The Duquesne men's basketball team has played one game since Dec. 22, and that game, an 84-74 loss at Penn State, took place Dec. 29.
The long drought will end tonight when the Dukes (7-7) play at Fordham (4-11) in the Atlantic 10 conference opener for both teams.
Ordinarily, a long stretch without games in the middle of a season is not good, but Dukes coach Jim Ferry believes it probably was best for his young team, particularly because they are in their first year of his program.
Ferry said the past week of practice has given him the chance to review the first part of the season and go over film with his players, trying to correct mistakes and identify things they must improve.
Duquesne (7-7) at Fordham (4-11), 7:30 p.m. today, Rose Hill Gym, Bronx, N.Y.
- TV, Radio:
Atlanric 10 opener. ... Has not played since Dec. 29. ... Mamadou Datt, a 6-9 sophomore who sat out the first semester to concentrate on academics, is making the trip and will be in uniform. He averaged 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 31 games last season. ... Three of the top five scorers are freshmen.
Head coach Tom Pecora is in third year of a massive rebuilding project. ... Top player is senior Chris Gaston (14.1 ppg). ... Leading scorer is Branden Frazier (15.7 ppg). ... Only the fourth home game of season.
- Hidden stat:
Duquesne is 6-11 in conference openers on the road.
"We played so many games there in December, it was like we threw our younger guys, especially the freshmen, right into the fire and they had to learn how to play," Ferry said. "But when you are playing games, really, you are spending the majority of your practices preparing to play opponents and not focusing on yourself.
"That is why this one week was great for us. We were able to really work on us - take a look at what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. I think the other thing with freshmen is you are always concerned that they are going to hit a wall at some point so this helps keep them fresh, both physically and mentally, and sort of let them recharge a little bit."
Ferry said he expects the team to be a bit rusty against Fordham tonight, but thinks they worked hard enough during the break that they should be in great shape and able to settle into the flow of game.
Fordham is in its third year of a rebuilding program under Tom Pecora. The Rams have struggled to win games but have shown improvement his first two seasons.
The Rams feature one of the best players in the Atlantic 10, 6-foot-7 senior forward Chris Gaston (14.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), but - like the Dukes - have mostly underclassmen playing around him.
Gaston has led the conference in rebounding the past three years and is trying to become the second player in league history - the first was Xavier's David West - to win the rebounding crown four times.
Fordham has played three home games and won two of them. Ferry said it is clear the Rams are much more comfortable on their home court than on the road.
"They are a very big, strong team and do a great job of offensive rebounding, and everything they run will be run through Gaston so we have our work cut out for us," Ferry said.
He added that if the Dukes are to be successful in the Atlantic 10, they are going to have to do a great job of rebounding and defending in every game. Those two were focuses during this long time without a game.
"I think it is clear if you look at our first 14 games," Ferry said, "when we rebound well and defend well, we were in games and gave ourselves a chance to win - and did win a lot of those games. When we didn't rebound well or defend well, we not only lost, in some cases we got blown out.
"We have to play to our philosophy no matter who we play and this is a great test for us because the area which is a great strength for them - offensive rebounding - is something we need to get much better at defending against."
Duquesne will get a little help under the basket tonight, as 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Mamadou Datt, who sat out the first semester to focus on academics, will be on the bench for the first time. He appeared in 31 games last season and averaged 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.mobilehome - duquesnesports
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @paulzeise.