This morning, I didn’t think the Dukes had much of a chance to lose against Longwood. With seven minutes to go, I didn’t think the Dukes had much of chance to win. Then, they did.
I could probably just hit the publish button after that last paragraph, but I think our readers deserve more insight.
How do you eliminate a fifteen point deficit? Going on a 16-0 run is the most concise way to do it, and that’s just what the Dukes did. I didn’t like much about this game until seven minute to go when the Dukes finally got their groove back. The press was outstanding, and all those open shots that Duquesne created throughout the game started falling.
Shot Selection. Without Michael Hughes, it felt like the Dukes forgot everything they learned in practice about pushing the ball inside. Only nine of their twenty – eight first half shots came from inside the arc. For some teams, that’s fine, but I don’t think this year’s version of Duquesne basketball shoots well enough from the perimeter for that density of jumpers.
Player of the Game
Eric Williams snapped out of his mini – funk. Another double – double. The man isn’t going to be a star. He is a star. I’d love to see more of Lamar Norman, Jr. who played a great game today, but Williams is just too good to yield any more minutes.
The Turning Point
The Dukes had closed the gap once to six already in the second half and the Lancers came roaring back to extend it to fifteen. Even after the Dukes took the lead, it felt like anyone’s game until Duquesne extended their advantage to two possessions on a Norman layup with around three minutes left. Once they did, they mostly took control of the game.
When I Knew It Was Over
After a grueling 33 minute beat down, I didn’t really relax until Shabooty Phillips went 1-3 from the free throw line with twenty – two seconds left. In reality, it was over sooner, but given the circumstances, I was understandably on edge.
Credit Where It’s Due
It’s easy to look at a matchup preseason and chalk it up as an easy win based on how that team did last year and in the past. However, we forget why they set the record back to 0-0 sometimes. Players mature and get better. Newcomers contribute more than anticipated. Another year of experience goes a long way for a cohort. Teams just get better and each year, they get a fresh start. Longwood got their fresh start and at 7-4, they’re making the most out of it. I think this program is finally taking steps forward this season after years of struggles.
What We Learned
I want to mention how crazy out of sync Duquesne gets when the rotation is altered in any way. They really struggled against Pitt without Marcus Weathers, and now today, they faltered without Hughes. This is such a deep team, so I would think they could absorb the personnel losses better than average. Of course, when you play eleven and your other two players have yet to play this season, I guess there isn’t much room for error.
The Dukes stole a game that was almost stolen from them. They earned their third late comeback win of the season, and while that’s tremendously exciting, they will get burnt if they keep playing with fire. This team’s ceiling appears higher than initially thought and now that they’ve made it through their first eight relatively unscathed and in the top 100 RPI, each game becomes more and more important. I don’t think they have an at-large bid in the immediate future by any stretch of the imagination, but over a quarter of the way through the season, I’d put the Dukes solidly on the NIT bubble. They can’t afford to let any game they’re heavily favored in slip through their fingers.