A season once filled with a good deal of promise – something that feels like a distant memory at this point – continued to unravel Wednesday night for Duquesne, as it fell to Fordham at home, 78-69.
It was the team’s eighth-consecutive loss, putting it at .500 one month after being 15-7.
Turning point: Duquesne grabbed a 63-60 lead after a 3-pointer from L.G. Gill, but Fordham, and guard Mandell Thomas, responded with a final surge. Thomas made 3s on three of the Rams’ next four possessions, giving them a six-point cushion that grew into an 11-point lead a couple of minutes later.
Game ball: Probably Derrick Colter. He epitomized the Dukes’ sloppiness, recording seven of their 17 turnovers, but he was strong in virtually every other area. He finished with 17 points, a game-high 18 assists and he made five of his seven 3s, outdoing even Micah Mason from beyond the arc.
What it means: When you look back on what is increasingly becoming a disappointing season, no loss will hurt more than the overtime setback against UMass last month. It was a loss at home to a weaker team in a game in which Duquesne led by six with about two minutes remaining. Since that moment, the team hasn’t seemed to be right, even if it’s not outwardly dispirited.
This loss didn’t sting in the same way, but it unquestionably hurt. Fordham was, by far, the easiest team on the final five or so game of the Dukes’ schedule, not counting whatever team they may play first in the A-10 tournament. Even in that kind of a situation – unimposing opponent, playing at home – they looked overmatched in the game’s final minutes, a trend that has become almost commonplace the past five weeks.
One single thread hasn’t connected each of these losses. While that may seem comforting to some, it’s maddening to many, a never-ending search for an answer when there isn’t really one to be had. Wednesday’s loss was proof of that kind of inconsistency. Duquesne defended poorly in the first half, allowing the usually mediocre Rams to make nine of their 15 3s. It improved that effort in the second half, but just as that problem was solved, another appeared. Fordham, which collects only 30 percent of possible offensive rebounds, finished the game with 13 offensive boards on 28 missed shots (46.4 percent). It’s the sixth time in the past eight games that the Dukes’ opponent grabbed at least 10 offensive rebounds.
With the loss, it seems almost certain that Duquesne will not finish with a winning record this season, barring some kind of run in the A-10 tournament or, if they are invited/accept a bid, in something like the CBI. It’s a devastating blow for the program’s overall trajectory, that a team with two talented senior guards is flirting with the .500 plateau, especially given how things stood one month ago.
There is, of course, time to salvage all of this, but the belief in that possibility has dwindled to the point where saying so is just a platitude, a way to put a somewhat positive spin on an increasingly negative situation.
What’s next: A game Saturday at Saint Joseph’s, which is currently second in the A-10 standings. The Hawks are a 91 percent favorite, with a projected final score of 89-73.
Quotable: “You’ve got to have a positive outlook. If I come in here negative, that won’t help anything. I just come in positive and try to get better every single day. It’s not how we planned it or how we would have liked it, but we’ve just got to move on.” – Micah Mason
“It’s just an edge to win. We’re getting beat on the glass. In the first half, I think we had zero offensive rebounds. We’re just getting outplayed right now.” – Mason on what has gone wrong the past eight games
“It’s tough, but we all know we can do it. We know we can get back to how we were playing at the beginning of the season when we were getting all of those wins.” – Eric James
“We’re not defending at the same level we were and we’re not finishing plays. People have had time to see us and scout us and our depth at the guard spot has hurt us a little bit. Eric James was coming off the bench to replace Jeremiah and now that Eric is starting, the next guys up are really young and it’s putting a lot of pressure on Micah and DC.” – Jim Ferry on what has gone wrong the past eight games
“I love those guys and I love this team. These guys, they practice every day and come out with great enthusiasm. They play hard and compete. It’s been disappointing. The goal for these guys, and it’s still the goal, was to leave here as winners.” - Ferry
“It’s been disappointing for Micah and DC, certainly, for everything they’ve brought to this program, but also for everybody. For us to hit a stretch we hit, it’s disappointing. It’s a little frustrating, too, because it has been a little different each game. It’s not something you put your finger on and say ‘Fix that’ and you’re done. That’s the definition of frustration, when you really can’t grasp the whole thing.” - Ferry
“We weren’t good at it last year, either, but we weren’t good at anything defensively. We had to get back and start from the basket out, which we’ve done. Now, you’ve got to get better at understanding it. We work on it, we show film on it. We’re showing appropriate help, but I think sometimes, we’re over-helping.” – Ferry on his team’s struggles defending the 3
“No one is running and no one is hiding. When you lose a senior captain, things can change. We were playing some fantastic basketball and we lost a senior captain. We’ve been grinding and grinding and grinding. When you’re in a league like this, there is no mercy.” - Ferry
“I’m proud of them and I love them. I tell them that stuff. They’re competitive guys. It hurts. They’re trying really hard, they’re working really hard. You put your arms around them and you hug them. We’ll break down tape tomorrow, practice tomorrow and get back on the court again.” - Ferry