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Ferry calls Smart incident 'appalling,' previews Richmond

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

Duquesne coach Jim Ferry joined the weekly A-10 teleconference Monday morning to touch on a few college basketball matters and preview the Dukes' Wednesday night matchup against Richmond (15-8, 5-3 Atlantic 10).

Following right behind VCU coach Shaka Smart, Ferry started off with his thoughts on the Marcus Smart incident, in which the Oklahoma State star pushed a fan after being provoked late in a loss against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. Smart was suspended for three games.

On Smart incident ...

"I'd like to echo what Shaka had to say. The incident with the kid Smart at Oklahoma State, I'm actually surprised it doesn't happen more. We speak to our student athletes about this all the time. I really think it's starting to get out of control, especially here in February, in the heat of the battle, everybody's fighting for something. I think that was appalling — by an adult. Obviously, the kid made a poor decision, but we've got to make sure stuff like that doesn't happen in our conference. I think this is a great conference. I think the schools really care about each other; I think this group of coaches in this league is great coaches, great people. I think everybody really cares about the league, and that's something I think could be helped. I think it needs to be addressed a little bit stronger. It's just not good for our game. I don't think it's fair that you've got these kids from 18 to 21 dealing with a lot of pressure — you've got Twitter, you've got Facebook, kids getting attacked — and then you have something being said to a kid like that. We've got to be careful that doesn't happen more. I just wanted to echo that; I agree with Shaka.

Opening statement ...

"On our end, basketball-wise, we're not playing real well. I think we were playing a little bit better a couple weeks ago. Offensively, I think more than anything else, we've gotten out of our rhythm. We haven't clicked in these past three games. We're struggling scoring. Obviously teams are getting to know each other a little bit more and are seeing what we are, but we've got to start playing a little more unselfishly. The ball's got to move more. We have the ability to score the ball when we play the right way. Defensively, it's a constant grind in this league because everyone's so talented. We have to defend, and we have to rebound. We've really been hurt on the glass; we've been out-rebounded our last three games, which is such a big factor in winning in this league. I think we've got to clean this stuff up as we get ready for the stretch run, get ready for the conference tournament."

On team's frustration level ...

"We haven't practiced yet since we lost, so I don't have the answer to that in regards to how they [players] are responding. The league is brutal. If I'm correct, I think La Salle might have lost four out of five, and they're a fantastic team — four starters back from a Sweet 16 team. I know Dayton went through a stretch. It's a tough league, and especially where we're at. We're rebuilding our program. We're significantly better than we were last year, but we're obviously not where we want to be or need to be compared to a lot of the teams in this league. Our message is we've got to focus on things we can control, and that's getting better every day. We have to give the kids certain things to grab onto to get better. You can't come in and say, 'We're not doing this, this, this, this, this,' and give them 10, or you're not going to get better at any of them. So, we've really got to focus in on specific things — two things defensively we have to do better, and two things offensively we have to do better. And then hold ourselves accountable for that. I think we'll be fine. We've got a great group of kids. They're playing really hard. It's not anything about effort. It's playing better. We have to do that; we have to play better. We've been up or very, very close in every single league game except for that St. Joe's game. So, we have the ability to compete. Whether it's fatigue, whether it's lack of depth, lack of maturity that's been hurting us, we've got to clean that up."

On necessary offensive fixes ...

"Some of it has to do with the teams we're playing against, what their defensive philosophies are. Some of it has to do with some of the decisions we've been making lately. We haven't really been clicking. I think our point-guard play hasn't been great, though it got a little better the other day. We need some guys off the bench to make some plays for us as well. It can't just be the guys that are starters; I'd contribute some of that to the depth."

On problems Richmond presents ...

"[laugh] A lot. They really defend you. They only give up 65 points per game. Here we are talking about us not playing well offensively, and now we've got to play a really good defensive team. Obviously, coach [Chris] Mooney does a really fantastic job with all their Princeton offense stuff; it's very difficult to prepare for. They lost somebody [Cedrick Lindsay], but they still have the leading scorer in the league in Kendall Anthony, who is just playing phenomenal right now — averaging 20 points per game in league play, with great quickness and great shot-blocking. We've got a lot to prepare for this week. But we've really got to focus on ourselves and make sure we are playing the right way for our team no matter who we're playing against. If we clean that up coming into this game, we'll give ourselves a chance."

On production of Ovie Soko ...

"Ovie's got great versatility for a forward, and I love for our forwards to have that. The ability to drive the basketball from the forward position puts a lot of pressure on teams defensively. That's why we're so good at getting to the foul line. Forwards guarding guys that are driving foul a lot. I think his ability to get to the rim, to get fouled, he finishes offensive rebounds, and he can shoot — he shoots better than people think, he's got a good mid-range game — his total versatility. I think sometimes with Ovie he'll take some bad shots when he doesn't need to; if he just continues to play he'll either get to the foul line or get himself a layup. Sometimes when he takes a bad shot, his shooting percentage comes down. But he has the ability to drive and kick and create for other guys as well. When Ovie's playing well, we're playing well. That's been very obvious throughout the year. I think we've got to play a little bit better around him offensively so he doesn't have to do as much."

On how far Soko's game can expand ...

"He's expanded a lot. His sit-out year, he really expanded a lot. When he came here, UAB had played him as basically a low-post player. He didn't have the freedom to play on the perimeter and drive the basketball. We spent the whole offseason really improving his ball-handling skills, his passing skills, and his shooting skills. He does have a ways to go; he can improve significantly. His future once he leaves college, how good he's going to be, is going to be all dictated by his shooting ability. I think that goes for every kid. How well he can shoot the basketball, and how well he can expand his range and shoot the ball consistently. I think that's farther behind than other part of his game right now."


Stephen J. Nesbitt:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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