Duquesne guard Bill Clark on the Dukes' defense: "We have been a tougher team."
By Colin Dunlap Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Is the Duquesne men's basketball team struggling to score this season?
Just a look at the numbers, without delving into the situation deeper, might yield a quick "yes."
But to understand everything, to really look at it, is to understand the word "struggling" would be off base.
The real story is this: Circumstances have forced the Dukes (5-1) to change what they are accustomed to doing, and they have done a very decent job withstanding a structural modification of sorts.
"You could say that," junior swingman Bill Clark said. "You could look at everything and say that, because of some things, we have really come out and played defense harder, we have been a tougher team."
The Dukes -- who head into the City Game against Pitt (5-1) tomorrow night -- have needed to be a tougher team with the loss of Melquan Bolding to a wrist injury.
In his first three seasons as coach, Ron Everhart has developed a stigma of sorts that his teams, in order to win, needed to beat the opposition by outrunning them. Entering this season, Duquesne was the fifth-highest scoring team in Division I the past three seasons at 79.83 points per game, at times sacrificing some defense in an effort to outscore the opposition in shootout-type games.
Now though, circumstance merits a change.
First is a shallow bench. The past three games Clark, Damian Saunders, Jason Duty, B.J. Monteiro and Eric Evans have all played at least 30 minutes.
The second is that injury to Bolding.
When wrapped all together, Duquesne is averaging 69 points per game in the five games since the Bolding injury, getting just 5.4 per game from the bench in that span.
That means the Dukes have buckled it down a little tighter on defense giving up just 63.6 points per game.
And of Duquesne's five wins, three have come by eight points or fewer, as the Dukes have shown a penchant for getting tough stops at the end of games when they matter most.
"Being able to change the style of the way we win is important," Everhart said. "Especially in a year where you are a little undermanned, you have an injury and you lost your best scorer [who is also your best] decision maker and a playmaker."
The Dukes, in Duty's estimation, have been able to overcome Bolding's loss -- and a drop in offensive numbers -- because of something that happened this summer.
"We worked really hard in the weight room, and I think we definitely feel like we are in better shape than a lot of the teams we played so far," Duty said. "In the games we have played, we aren't tired in the end, we aren't dragging, we are out there and feel like we have a lot left. I think that's why we have been able to win some of these gritty games in the end."
This gnashing, tougher style might be an escape from normalcy for the Dukes under Everhart, but as long as the wins keep coming, it shows that Duquesne might be more than what they've been previously labeled.
"I have always felt like the toughest thing to do, in coaching, is to adjust for the chemistry part of things," Everhart said. "Any time you have an injury, any time you have a graduation, you have a different set of circumstances that are going to affect your chemistry."
What Duquesne has done has simply changed some of the elements.