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Jim Ferry talks rematch with La Salle and strength of A-10

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

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: 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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Postcard from Magnitogorsk

Written by Brady McCollough on .

magnito monument"Victory of the Workers" World War II monument in Magnitogorsk, Russia.

magnito bradyWalking on the Ural ...Asia has been at the top of my list of places I want to go for quite some time now, and I always figured my first trip there would be to Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines or, well ... anywhere other than here. 

So imagine my surprise when my host, Anton, says to me as we're driving over the Ural River, "You're in Asia now." Apparently, the Ural, which separates the Magnitogorsk Steel and Iron Works from the rest of the city (mostly residences), also separates Europe from Asia. 
 
I guess I've been to Asia now. It was -30 degrees there, and that was with the sun out. I asked Anton what the hottest temperature will be all year in Magnitogorsk, and he said 40. I was shocked, but I'd later find out that he was thinking in Celsius, which was a relief because these people could really use a few months to thaw out (40 degrees Celsius is 104 degrees Fahrenheit).
 
mag car river... and driving on it.The most fun I had on day one in Magnitogorsk was walking on the frozen Ural River and then spinning out in the passenger seat of Anton's Nissan SUV (both right). I wouldn't do such a thing on the Allegheny or the Mon, but something about that -30 made me think it was safe. 
 
I don't want to spoil much of my story and reporting on the blog, but suffice it to say that the history is fascinating here. This monument is a World War II memorial of all the fallen soldiers from Magnitogorsk. It's of a worker handing a sword to a soldier, which really defines what this place is about (top). 
 
My jet lag is kicking in big time, so I'll keep it short and sweet today. A few extra pics below: Ukrainian borscht (divine and worth the trip across the world), a Metallurg Malkin jersey in the team store and the view from atop Magnet Mountain.
 
borscht
 
malk jersey
 
magnito view
 

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-31-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Shelly Anderson's recap from last night's game. “I’ll probably have to fly my mother here more than once a year.” - Jussi Jokinen on having a three-point game on the first leg of the Penguins' moms trip.

-The Los Angeles Times' recap. The Kings have been limited to three goals in their past five games.

-The Associated Press' recap. ''It's not a good outing for him, but he's got a body of work that's more than just this game.'' - Dan Bylsma on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lagne's goal calls.

-Paul Martin and Los Angeles' Trevor Lewis battled for this puck:

-During warm ups, Rob Scuderi had a laugh with former Kings teammate Jarret Stoll:

-Brooks Orpik got the drop on Los Angeles' Colin Fraser:

 -Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Jeff Zatkoff speaks:

-Jokinen speaks:

-"If you try to separate the East and West, I think you’re making too much of it. Every [general manager] is trying to construct their own team. I think every GM has their own style.” - Brooks Orpik on differences between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

-Happy 49th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Bobby Dollas. Orginally coming to the Penguins in the 1998 offseason along with Tony Hrkac in a deal which sent Josef Beranek to the Oilers, Dollas spent parts of two seasons in two stints with the Penguins. In 1998-99, he appeared in 70 games for the Penguins and scored 10 points. During that spring's postseason, he saw action in 13 games and scored one goal. In the 1999 offseason, he joined Long Beach of the IHL as a free agent. At the 2001 trade deadline, Dollas returned to the Penguins when he was acquired along with Johan Hedberg in a deal which sent Jeff Norton to the Sharks. He appeared in five games for the Penguins and failed to record a point. He was released in the 2001 offseason. In 75 regular seasons games with the Penguins, he scored 15 points.

-After the Jump: Semyon Varlamov gets paid.

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Final thoughts: Robert Morris 79, Bryant 76

Written by Craig Meyer on .

20140130mfrmusports03-3

(Photo: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette)

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so let's jump right into some thoughts and observations from Robert Morris' win against Bryant last night:

*** He didn't lead the team in scoring -- that would be Karvel Anderson with 24 points -- but Anthony Myers-Pate was the story from last night's game...and that was before he gave us the details on his health condition in the post-game press conference.

The senior point guard had a career-high 21 points and those came on an eight-of-nine shooting performance, the best showing from the floor of his college career. That was impressive enough, but as I elaborated some in my game story, he played with the flu, vomiting as recently as the pregame shootaround. As good as that is, the fact that Andy Toole wasn't surprised at all by what Pate did is all the more telling to me.

