Sophomore forward TySean Powell gets in a heated exchange with a few Pitt players. (Photo Courtesy of Joseph Guzy- The Duquesne Duke)
The Dukes rolled to a 6-1 start to begin the season and it seemed everyone was drinking the Duquesne basketball Kool-Aid. The hype around the City Game was at an all-time high since the beginning of the Coach Jim Ferry era. This was finally going to be the game where Duquesne ended Pitt’s 14-game win streak, right? Not so fast.
They got thumped right from the start falling behind 28-6 in the opening eight minutes and that 6-1 record suddenly didn’t look so impressive. Duquesne looked like well— the same old Duquesne team that has now lost 15 straight contests against the rival Panthers. They looked like the same team that blew late leads versus St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island a year ago.
This game showed that Duquesne is still not ready to defend at a high enough level to play with schools of Pitt’s caliber. Allowing 96 points is unacceptable in college basketball no matter who the opponent is. Duquesne played soft while being out hustled, out coached, and outplayed. It’s that simple. Pittsburgh was the better team and it showed.
If the Dukes are going to take a step forward they need to finally show up in a big game on a big stage. They need to play ball hawking, inspired defense for a full forty minutes. They need to prove to themselves more than anyone else that they are capable of beating these high quality opponents.
As Ferry stressed in the postgame, this game certainly won’t define Duquesne’s season. The Dukes still own a 6-2 record and they remain a talented Atlantic 10 team. However, if they want to compete for an A10 Championship, they better start playing some more inspired basketball in meaningful games.
They better bounce back quickly and put a hurt on the 1-7 UMBC Retrievers in their next game. And then they better follow that up by downing the Saint Francis Red Flash who they lost to last season. That game against Saint Francis is a chance for them to prove to everyone and to themselves that they are not the same old Duquesne team that has consistently finished near the bottom of the A10.
The combination of this being Duquesne’s most talented team in years and the underwhelming performance that unfolded on the court may lead people to believe that this rivalry has faded and won’t be back. But don’t count them out for good just yet. Pitt plays in the ACC and will have the more talented roster year after year, but Red & Blue fans should stay optimistic.
The leading scorer for Duquesne in this year’s game, Eric James, is only a sophomore and so is fellow Ohio native TySean Powell who also scored in double figures. These two proved Friday night that they can step up on the big stage and they are only going to improve. Also, Nebraska transfer Tarin Smith will be eligible next season and will be crucial in covering for the absences of Derrick Colter and Micah Mason. Coming over from the Big 10, Smith is another guy who will not shy away from the bright lights.
The Panthers win streak in the City Game was never in jeopardy, in fact, the only lead the Dukes held the entire game was 1-0, which was the result of a Micah Mason technical free throw before the opening tip even occurred.
However, there is still a lot of season left for the Red & Blue to prove this is a new era of Duquesne basketball— not the same old team from last year. And next year will be another chance for them to hoist that City Game trophy and put an end to the streak. Maybe next year Dukes fans... maybe next year.