The Dukes opened up their 2015-16 men’s basketball season on their home court hoping to delight their home fans with an impressive performance against Division II-opponent Seton Hill.
Duquesne got off to a nice start – at least the scoreboard thought so, showing the Dukes running out to a 20-4 lead. However, the scoreboard didn’t tell the whole story as Duquesne came out a little rusty in the first half. The Red & Blue overcame those rough patches as they eventually went on to win 96-71. The three important takeaways lied in the defense, the depth, and the big man.
The defense did well suffocating the Griffins as they only shot 31 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the arc in the first half. Head coach Jim Ferry was pleased with the defensive effort after the game, but was disappointed that his team let up slightly in the second half. In that last 20, Seton Hill was able to shoot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line, but some credit needs to go to the Griffins for converting on their opportunities.
Ferry focused all off-season on the defensive side of the ball and it definitely showed in that first half. There was certainly a lag in the later part of the game, but the Dukes still held Seton Hill to 38 percent shooting from the field. If the Red & Blue can continue to stifle offenses like this going forward, they will be able to compete with even the best teams in the A-10.
The offensive spark came from an unlikely place. It was sophomore Eric James with his 14 points off the bench that helped bring the Duquesne offense to life. A season ago, James struggled with his shooting averaging just 4.6 points per game in his freshman season.
“I thought Eric did a great job. I thought he brought great energy for us,” Ferry said. “We have been talking to Eric about shot selection, because he’s more than just a shooter … He’s got to start using his length and attack and attack the offensive glass.”
James is a small forward, but against smaller teams such as Seton Hill he can be very effective as a stretch four standing at 6’5 with great length. Therefore, if James can maintain a strong scoring output like he did Friday night, the Dukes are going to have a versatile scorer coming off the bench, which is something they lacked a season ago.
Combine James with Butler transfer Rene Castro, sophomore TySean Powell and freshmen Josh Steel and Nakye Sanders, and Duquesne suddenly has a great deal of talent coming off the bench.
The third take away from the win over Seton Hill was the dominance of Darius Lewis. Lewis had a career high 15 points and accumulated 11 boards as well. The height advantage for Lewis was probably a big factor at 6-foot-11 compared to the Griffins’ tallest players, a few inches shorter at 6-foot-8. However, Lewis looks to have improved his game significantly regardless of the opposition.
In 2014-2015, Lewis averaged a mere 3.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and looked nothing short of awkward any time the ball was in his hands. This season he looks composed, strong, and confident with the ball. Lewis can most certainly be the X-factor for Duquesne this season.
Ultimately it was win number one for Duquesne, but they will most definitely take it. A team that only won 12 games a season ago seems to have vastly improved. However, the Dukes will need to take on some tougher competition before they can prove to be real threats for teams like Rhode Island, Dayton, and Davidson.
*Originally published Nov. 15 for The Duquesne Duke Student Newspaper*