As steady as Pate has been throughout his career, he's never been much of a go-to scorer, which is fine because not everyone needs to be. As a point guard, if you get can teammates involved and not turn the ball over, you're doing pretty damn well. And that's what Pate has done for so much of this season. But the past three games -- a.k.a once RMU went down to eight players -- he has averaged 14.7 points per game, way up from the 5.2 points per game he was averaging in the 19 games before that.

I don't envision a game where both Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones are extremely off, but there will undoubtedly be ones where one of them is, meaning that someone else will have to step up and have a big scoring day. With Jones going 1 of 12 for five points last night, that was the case and Myers-Pate was there to step up.

*** I know Bryant's not the tallest team, but the fact that Robert Morris -- a team with only one player taller than 6-foot-6 -- won the rebounding battle 36-28 (including a 12-8 edge on offensive boards) is commendable. There's a sort of tenacity that wasn't quite as apparent the first part of the season from these players. I'm not sure if it's because they're faced with the reality that they'll have to do everything possible on the court with only eight guys in uniform, but it's been pretty easy to see.

*** Perhaps it's because we're often blinded by what a good shooter he is, but the development of Karvel Anderson's overall game has been remarkable to see. It's been on full display for much of the season, but it's really started to come through the past couple of weeks.

Last season, he was a catch-and-shoot kind of guy because that was a deeper, more balanced team and that's what they needed him to do. But this season, he attacks the basket aggressively and he's come a ways as a defensive player, too. One need not look further than his block on a fast break dunk attempt to get a full idea of what kind of complete player he's become.

*** No update from Toole on Mike McFadden and Desjuan Newton. I asked him after the game if there was an update on their respective statuses and just got a simple "Nope." If I had to guess, I don't think we'll see either of them the rest of the season, but I'm not a betting man.

*** I've been debating about how much stock to put in Bryant's late run last night -- that is, how much to read into Robert Morris almost completely squandering a 13-point lead in the final 10 minutes. With just eight players, it's easy to say that they maybe just got tired, but as I've said before, I really don't see this as a conditioning issue.

If anything, the Bulldogs' run was something of an equalizer. The Colonials started the game on an 11-2 run and that lead was relatively stable for the next 25 minutes, so it was only a matter of time before Bryant went on one, too. The two teams are separated by only one spot in the KenPom rankings and though some games are outliers, Robert Morris is not 13 points better than Bryant, even at home.

*** Granted, we're only seven games into the conference slate, but Wagner and Bryant are easily the two best NEC teams I've seen (aside from Robert Morris). There are still games against LIU-Brooklyn, St. Francis (NY) and a suddenly-improved Fairleigh Dickinson team, but I think the Seahawks and Bulldogs may be the biggest obstacles to RMU making the NCAA Tournament.

*** It's hard to not talk about the atmosphere at the game last night, which was probably the most frenzied home environment I've seen for a regular season game in my 14 months on the beat.

As a writer, I hate fan-shaming because a) it's PR, not journalism and b) I'm not really in a position to tell people how to spend their time and money. I was in college this time two years ago and from a student's standpoint, I understand how hectic life can be, so I've never been someone who's appalled when the student section isn't filled (not like I would be anyway).

With all that being said, though, I figure players and coaches had to see that scene last night and think to themselves 'Man, why can't it be like this every game?' A crowd's impact on the outcome of a game is pretty overrated -- if a player lets fans dictate how they play, they shouldn't be in Division I -- but it definitely leads to a cool, intimate atmosphere.

*** This is probably an obvious statement given the fact he put up 30 and 10, but I was really impressed with Bryant's Alex Francis. He's not the tallest guy out there for someone with such good numbers in the post, but he gets the job done.

It seemed like easily 75 percent of his baskets came after he pulled a spin move in the paint to create some separation for a clear look. And it worked every time. It reminds me a little bit of that club scene in 'Knocked Up' where Seth Rogen is only doing that dice-throwing move on the dance floor. It's all he has, but he used it well and it landed him Katherine Heigl (and eventually a kid, I guess). Francis doesn't have a wide array of post moves, but the one he does have, he uses extremely judiciously.

*** David Appolon was excellent last night, with nine points, five rebounds and three assists (and no turnovers). Toole spoke last night after the game about how with the lack of bench players, certain guys have been able to play freer on the court, stripped of any possible fear of being removed from the game for a mistake. I think Appolon epitomizes that sentiment.

