Duquesne faces La Salle tonight for the second time this season. Here's the transcript from a quick chat today with Dukes coach Jim Ferry.
What can you take away from that NJIT game and late comeback?
"I'd rather win a game like that, where we had to make some plays and make some adjustments. Guys really stepped up. I think you learn more from winning games like that than you do from having a blowout. Going from league games to a non-league game was difficult. We came out a little bit flat. But we made plays to win the game, so we've got to give ourselves credit in that regard."
I know it's built into the schedule, but do you like that one-game break from A-10 play?
"No, I do not. I do not. Scheduling is just really difficult nowadays. We had a bye, and we needed a road game. It worked out, but it's tough. It's tough to lock the guys in and get them focused when you're battling in conference play."
Anything in particular you can learn or do differently in a non-league game like that?
"I think we took a lot out of that game. We needed to put on some full-court pressure with about 10 minutes to go to change the tempo of the game. We needed to do some things that we haven't done in the past. Derrick Colter had an awful game until he went back into the game with five minutes to go and made two big threes for us. The 'sticktoitiveness' of our team to stay with the game plan and keep fighting ... our guys made plays to win the game. You get a lot out of that, no question."
Do you find any value in the simple fact that you've surpassed your win total from last season, or is that just a number?
"I'm not putting any stock in that at all. I know we've gotten better. We've been playing better basketball, and we've gotten better. This is a totally different team from last year, but I think we've gotten better. With all the young kids and new kids we have, I think each game we've played we've gotten better. That's the sign of a team headed in the right direction. Our focus is on continuing to get better as we grind it out and get closer to the Atlantic 10 season."
This is your first rematch of the season; how will you adjust to facing La Salle for the second time?
"Whenever you play a team for the second time, adjustments are made. Both teams are going to make adjustments. I don't think we played very well in that first game, even though it was a relatively close game for a while. I didn't think we played well at all. We definitely didn't play as well as we've been playing. We have to make the proper adjustments to beat this team. We have to do a better job defensively and do a better job of rebounding the basketball. Same on the offensive side; we've got to play with substance; we've got to move the ball like we've been moving it lately. If we can do those things and make the proper adjustments, we're going to give ourselves a chance."
Steve Zack seemed to be the X-factor three weeks ago; what do Ovie Soko and Dominique McKoy have to do to slow him?
"The kid's averaging a double-double in the Atlantic 10. We know we've got to understand where he is at all times. We've got to try to keep him off the glass. He's a facilitator. He's the one who keeps their offense running. We've got to make him feel uncomfortable and make him make difficult plays. The key is to keep these guys out of the lane; they're such great break-down guards. We've got to keep them out of the lane, and we've got to beat them on the glass. If we can do those things, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."
Soko seems to have rounded back into form; what's changed in the last couple games?
"He made some adjustments. We watched tape and showed him what he'd been doing differently, and he made the proper adjustments. I think the officials have been calling the fouls again like they were at the beginning of the year. That's a huge factor. But, again, La Salle was a game he had a tough time with. He's got to make the proper adjustments from the way he played the last game."
La Salle hosts a pretty tough environment in Philly ...
"We just got done practicing here at La Salle, had a good practice, and again, we've got to make the proper adjustments. We've got to come out and play really hard, but we've got to play really smart as well."
Do you have to watch out for a team like La Salle currently on a three-game losing streak?
"Absolutely. They're not going to be the only team in the league that goes through a three-game losing streak. I said that in a previous press conference. It happens to everybody. This league is too good. This league is too good. They lost at St. Bonaventure; they lost in double overtime to VCU; they lost at [George Washington]. That's going to happen to a lot of people. This is a really good team, a team that went to the Sweet 16 and has four starters back. They can play with poise; they're really good; they're exceptionally good at home. Again, I don't take any stock into whether they're winning or losing. They are who they are. We've got to play the right way against them."
Seeing how A-10 teams have just beaten up on each other week after week the last month, is that a sign of a strong league?
"Yeah. I'm a little concerned, to be honest. That's exactly what's happened; everybody's beating up on everybody, everybody's beating everybody. Well, come NCAA tournament time, the teams that go from the league will be beaten up. Who's going to be fresh and ready to go? It's going to be interesting. That's what a great league is. When you have a league that is this deep top to bottom ... and that's exactly what this is. You look at Dayton at 1-5; they were top-25 a couple weeks ago. That's what this league does, man. It's a monster. That's why you've really got to focus on one game at a team, and you've got to focus on your own team and getting better. I think we've done a really great job of that so far."
Stephen J. Nesbitt:
, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.