Pittsburgh, PA — Under normal circumstances, relying on freshmen is the sign of a college basketball team with a lot of growing to do, but in the case of Duquesne men’s basketball the freshmen have gotten them to this point.
Tydus Verhoeven has had some challenging games this season but his nine blocks set a freshman program record. Verhoeven’s confidence was apparent from the opening tip and perhaps it was no coincidence this game with sports psychologist Dr. Joe Carr on the Duquesne bench.
“Tydus even growled after a couple of his blocks and he usually doesn’t say anything, he’s emotionless,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “When you block that many, you deserve to growl. I thought I saw Zeke Marshall out there. That changed the game, he was unbelievable.”
It is also worth noting that two of those blocks came in succession with George Mason trying to draw closer in the second, and ultimately decisive overtime.
While Verhoeven was blocking shots, Eric Williams Jr was making them amassing freshman points record with 34 and a 3-point shot record with nine makes.
“The things these guys do are tremendous,” Duquesne guard Tarin Smith said. “It’s unheard of for freshman to play like this.”
For the second consecutive home game, Duquesne was pushed into overtime, this time requiring just a double overtime to come away with a 95-89 victory against George Mason Saturday evening.
Duquesne was on the brink of losing its second consecutive game down 75-72 with 25 seconds to play. Mike Lewis II shot a 3-point shot which missed. Williams Jr grabbed the rebound, dribbled back behind the line and buried his triple to square the game.
We’re up three, get a stop and Williams hits a three from I don’t know where, Schenectady and it was unbelievable,” George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said.
Not to be outdone, George Mason’s Justin Kier charged the lane in the closing seconds of the first overtime and put up a shot which danced around the rim a few times before finally dropping.
This was made possible because of Duquesne not making enough foul shots down the stretch. Kier scored a team-high 27 points in the defeat.
“I’m just trying to go at him and draw a foul,” he said. “A couple calls didn’t go our way but it wasn’t going to stop me from getting in the paint. We just needed a couple more stops.”
This is a tough loss for George Mason which is now 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the Atlantic 10.
“We’re obviously devastated but at the same time we told our guys about giving great effort and playing with confidence,” said Paulsen. “I’m proud of our guys and we lost to a really quality opponent on the road.”
Duquesne meanwhile has now won its last 10 home contests and improves to both 14-6 overall and 5-2 in the Atlantic 10, good for third place in the conference.
Facing the zone
Duquesne got off to an early 20-5 lead with George Mason shooting 3-for-17 from the field. For the Patriots, this start coupled with a road setback earlier in the week at George Washington meant something had to change.
George Mason determined that change would be a matchup zone and this decision gave Duquesne fits, notably so in the first half with 12 turnovers, a figure Duquesne averaged for a full game in Atlantic 10 play.
We did a bad job against the zone early,” Dambrot said. “We knew if they got in trouble they were going to go zone which is the first time we’ve seen it. We probably didn’t have them in the right spots. Plan C for us was to spread them our and that worked. The other two plans weren’t worth a darn. Once we spread out, we were pretty good against the zone. We had 12 turnovers in the first half and that mostly was because I did not put them in good spots against the zones.”
Williams Jr was certainly affected by this zone as he did not score any second half points until the game-tying basket which came a few ticks prior to the buzzer sounding.
Though Duquesne shot 63.6% from the field in the first half, that was reduced to 37.1% in the second half with Williams Jr being held scoreless for nearly the full 20 minutes and others not finding consistent answers.
Still the team was able to space things out more, to stretch the defense and called plays differently.
“We didn’t run any set plays, we just played basketball and I think that helped us,” Smith said. “It definitely slowed us down in the first half.”
For George Mason it was mission accomplished to an extent, but certainly not mission completed.
“We’ve got to get better on defense at guarding our lane,” said Kier. “The different defenses helped us a lot and got us back in the game. Doing all those little things is going to help us.”
1. Mike Lewis II deserves a lot of credit for gutting through the second overtime. It was clear that something around his hip area started bothering him in the first overtime yet after being subbed out and talking to Duquesne’s training staff, he stayed in the game.
In the second overtime, Lewis II was subbed out in an offensive/defensive situation with Kellon Taylor in an effort to remove as much of his motion as possible. His shooting was needed more than his defense, especially with Verhoeven on the bench.
There were stretches where Lewis II had to stay on the court longer than that and he grimaced on several occasions but played through the pain.
Dambrot did not directly answer the question, instead referring to Lewis II’s commitment to the team by staying instead of transferring, but really no words were needed.
2. Kellon Taylor could easily be upset about his minutes right now but publicly has remained patient. Both he and Chas Brown saw less court time because Verhoeven was having the game of his short Duquesne career. Taylor still played an important 10 minutes in this game and will be counted on as this season continues.