Appolon's a guy that's always been an intriguing piece on the team, but he never really got much time on the court and wasn't able to do much in that limited time. With more time, he's suddenly looked a lot better and a lot more comfortable. This isn't an indictment of Toole because if a player's looking inconsistent in inconsistent minutes, there's no reason you should be playing them all that much unless you have to (as is the case now). But now that he is getting the time, the junior's making the most of it.

*** As long as Robert Morris keeps winning with eight players, it will become a bigger and bigger story. We've already started to see more local TV and radio coming to games and practices of recent, and if the Colonials so much as win the NEC regular season title (which is appearing increasingly likely with an effective three-game lead right now), this may even morph into a national story beyond the occasional tweet from someone like Jon Rothstein or Jeff Goodman commending Toole.

For all the stuff that's surrounded the program lately -- the non-committal statements surrounding absent players, the bureaucratic hurdles to try to just figure out if students are still enrolled -- this team has been hellaciously fun to watch the past three games and I'm sure for fans, it's been the same way.

The future's obviously uncertain, especially with just eight players, but the next five or six weeks are going to be so interesting to watch. Whether it's me as someone who writes about the team or fans in the Sewall Center bleachers, let's enjoy this.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Myers-Pate's career day enough for Colonials in win vs. Bryant

Written by Craig Meyer on .

There was an energy to the Sewall Center Thursday night, the kind that hadn’t been seen since Robert Morris’ win against Kentucky last season. And though it wasn’t as palpable as it was that March night -- because, frankly, how could it ever be? -- Anthony Myers-Pate could feel it.

With Velton Jones -- his longtime backcourt mate who graduated last year – watching from the baseline near the team’s bench, he could. After he buried a 3-pointer to extend his team’s lead back to six points in the final 10 minutes, and proceeded to tap three fingers against the side of his head, he could.

And by the time the final buzzer sounded, the senior guard who had the flu for most of the week certainly could.

A steadily productive and reliable presence for much of the season, Myers-Pate turned in one of the best performances of his three-plus-year career, scoring a career-high 21 points on eight-of-nine shooting as Robert Morris held on to defeat Bryant, 79-76.

The veteran point guard was vomiting during the team’s shootaround within an hour of tipoff, but when it came time to perform in a big moment for an undermanned team, he delivered.

“I guess it was just the demons leaving my body,” he said with a slight laugh.

The victory gives the Colonials (12-10, 7-0 Northeast Conference) a season sweep of the Bulldogs (13-9, 5-2) and gives them a three-game lead for first place in the conference standings.

“That’s a big brother figure to me,” Myers-Pate said of playing in front of Jones. “I feel like I played well in front of him tonight, letting him know ‘We’re still holding things down right now.’”

Karvel Anderson added 24 points for a team that saw each of its eight players score.

In front of a frenzied crowd, Robert Morris jumped out early, scoring 11 of the game’s first 13 points to take a nine-point not even three minutes into the game. That advantage stayed relatively stable throughout the first half, with the Colonials’ lead growing to as many as 12 points.

That lead held consistent for much of the second half before Bryant made its move. Trailing by 12 in the final 10 minutes, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to reduce the deficit to 65-61 with 5:44 remaining after a 3-pointer from Corey Maynard.

That once-comfortable lead for the Colonials would get as low as one point with 45 seconds remaining after Maynard converted a three-point play. With his team still nursing a one-point edge with 12 seconds left, Anderson drained two free throws to push the lead to three before Maynard missed a potential game-tying 3 at the buzzer.

Five days after a tight four-point win against Wagner, Robert Morris yet again found a way to get a victory out of a closely-contested game.

“Our guys have stepped up and made plays when we needed them to make them,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “We’ve made key free throws in certain games, we’ve been able to execute well, Karvel’s hit some big shots in some of the game. But I think all of our guys on the floor have really been able to lock in in some of these late-game situations and make the play that it takes.”

Alex Francis scored 30 points on 12 of 19 shooting, along with a game-high 10 rebounds, for Bryant.

Despite taking the court with just one player taller than 6-foot-6, the Colonials outrebounded the Bulldogs, 36-28. Down to only three players on the bench, Robert Morris managed to stay out of foul trouble, as no player on the team had more than three fouls.

In all, it was another complete performance by a team that appears to be hitting its stride at a crucial point in the season.

“Everybody that played on the court contributed and made big plays,” Toole said. “Lucky [Jones] didn’t shoot it well, but to be able to get eight rebounds and have four assists, those things contribute to wins, as well. It was another total team effort by our guys to beat a very good team.”

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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