Duquesne relies heavily on three freshmen and really only has two players with extensive experience in its lineup. So it isn't a surprise that the only thing the Dukes, through six games, have been consistent in is their inconsistency.
And that's not a surprise to first-year coach Jim Ferry, though he could live without some of the extreme swings the team has experienced thus far.
Wednesday, for instance, the Dukes beat Appalachian State, 73-72, to notch their first road win, but the game was only close because they weren't nearly as efficient in the second half as they were in the first.
Duquesne led, 47-33, at the half, and shot 50 percent (17 of 34) from the field, 58 percent from the 3-point line (7 of 12) and 75 percent (6 of 8) from the free-throw line.
But in the second half, the Dukes shot just 31 percent from the field (9 of 29), 14 percent from the 3-point line (2 of 14) and only 50 percent from the free-throw line (6 of 12).
That poor shooting performance led to the Dukes being outscored by 13 points in the second half, and they would have lost had it not been for Quevyn Winters' late heroics.
Winters hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds to play, then grabbed a key defensive rebound to secure the win.
- Matchup: Duquesne (3-3) vs. Maine (2-4), 2 p.m. today, Palumbo Center.
- TV, Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7)
- Duquesne: Looking to improve to 3-1 at home this year. ... Coming off a 73-72 win against Appalachian State. ... Leading scorer is Sean Johnson (11.5 ppg) and leading rebounder is Andre Marhold (5.7 rpg). ... Final tuneup before Wednesday's annual "City Game" with Pitt.
- Maine: Leading scorer is Justin Edwards (16.2 ppg). ... Leading rebounder is Alasdair Fraser (9.0 rpg). ... Average 62 points per game and have a 6.0 per game rebounding advantage.
- Hidden stat: Freshmen Derrick Colter (10.8 ppg), Quevyn Winters (10.5) and Jeremiah Jones (6.0) account for 40 percent of Dukes' scoring.
"We've really been feast or famine, too much so," Ferry said. "We have got to get to a point where we play more consistently and we don't have these swings. It is part of the process, and any team that is relying as much as we are on so many freshmen is bound to have these growing pains, but we have got to start playing with consistency."
Ferry and the Dukes (3-3) will try to play a complete game this afternoon when they play host to the Maine Black Bears (2-4) in a non-conference game at the Palumbo Center.
Duquesne is 2-1 at home and Ferry said winning home games is a great place to start for programs that are on the rise, young and still developing or rebuilding.
"We always want to make sure we protect at home. We want to become a program that wins the overwhelming majority of our home games regardless of the opponent," Ferry said before practice Friday.
"And once you can establish that, then you take the next step in terms of winning on the road consistently, as well.
"I think that Maine is an excellent team. They have a very good frontcourt, they have two excellent guards -- so we need to put the things we always talk about in terms of defending the way we want to defend into practice today because Maine is a very good offensive basketball team."
Ferry said the goals for the Dukes in every game are pretty simple -- hold opponents to 68 points or less (though Ferry said "less than 70 is probably more realistic" in his first year), less than 40 percent on field goals, 30 percent from the 3-point line and outrebound opponents.
Through six games, the Dukes have held three opponents -- North Dakota State, Georgetown and Albany -- to less than 70 points, but the Dukes have held only one opponent -- North Dakota State -- to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
Still, Ferry is encouraged because the defense has improved, and that's especially true in rebounding, where the Dukes' rebounding margin is nearly 13 rebounds per game better than it was a year ago.
"If you look at what we are doing in rebounding, it shows that guys are buying into the defensive philosophy and getting better," Ferry said. "We're not where we want to be but we are working toward it. ... If you consider we were outrebounded by nearly eight per game last year, and this year we are outrebounding opponents by almost six, it is a great step forward for us.
"Really, that's what we need to do -- focus on getting better every game. And frankly, this is an important game for us because if we win it, we will have a winning record and I'm not sure many people thought that's where we'd be at this point."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @paulzeise.