Tonight, deep inside the University of Massachusetts' Mullins Center, Duquesne basketball players will meet before game time and go over the tendencies of the Minutemen.
Coach Ron Everhart will remind his team of the need to rebound well, to get to the open floor. He'll probably draw up a few plays on the white board.
Then they'll form a circle, hold hands and senior B.J. Monteiro will lead the team in a prayer written by Everhart years ago and recited daily.
The ninth-seeded Dukes open the Atlantic 10 tournament looking for the second life the postseason can bring after a late-season slide sent them on the road to eighth seed Massachusetts.
- Matchup: No. 9 Duquesne (16-14) at No. 8 Massachusetts (20-10), 7 p.m. today, Atlantic 10 tournament, Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
- Radio, Internet: WPGB-FM (104.7), RedZoneMedia.com and GoDuquesne.com.
- Duquesne: Lost four of five to end the regular season. ... Coming off 75-60 loss to Saint Louis. ... Beat Massachusetts, 80-69, Jan. 18 at home, forcing 29 turnovers. ... Led in scoring and rebounding by B.J. Monteiro (15 ppg, 5.3 rpg). ... Led in assists and steals by T.J. McConnell (5.5/2.8 per game).
- Massachusetts: Coming off an 89-83 win against Rhode Island to close the regular season. ... Led by Chaz Williams, a transfer from Hofstra, who shoots 40 percent from 3-point range and leads the team with 16.2 points per game. ... Sean Carter scored a career high 22, with 10 rebounds against the Rams.
- Hidden stat: Massachusetts holds a 17-7 advantage in the series at the Mullins Center but the Dukes have won four of the past five meetings overall (home and road).
"It kind of erases everything, starts everything over," Everhart said. "When you have younger guys sometimes the grind and the disappointments kind of wear on you a little bit, they take their toll sometimes. ... When you come to this time of year and are able to wipe the slate clean a little bit maybe some of that goes away and there's a renewed sense of positive attitude to go out, compete hard and have that opportunity to win."
The Dukes (16-14) beat the Minutemen Jan. 18 at home, 80-69, forcing 29 turnovers, including seven by point guard Chaz Williams, a first-team all-conference selection lauded for his electric playmaking skills that include 6.4 assists a game.
Disrupting Williams again will be the focus.
"We need to try and limit Chaz Williams' touches and play our game," Monteiro said. "If we keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible we're better off. Once he gets going he's really hard to stop."
Williams is the catalyst for the Minutemen offense, scoring 16.2 points a game and averaging 2.3 steals.
"When Williams gets in the middle of the lane and breaks down your defense he's able to get it out [to the perimeter]. The big thing is we've got to be able to contain Williams, get some pressure on the ball," Everhart said.
The two teams match up fairly well, as both get up and down the floor quickly and play best in transition.
"They're real dangerous in transition," said junior Sean Johnson. "We know it's the rebounds and second chance points we have to limit."
Massachusetts rebounds better than Duquesne and has a plus-0.5 rebounding margin this season, compared to the Dukes' minus-7.5.
Duquesne has been "challenged" inside this season, as Everhart describes it, and will again turn to its guards.
"With our team obviously we're challenged up front a little bit but we do have really good guard play," he said. "Hopefully, our guard play will be good enough and consistent enough to carry the day."
An upset will be a significant challenge for the Dukes as the Minutemen have been almost perfect at home this season, going 14-1. The loss was to La Salle, 72-71, Feb. 18.
Duquesne, however, has played well in Amherst in recent years, winning by large margins in 2009 and '11.
"Whatever the reason is I just hope that continues and we're able to play well and comfortably in that arena and in that environment," Everhart said.
The winner of the game will advance to face No. 1 seed Temple Friday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
NOTES -- T.J. McConnell was named to the third-team All-Atlantic 10 and earned a spot on the league's defensive team, both voted on by the 14 head coaches.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com or 412-263-1959.