NEW YORK -- This could have been one of those cool homecoming trips. First-year coach Jim Ferry hails from Long Island and coached at LIU-Brooklyn, and he was making his first trip back to his home as leader of the Duquesne Dukes.
Duquesne's leading scorer, senior Sean Johnson, grew up a borough away in Queens. About 40-50 friends came uptown to Fordham to watch.
What could've been an inspiring showcase turned into a disaster as Fordham won, 82-75, Wednesday night in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at Rose Hill Gym.
"It's a lot disappointing," Johnson said.
The result won't help Duquesne (7-8, 0-1) as it tries to reclaim ground in the improved (and expanded) Atlantic 10, and it won't help a team -- that beat West Virginia then followed up with what is now four losses in five games -- find its identity.
It did, though, make for a reasonably thrilling game.
Duquesne pushed the tempo as best it could, and Fordham (5-11, 1-0) ran right along, getting a boost inside to counteract Duquesne's quickness.
Otherwise, Duquesne faced a team that was its equal. Fordham also is young. Besides Chris Gaston, one of the best forwards in the conference, and guard Branden Frazier, the Rams featured a lineup dominated primarily by inexperienced players prone to fizzling or disappearing on a given night.
The biggest difference had to do with the teams' inside presence. Fordham had a good one, and Duquesne, at least Wednesday night, had none.
At halftime, that advantage translated this way: 26 points in the paint for Fordham (to 14); 27 rebounds (to 18). Gaston had 12 points while making 6 of 7 field-goal attempts. Forward Ryan Canty had eight points in six minutes. Starting the second half, he added another basket.
Soon, Fordham was stretching a six-point halftime lead to 12, at 55-43. From there, Duquesne kept it close, even creeping within five late in the game but could never mount a true comeback. Fordham outrebounded the Dukes, 49-34, for the game.
"They bullied us," Ferry said.
He pointed to the rebounds as the determining factor not just this game over the past month. It has been a long December and January for Duquesne. Though barely playing, the Dukes seemingly have lost everything.
Ferry sees it this way: In the beginning, they were outrebounding teams by about six per game. Then it became three. Then it became nearly even. Now, the Dukes have been outrebounded by a total of 47 over the past four games.
And, when Duquesne doesn't rebound, it can't play to its strength -- speed. The Dukes could run when they forced turnovers (16); they couldn't when Fordham made baskets (it shot 53 percent) and corralled offensive rebounds.
Neither Duquesne nor Fordham likely will be playing for one of the top positions in the Atlantic 10. They might actually struggle to avoid finishing at the bottom.
That's the reality. But after the game, Fordham coach Tom Pecora said he entered the locker room and told his players, "Hey, we're first place in the Atlantic 10."
He was right. By beating Duquesne, Fordham, a perennial doormat and owner of a 3-13 Atlantic 10 record a year ago, started conference play in ideal fashion.
Duquesne, as it has for the past month, ended the night facing even more questions and even more disappointment.
"Losing to Fordham," Johnson said. "I don't even know how many games they've won in conference the last few years."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, Twitter: @mdent05.