Duquesne struggled early Tuesday night against West Virginia and, by halftime, it looked like the Dukes were headed to another blowout loss at the hands of a major conference foe at the Consol Energy Center.
But this time the Dukes were determined to write a different ending than the one in an ugly loss against Pitt last week, so they talked amongst each other about the need to show some fight in the second half and perhaps crawl back into the game.
The Dukes not only showed some fight, they showed the fight of a champion and battled all the way back from a 15-point deficit for a come-from-behind, 60-56 upset win against the Mountaineers, 60-56, before a crowd of 6,244.
The 15-point deficit overcome by Duquesne is the largest the Dukes (6-4) have overcome in at least seven years according to records available. The victory also snapped the Dukes' eight-game losing streak against the Mountaineers (4-4).
Before last night, West Virginia had won every meeting since 2002. The Mountaineers also had entered the game on a three-game winning streak, None of that, however, mattered to the Dukes, who were just tougher this night.
Perhaps, most importantly, it reinforced the fact that when the Dukes stick to the philosophy of toughness, defense and rebounding first-year coach Jim Ferry has installed they have a chance to be a dangerous team.
"I thought we showed a lot of character and heart tonight," Ferry said. "We played to our philosophy whereas last week against Pitt, we got beat at it and lost big. But this whole week we talked about our philosophy of rebounding the basketball and being able to compete on the glass, win free throws and turnovers in order to give ourselves a chance to win.
"I thought it was a great team win as all of our guys made fantastic plays, and we grinded it out. I thought a key in the second half is, when we were able to rebound the ball, we were able to start transition and their big bodies had a hard time keeping up."
Duquesne was outrebounded by 16 last week by Pitt, but the Dukes outrebounded West Virginia, 43-39, shot more free throws than the Mountaineers (16-13). They also kept their turnovers down (14) and scored 18 points in transition.
Neither team shot well, but the Dukes hit a few key jumpers -- including a 3-pointer by Jerry Jones with 3:25 to play that gave them a 53-51 lead -- down the stretch that proved to be the difference.
"We knew we couldn't hit a 13-point shot to come back but we talked about getting one stop at a time, one block out at a time, and guys just made plays," Ferry said. "It was really all about grinding it out and playing each possession."
After Jones hit the shot, however, West Virginia's Aaric Murray tied it with a jumper before freshman point guard Derrick Colter made a sweet reverse layup with 2:02 left and another layup off the glass with 1:17 to go, and the Dukes never looked back.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said the Dukes' ability to rebound and score in transition was the difference. He also said that Duquesne made a few clutch shots while the Mountaineers couldn't find a basket down the stretch.
"Duquesne did a good job, they had a good game plan, they deserve credit," Huggins said. "That being said, we had every opportunity to blow the game open early, and we created some offense with our defense, but then didn't finish in transition.
"We also went 1 for 6 from the free-throw line in the second half and took some bad shots and we were horrible in transition, and that's what got them back in the game. Give them credit, they hit some shots while we missed them on our end. And we got drilled on the glass today, absolutely drilled."
Duquesne finished the game 24 for 56 (43 percent) from the field, but were 3 for 19 from the 3-point line while the Mountaineers were 22 for 66 overall (38.2 percent) and just 4 for 18 (22 percent) from the 3-point line.
Jones led all scorers with 16 points and Colter chipped in 12 points and 7 assists for Duquesne while
Juwan Staten led the Mountaineers with 13.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @paulzeise. First Published December 12, 2012 5:00 AM