Well, that was unexpected...Penn State fans who disagree with me on Twitter be damned.
After coasting by Seton Hill and New Orleans to start the season, Duquesne delivered its closest possible thing to a statement for this season Friday night with a 78-52 victory against Penn State that pushed them to 3-0 on the season. I didn't do one of these the first two games because...well, there really wasn't a whole lot to be drawn from those wins, both of which followed a familiar script. But expect them from now on for any game I cover in person.
And we're off.
Turning point: The run started in the first half, so it may have been then, but the Dukes made their first five shots of the second half, all of them 3s, to push what was an 11-point lead coming out of halftime to a 22-point advantage that, even then, you had a hard time believing could be undone. It was an emphatic final punch of a 20-2 run that visibly flattened Penn State and took it out of the game with a good amount of time to spare.
Game ball: Though he didn't have much to say about it afterward -- damn you and your guarded personality, DC -- it has to be Derrick Colter. The senior guard tied a career-high with 26 points and made six of his nine 3-pointers and, most important, helped push the pace against a team that didn't want to get in a track meet with the Dukes. Simply put, he set the tone for a night in which little went wrong.
What it means: It's early in the season, a caveat I'll use probably more than you all care to stomach, but in this tiny little vacuum in which we inhabit right now, this feels pretty important. The Dukes could only prove so much against teams like Seton Hill and New Orleans, and they didn't do anything particularly revelatory in those, but against a Big Ten team, albeit Penn State, a 26-point win is a statement. Jim Ferry has spoken a lot to me and others in the media about how this is going to be a turnaround season. The evidence we have so far to back that up is naturally pretty thin with just three games, but Duquesne looked like a team poised to make a big leap. They were in a trance offensively, they were as aggressive and intense on defense as I've ever seen them and they completely undressed the kind of opponent who has beaten them consistently the past three years. By the end of the season, this win may stand as nothing more than a thumping of a really bad team, but for the time being, it feels like something more.
What's next: A matchup with Pepperdine, a team that, despite the lack of a major-conference pedigree, will be the Dukes' toughest opponent yet. That will be followed by two more games in the Gulf Coast Showcase against opponents TBD.