’s pass didn’t bounce high enough for Dominique McKoy to catch it and ultimately do something with it. In the end, a lot of the turnovers where a product of chemistry and system not the lack of skill. I suspect both will get better as the season moves along.
Some might view this post as excuse making. I see it more as an explanation. That said, I don’t see any reason to make an excuse about what the Dukes did in a scrimmage. Again, this was practice. The results didn’t matter. Only the improvements do. If we continue to see these issues when the Dukes face WVU, I’ll begin to worry. Until then, it’s just part of the process.