OLEAN, NY -- Duquesne sophomore Derrick Martin had only played more than five minutes once in the Dukes' first 20 games, but Saturday in a 68-60 loss to St. Bonaventure, he played 15 minutes and drew the praise of his coach for his performance.
Martin didn't have big numbers -- he scored 2 points, grabbed 1 rebound and blocked 2 shots -- but he was at least active on both ends of the floor and his blocked shots turned into transition opportunities for the Dukes.
But the larger message that coach Jim Ferry sent with Martin, who has been his fourth choice at center, is that the Dukes have not been getting nearly enough production out of that spot and that he is going to continue to shuffle centers in and out of the lineup until he finds a player who gives the Dukes an inside presence.
"I played four centers -- and three of them gave us nothing ... absolutely nothing -- though I thought Derrick Martin did some good things in there," Ferry said. "But we have to get some scoring from inside, we are relying way too much on driving and then trying to kick. Really, on the road, especially in this league, you can't rely on 3s to win games."
Martin said that he wants to help the team in any way that he can and he knows that every time he gets an opportunity it may be limited so he has to make the most of it.
"In practice I have been trying to bring a lot of energy and keep up my intensity," Martin said. "I know I haven't been playing a lot the last couple of games, but I felt like when they called my number I was ready. Now the next time I get my number called, I just want to make sure I am ready and I do my job."
The Dukes often shoot a lot of 3-pointers and Saturday was no exception -- they made more 3-point baskets (11) than 2-pointers (9). That ratio isn't likely to change for the rest of the season as their ability to hit 3s has kept them in games.
But also, the Dukes end up settling for a lot of 3-pointers because they don't get much production from their post players.
Ferry has worked hard to try to change this. He said they have become way too much like a "donut" on offense and that has made them easier to defend as teams increasingly have pushed their defense out to the perimeter.
Martin, who averages 0.8 points and 0.6 rebounds per game, said that he understands the Dukes shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but he is hoping that he can help close that hole in the middle of the offense with increased playing time.
"Yes, we shoot a lot of 3-pointers but when we are on, I feel like I need to do something on the other side, on defense," Martin said. "I can alter some shots, block some shots, try to get us started in transition or get some offensive rebounds and stuff.
"I want to embrace the opportunity, keep working and getting better. I am good at rebounding and shot-blocking. Now I need to try and work on being able to score and work on my offense in the post."
Duquesne, 7-14 overall, 0-7 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, is mired in a nine-game losing streak. But outside of the loss to VCU, the Dukes actually have been in every game during this stretch and have had some opportunities to win.
Martin, however, said the team hasn't lost faith and knows that once they win -- and gain some confidence from it -- they will start to get on a roll. They just need to have something positive happen for them in order to turn things around.
"We're like family, we just need to continue to believe in each other and support each other and working hard," Martin said. "We're going to have an opportunity to win some games, we just need to finish some games and keep doing the things we've been working on. It will come."
Paul Zeise: email@example.com or Twitter: @paulzeise.