The Duquesne Dukes have a long way to go.
Jim Ferry knows it, the administration knows it, and perhaps after the way the Dukes were clobbered by rival Pitt in the City Game at Consol Wednesday, the players understand it, too.
Then again, maybe not.
"We just shot poorly today," said Duquesne senior Sean Johnson after the Panthers' 66-45 win. "But I still think we can beat that team."
Johnson's optimism is admirable. He is, after all, the team's leader, so it is good that he is trying to lift the spirits of the Dukes, but the statistics and the way the game played out tell a different story.
Ferry wants the Dukes to be a strong rebounding team, and they have shown flashes of being so this year. But against the bigger and stronger Panthers, the Dukes were bludgeoned on the boards, 49-33.
Center Steven Adams led the glass-cleansing brigade with 14 rebounds. To put that number in better perspective, no two Dukes combined totaled 14 rebounds.
Ferry also wants a team that gets to the free-throw line more than opponents -- the Panthers shot 10 more free throws than the Dukes.
All of it is growing pains, part of the process of rebuilding, but Ferry wasn't really in the mood to talk about the journey or take a long-range view. All he knows is the Dukes have to get better.
"We played extremely hard today, I thought we defended pretty well," he said. "We played hard, but we didn't play well, and if you are going to beat Pitt you have to do both. [The rebounding numbers] are disappointing, some guys needed to have a better effort rebounding the basketball. Pitt is an exceptional rebounding team, but we have to go up and get the ball and hold onto it.
"When you miss shots, you have to go up and get the miss -- we didn't get the misses. We also had six offensive rebounds in our hands in the first half yet they ended up with the ball, that is not acceptable."
Ferry has upgraded the Dukes weight training program, has constantly worked on rebounding and toughness drills and has preached defensive intensity. And there have been signs that a transformation has started. But the Dukes still lack personnel and there is no quick fix or remedy for that.
This was Ferry's first City Game, but he was in no mood to wax poetic about the crowd, the atmosphere or the venue.
"It was a great environment, a great game for the city, but I am not very happy right now," Ferry said. "We lost and I didn't think we played well. This is a game that has to be played, it is a great game for the city, and I look forward to being a part of this for a long, long time.
"But this big stage had nothing to do with how we played -- that had to do with Pitt's defense. They deserve a lot of credit. They are a really good team. We played Georgetown a few weeks ago and I can tell you that this team [Pitt] is significantly better than Georgetown."
Freshman forward Quevyn Winters, also a rookie to the City Game, said he didn't realize how important or big the game was, but he does now, and he will be much better prepared to play it next year.
"A game like this will give us some experience and makes us more mature and really let's us know where we stand and what we have to work on," Winters said. "I knew this game was big, but I didn't know it was this big. But the next time we play in it we need to come out and play better and win it."
Duquesne, which averages about 25 3-point attempts per game, also had an bad night shooting, going 5 of 21 from 3-point range (24 percent) and 18 of 57 (32 percent) from the field.
As Ferry said, Pitt's defense had something to do with that, but the Dukes also were a bit unlucky in that several of their 3-pointers rattled in an out.mobilehome - duquesnesports
Paul Zeise: email@example.com and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM