I wish I could sugarcoat this.
I feel as though I have been very fair with this Duquesne team.
Young team, first-year coach, a lot of talent left the program, rebuilding job - I get it, I understand it, I know it.
I have given a lot of slack for all of those reasons and tried to keep perspectives and highlight whatever the positives might be.
But this loss tonight wasn't about youth, it wasn't about bad players - well maybe to some degree - it wasn't about anything else than a team playing six or seven minutes of the dumbest basketball imagineable and losing a game that it should have won because it wasn't mentally tough enough to hit free throws down the stretch.
Duquesne led Charlotte 60-43 with 10:15 to play and somehow blew that lead and lost 89-87 in overtime.
In case your math is bad, that is a 17-point lead - -the largest lead the Dukes had in any Atlantic 10 game this year by the way - and with 10 minutes to play, seemingly insurmountable but these are the Dukes and well, the Dukes seem to have cornered the market on losing games and once again, they lost.
I know everyone wants to blame the coach but I don't, not for this one.
I don't blame Jim Ferry because he clearly the right game plan and when the team executed it they were up by 17 points and blowing Charlotte out.
And I know, I know - the team has lost 16 of 17 or 17 of 18 or whatever the heck it is and have not won a home game since mid-December and have had plenty of close calls so it must be the coach.....
It isn't Jim Ferry that can't handle the ball under pressure - the 49ers put some pressure on the Dukes and they tossed the ball around like it was a hot potatoe.
It isn't Jim Ferry who has, and I've used this line several times but it is true - a shot selection that would make World B. Free blush.
It isn't Jim Ferry who can't make a free throw - the Dukes were 21-of-36 from the free throw line. Yep, that's not even 60 percent and that's 15 shots guys were given from 15 feet away (and more when you consider some were front end of 1-and-1s) and they missed them.
This loss highlighted everything that is wrong with this team:
Can't handle the ball - without Derrick Colter I'm not sure this team could break a press even once and we saw that when he sat out for a few minutes in foul trouble. There is only one point guard on this team - amazing if you think about it.
Can't defend in the post - Andre Marhold blocks a million shots but teams all year have scored in the post againist the Dukes and tonight Ferry tried everything - Abele, Marhold, double teams, 2-3 zones - heck I am surprised he didn't go to the middle school junk defense of three guys running like nuts and two just standing around the big guy --- but the Dukes, who were outscored 48-24 in the paint, couldn't stop Chris Braswell, who scored 28 points.
Can't maintain a lead - the Dukes just play so well at times and then play so poorly and a lot has to do with two things -- shot selection at times was awful like I said and they just don't value possessions enough so they throw the ball around.
Can't score consistently in the post - I'm not in the business of calling out college kids, you can go to the play by play and figure it out, but the last time I saw a team miss this many layups, bunnies and little shots around the rim I was coaching my 8th grade girls team. Big guys have to finish, period.
Have defensive breakdowns at the worst time - Ferry has improved the defensive philosophy but there are still too many guys who are playing that old style defense and not valuing protecting the hoop instead freelancing and going after steals and getting out of position.
Twice the Dukes left Ivan Benkovic standing at the 3-point line to knock down huge shots in the second half. Now, let me explain why that is key - because from what I could tell Benkovic's ONLY marketable skill is standing out there and hitting 3s. He isn't beating anyone off the dribble, he isn't driving and he isn't defending anyone - but if you leave him stand there dude can clearly shoot it. So how in the world, down the stretch, was there any rotation on defense that didn't include someone staying with the one guy who was scary from the 3-point line?
I could go on and on but the bottom line is this is a really bad basketball team and unfortunately, the basketball IQ is worse than it should be as well.
The positives from tonight is that Ferry has kept this team playing hard and trying and working hard through a dismal season and in the final minute it looked like two freshmen - Colter and Quevyn 'making it rain in the' Winters were going to be heroes as both hit big 3s.
There is a lot of work to be done in this offseason, no doubt, but the biggest job Ferry has may be to find a way to teach these guys how to win games because as much as this team is physically limited, this loss was as much about mental mistakes and a lack of mental toughness as any limitation you can name.