In spite of Duquesne’s four games winning streak, fans generally seem disappointed that the Dukes are 7-5 right now and with good reason. They went 0-4 against other local teams, lost to a 300 + RPI New Hampshire, and looked bad for stretches against bad opponents. However, I think the real reason to be disappointed is that the Dukes easily could have turned many of their losses into wins.
The Dukes have been in every game they’ve lost having led or tied each contest in the second half save for one. Duquesne secured an advantage as large as five after the break against UNH and found themselves ahead as late as the 1:26 mark. West Virginia only had a one possession lead heading into the final eight minutes of play before the Dukes’ defense melted down. They handed Pitt their first second half deficit of the season before the Panthers caught fire and took the game over. When I look at everything in the Penn St box score except Duquesne’s shooting percentages, I still can’t fathom how they lost that one. The County Game stayed tight the entire second half but the Dukes just couldn’t capitalize on some great opportunities. A second half possession or two that goes the Dukes way has the potential to swing any of those outcomes.
On a positive note, the weaknesses the Dukes displayed in their loses have shown signs of improvement. The ball movement is getting better. The defense is getting better. Players seem more familiar with one another and Jim Ferry finally seems like he has his lineup figured out. We knew coming into the season that Duquesne would have a learning curve with so many new players coming together and they’ve shown signs that the system makes more sense to them now.
I cautioned people not to get too bullish with their expectations for Duquesne after the schedule came out because I knew they’d have some issues to work through as a young and unfamiliar group. When I look at where the Dukes are at right now, they’re one loss short of their worst case scenario, but I’m ultimately not tremendously surprised they find themselves there. They could have lost to Albany or after the really bad first half in Loretto against the Red Flash. Then again they could have beaten one, two or even three of UNH, West Virginia, Penn St and Robert Morris. Right now, the line between 7-5 and 10-2 is a fine one. Too bad for that learning curve.