As the team’s senior night on Wednesday made perfectly clear, the 2014-15 season is winding down for Duquesne.
Only a week and a half separates the Dukes from Brooklyn and the Atlantic 10 tournament – a fact coach Jim Ferry referenced a handful of times after a 79-66 victory against Saint Louis at Palumbo Center – and while time is precious for this team, it’s just as motivating to know that only a handful of opportunities remain to make something of another sub-.500 season.
This most recent stretch of games has been Duquesne’s most impressive of the season. Following a 10-point victory last Saturday against a 20-win Dayton team, the Dukes (10-16, 5-10 Atlantic 10) were in control against the Billikens for virtually the entire night.
“This is two games in a row now where we’re starting to show our potential, both offensively and defensively,” Ferry said. “You can see the cohesiveness of this group. They played really hard. I thought we started the game out with great tempo and speed, and then Saint Louis made a run back at us. We were able to hold that off and continue to play.
“I think early in the season, we weren’t doing that. Everybody is fighting for something right now. If you see the scores in the league, it’s crazy. It’s February basketball. The team is getting better and they’re really working hard.”
The win marked the first time that Duquesne has won consecutive conference games in its nearly three full seasons under Ferry.
Micah Mason scored a team-high 20 points on seven of 10 shooting, continuing a two-week run that has been among the best in the junior’s college career. In the past five games, the Highlands graduate has averaged 19.4 points per game while shooting 55.7 percent.
“I thought we just came out with energy," Mason said. "We’re starting to find out how hard we have to play if we’re going to win in this league. That’s what we did tonight. We came out, we were unselfish and got stops.”
Trailing the Billikens (11-17, 3-12), 32-30, with 3:18 remaining in the first half, Duquesne held its opponent to just one made field goal over the next 9:47. That defensively-sound stretch allowed it to turn a two-point deficit into a 12-point lead with 13:30 left, providing it with a cushion it wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the night.
After missing 21 of 34 free throws against Saint Louis in their first meeting – a 78-69 loss on Jan. 14 – the Dukes went 16 of 20 from the charity stripe.
Jeremiah Jones tied a career high with 16 points, leading a group of four other Duquesne players that finished in double figures. Dominique McKoy, one of the team’s two seniors honored Wednesday, added 12 points and five rebounds.
Perhaps more than anyone else on the squad, he knows how much this remaining week and a half means.
“I try not to think about it that much, but I think about it every day I wake up,” he said. “My college career is about to be over with.”
With the Dukes hitting an offensive stride and with his rotations firmly set, Ferry is feeling more comfortable with his group with each passing game.
In what has been a frustrating season at times for players and coaches alike, a certain confidence is starting to take hold.
“My teams in the past have gotten better at the end of the year,” he said. “This one took a little bit longer, but I think as everybody saw, they’re really starting to play off each other.”
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