Duquesne forward Damian Saunders averaged 15 points and 11.3 rebounds this season.
By Colin Dunlap Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A first under Ron Everhart just happened at Duquesne.
As Everhart's Dukes just completed the regular season and Atlantic 10 Conference tournament -- losing Tuesday to St. Bonaventure -- it marked the first time in the his four seasons leading the program where there was a regression. For the first time, at the end of the A-10 tournament, the Dukes, who are 16-15, finished with fewer wins than the previous season.
Duquesne won 10 games Everhart's first season, 17 his second and 21 his third.
And, while Duquesne could be selected to one of college basketball's two far less prestigious postseason tournaments -- the CBI or CollegeInsider.com tournament -- it stands now where the win total has fallen off when measured against the past three seasons.
The following is a critical analysis of five of the primary reasons the wins decreased:
• The injury to Melquan Bolding: It is one of those uncontrollable factors. But, when he broke his wrist in the season opener and missed 13 subsequent games, the Dukes were thrown off kilter. After the injury, Bolding, a sophomore, never returned to the form that many expected and allowed him to earn Atlantic 10 all-rookie team honors as a freshman. He scored 11.1 points per game this season, but stumbled in some big-game losses, scoring a combined six points in two games against Saint Louis, six in game at Rhode Island and six in a loss at Temple.
• Road woes: The Dukes were 3-11 in true away games and could not find a way to get a rhythm together away from the Palumbo Center. Late in the year, Duquesne was able to string two A-10 road wins together, beating George Washington and Charlotte in the span of 11 days. But, that was offset when the Dukes finished up losing their final two road regular-season conference games -- at Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure -- and then going right back to St. Bonaventure and dropping the first-round tournament game.
• Where's the go-to guy? Last season, when the Dukes made the run to the conference tournament championship game and then earned an invitation to the NIT, it seemed Aaron Jackson wanted the basketball in nearly every key situation. This year, even as Damian Saunders averaged 15 points and 11.3 rebounds, there was a sense that these Dukes were without a leader at times, particularly late in close games.
• You can't win if you can't shoot: Duquesne spent the better portion of the season among the bottom 10 teams in Division I basketball in terms of 3-point shooting, and the Dukes also struggled mightily from the free-throw line. The final numbers: The team went 169 for 643 (26.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc and 433 for 712 (60.8 percent) from the free-throw line. As a microcosm, there was the icy shooting of Bill Clark, who came into the season with a reputation as one of the top long-range shooters in the conference, but, in January, made two 3-pointers.
• No big man, a big deal: While it doesn't always suit the Dukes' style, the failure to fully cultivate a big man hurt Duquesne, particularly on defense. Consider these performances by opposing big guys: Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure scored 75 points in three games against the Dukes, Temple's Lavoy Allen had 14-point, 15-rebound night, and Xavier's Jason Love (17 points, nine rebounds) and Kenny Frease (13 points, 12 rebounds) hurt Duquesne badly.