3. The fans continue to raise their collective game with a listed 2,543 fans and a practically full section of students. This is quite important and the team credited its fans for this victory.
Great win! 10 wins in a row at home💪couldn’t have done it without our fans today 🙏
— Eric Williams Jr. (@ericwilliams708) January 21, 2018
After the game Dambrot went over to the students and raised his arms in the air, offering encouragement with his team following closely behind him.
While the media certainly are not fans, the postgame press conference also had all of its seats being occupied. There once again is an interest in this program.
4. Dambrot called this Duquesne team one of the most fun teams he’s coached which is saying a lot. In a sense, they all have had to prove themselves together. In Dambrot’s words players were being asked if they were for real and he was being asked if he could win at the Atlantic 10 level, let alone Duquesne. It is safe to say the regardless of what happens the rest of the way, that Dambrot has answered a lot of critics and opened several eyes.
5. Paulsen knew he was in for a “rock fight” and certainly got that, but came away with positive feedback for Duquesne and it’s progress to date.
“Obviously Keith is doing a phenomenal job and it is a very defensive approach,” he said. “There is a toughness here that is very apparent. Keith is as good of a coach as there is in the country.”
Atlantic 10 Scoreboard
VCU 87 George Washington 63– VCU outscored GW 46-26 in the second half to pull away as the visitors were 8-for-29 from the field in the final 20 minutes of play. This win snapped a two-game losing streak for VCU.
“(The players) were really bummed out, and they were feeling like they were letting everybody down,” Rhoades said to Wayne Epps Jr of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “They’re trying their hardest. Doesn’t always go the way they want, or we want. And I told them, ‘Outside these doors, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you guys think of each other and yourselves. The only way that you can make it better for each other is by playing harder and putting the team first all the time. And fight like crazy.’ And they did that.”
— VCU Basketball (@VCU_Hoops) January 20, 2018
Rhode Island 88 Dayton 74– Rhode Island survived a first half which featured five lead changes and three ties to match its season high points total. This victory gives Rhody a 10-game winning streak with Jared Terrell scoring a game-high 24 points.
“We’re a much more composed team, a much more confident team,” URI coach Dan Hurley said to Bill Koch of the Providence Journal. “We just tried to preach to them that it’s a long game.”
UD Arena is a tough, tough place to play! Special shoutout to our Rhody fans that made the trip out here to Ohio to cheer us on!! 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/I7Qus2v4bB
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) January 20, 2018
Saint Joseph’s 68 Fordham 46– Saint Joseph’s held serve winning for the fifth consecutive game at Hagan Arena. James Demery and Pierfrancesco Oliva outscored Fordham by themselves scoring 25 and a career-high 22 points respectively.
“The big number was going to be turnovers, and to come out of that with seven, and really a handful of those were avoidable. In the first half, the guys who were being guarded shot too quick and didn’t gather themselves, and the guys who were wide open never stayed in their game until late in the half when we went smaller,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “But I was really impressed with the defense in the second half, the rebounding in the second half, and staying the course. A lot of that first half was on me. We had a poor practice yesterday and I should have grinded on them a little bit more than that.”
— SJU Hawks MBB (@SJUHawks_MBB) January 20, 2018
Saint Louis 66 UMass 47-Jordan Goodwin flirted with a second consecutive triple-double in the win with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while teammate Hasahn French also contributed with his double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
This win was the 300th of coach Travis Ford’s career and it came at UMass, a place he coached from 2005-08.
With this victory, Saint Louis earned its first road win of the season.
— SLU Men's Basketball (@SaintLouisMBB) January 20, 2018
Richmond 81 La Salle 74– Richmond shot a season-high 50% from three-point range in earning this victory. This was Richmond’s third consecutive victory over La Salle. Both Nick Sherod and Grant Golden led the Spiders with 18 points.
“The maturity in our players is definitely showing, and it’s more obvious now with some experience under our belts,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “A lot of it has to do with the character of the players. The assistant coaches and staff have also done a great job of keeping everyone looking ahead and staying mentally tough throughout the season.”
— Richmond Basketball (@SpiderMBB) January 20, 2018
Duquesne will face Richmond Wednesday with the game scheduled for a 7 p.m tip. It will be carried by AT&T Sports Network in Pittsburgh and digitally on the Atlantic 10 Network.
Richmond is coming off an 81-74 home victory against La Salle and is 5-13 on the season, though an even 3-3 in Atlantic 10 play. The Spiders are 1-5 away from the Robins Center this season. Richmond leads the overall series between these two teams 20-9 and 9-4 in Pittsburgh.
A win for Duquesne would be its first against Richmond since Feb. 4, 2012, with six losses between them.