If you had Radford and NJIT down as the Dukes toughest non-conference opponents preseason, you win the prize.
Actually, there is no prize, but I guess there should be. The Highlanders were as advertised and their top 60 RPI heading into the game looks well earned. They were a cohesive, experienced unit that shared the ball impeccably, hustled, and just played forty minutes of disciplined basketball.
Duquesne turned over a team that generally doesn’t turn the ball over much. NJIT came into the game conceding roughly eleven a game. The Dukes forced forced twenty – one.
The Dukes’ shooting was bad. Shot selection wasn’t great, but the Dukes didn’t finish even when they had some decent to easy opportunities. Three point shooting was particularly rough going an even 21.4% in both halves.
Player of the Game
I’ll give the game ball to Abdoul Lewis of NJIT. He only had eleven points, but his six assists earned him player of the game with an honorable mention going to his teammates for making sharp cuts all game. The Dukes game planned around him defensively with some weird help traps that often brought their four WAY out of position. He turned the ball over, but he also found the open man.
The Turning Point
The Dukes were down seven with Marcus Weathers heading to the line for two with roughly five minutes to go. Despite being down by three possessions, I thought the Dukes still had some momentum on their side. Weathers missed both and NJIT really took control of the game for the next three minutes.
When I Knew It Was Over
The Dukes were down twelve with 3:37 left and Michael Hughes traveled to turn the ball over. The Dukes took good care of the ball for most of the game but coughed it up at some key moments that really stifled their chances. This one was the last and sealed their fate.
Credit Where It’s Due
NJIT’s much closer to their RPI than to their Kenpom ranking. They’ve won 12 games already and for a reason; they’re really good. I put them in the top 4 or 5 in the A-10 this season and they played a just a brilliant game today despite their turnovers.
It’s rough losing to a program that’s most known for its extended losing streak, but make no mistake, they’ve come a long way. I’m still pretty encouraged by the Dukes’ preseason. They’ll start Atlantic 10 play around the 130 mark with decent wins over Radford and Marshall. They also gave themselves a shot to win every game except the city game. Three of their losses came against BCS programs and today to the Highlands who now sit 45th in the RPI. I’ll probably provide a more thorough recap of the Dukes non-conference schedule later this week, but I’m not hating. 9-4 is about what I expected.