I want to start this piece by differentiating between program building wins and program defining wins. Too often, we associate program building wins with huge upsets against ranked schools. In theory that win leads to bigger things like becoming a recruiting point or providing confidence leading to more wins. I think we’ve seen on a number of occasions that those things rarely translate from upsets. Those types of wins are more aptly described as program defining wins. They’re the games you still talk about at the bar forty years later or that you remember where you were or who you were with when you watched them. Program defining wins become part of a school’s, player’s and coach’s legacy. Yesterday’s victory by men’s football against Towson was program defining for example.
Today’s win against UMass – Lowell was not program defining, but it was program building. 11 players contributed to this win in meaningful situations. No one played more than than 27 minutes and nine players accumulated double digit PT. For me, teams and programs don’t grow by dumping players in during the finals three minutes of a game that has gotten completely out of hand. They grow when players need to contribute in important situations. Lots of freshman got that opportunity today.
The Turnovers. The Dukes’ defense was humming and aggressively pursuing turnovers from the opening whistle resulting in 15 steals. Interestingly, only a handful came before UMass-Lowell crossed the time line and most happened in the half court or as the half court was setting up. Grant it, some aggressive whiffs on interceptions or loose balls led to some easy baskets for the River Hawks, but the turnovers led to points as well. Dukes were +20 in points off turnovers.
-The Turnovers. Two things kept this game close. I don’t like to blame losses on the refs but I will blame them for making this outing more of a contest than it should have been thanks to some questionable second half calls that sent UMass-Lowell to the line and took points off the board for the Dukes. The second was turnovers. The Dukes turned River Hawks over twenty – three times but only managed five extra FG attempts in the game. That’s because they coughed it back up seventeen times.
Player of the Game
Michael Hughes reminds me a little more of Ovie Soko every game. He rebounds like Ovie. He competes like Ovie. He has that nice midrange like Ovie. Now, I’m starting to see him play the role of the class clown like Ovie. Hughes led the Dukes in minutes by keeping himself out of foul trouble and he delivered as many assists as personal fouls. He made most of his shots from the field and the line.
This game was back and forth early, but a made three and a dunk on back to back possessions around nine minutes in by Marcus Weathers gave the Dukes space they could build on.
When I Knew It Was Over
The Dukes held the ball for almost sixty seconds with roughly two minutes remaining in the game. I never thought the result was truly in doubt, but Duquesne took away at least one River Hawk possession during that stretch. Strange feeling having confidence with a late lead in a tightening game.
Credit Where It’s Due
The River Hawks have some players who can shoot and they had all the momentum of the world pushing their point total towards Duquesne’s in the final ten. They did not give up even if they came up fairly well short.
What We Learned
The post is developing and getting deeper. Michael Hughes established himself as a reliable scoring threat within six feet. Weathers and Austin Rotroff chipped in solid minutes as well, maybe the best for both. We also see Amari Kelly and Gavin Bizeau looking a little more comfortable than last time. Kelly, in particular, looks like he could step into a larger role than a two minutes appearance at the end of the first half when M Hughes gets into foul trouble and Rotroff tires.
Program building wins are sometimes ugly wins and while this one had a shot at being a blow out, the program and players will have learned a little more on how to close games out. I’m not excited about this win, but I am excited about the steps this program is took forward.