This much is clear about the Duquesne basketball team -- if the Dukes are going to break their 10-game losing streak, they will need to play a near-perfect game.
There just isn't enough firepower on the Dukes to overcome even a short stretch of poor play or more than a couple consecutive empty possessions on offense.
Duquesne coach Jim Ferry has talked at length about the "margin of error" and he said there isn't any because the roster is so limited and so inexperienced.
That's why this stretch of losses has been so tough for Ferry to deal with, as the Dukes have played some good basketball within each game and have been competitive in most games. But in every game, there seems to be a lull where the opponent goes on a run and takes control.
"In the past, I've had teams who can overcome those runs, who are explosive enough scoring to come from behind," Ferry said. "But we are so limited, we can't. We can't play a perfect game, that is not possible nor would it be reasonable, but we have to find a way to avoid those stretches if we are going to have a chance to win."
Ferry and the Dukes (7-15, 0-8 Atlantic 10) will attempt to break a number of losing streaks tonight when they play host to Xavier (12-9, 5-3) at Consol Energy Center.
Matchup: Duquesne (7-15, 0-8 Atlantic 10) vs. Xavier (12-8, 5-3), 7 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
TV, Radio: Root Sports, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Duquesne: The game is the fourth annual Chuck Cooper Classic. ... Has lost four home games in a row. ... Is 1-2 in games at Consol Energy Center this season. ... Freshman Derrick Colter leads team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and assists (5.1 apg). He is aiming to become the first freshman in school history to lead the team in both categories. ... C Derrick Martin played 27 minutes in the first 20 games but has played 29 in the past two.
Xavier: Leading scorer is freshman G Semaj Christon (14.9 ppg). ... Leads series with Duquesne, 28-17. ... Is 11-10 against Duquesne in games played in Pittsburgh. ... Has won the past three games in the series. ... Beat Duquesne, 71-63, in 2011 at Consol Energy Center.
Hidden stat: Freshman Jeremiah Jones has averaged 13.7 points the past three games.
Along with 10 in a row overall, the Dukes have lost eight consecutive conference games and four home games in a row.
The last time Duquesne won was Dec. 19 against Western Michigan, and looking at the schedule, there does not appear to be many games left that are good possibilities for the Dukes to break the streak. The Atlantic 10 is as strong and as deep as it has ever been.
One other factor that has become increasingly clear, especially to Ferry, is that if the Dukes are going to win, it is going to be one of the three freshmen -- Derrick Colter, Jeremiah Jones and Quevyn Winters -- who will lead them.
Of those three, the most likely is Colter, as he not only is the point guard, but also is the one player who has showed up ready to play and be accountable almost every game.
"The thing about Derrick is he is doing all the right things," Ferry said after a recent loss. "He is a gym kid, he is a hard worker. He is a kid who, you come to our gym at any time during the week, he is probably in there working.
"He wants to be good, but he is still a freshman, he is still figuring it out and he is still limited to some degree. But he is a gamer. He plays with a lot of heart and he gives you everything he has and that's all we can ask of them."
Colter, who is averaging a team-high 13 points per game, has scored in double figures in 16 of 22 games and is on pace to become the first freshman in school history to lead the team in scoring and assists.
But given his size -- generously listed at 5 feet 11 -- he does have some limitations, and as the Dukes have seen in recent games, when teams have committed to stopping him from scoring, they have had success.
Colter had 18 points Wednesday in the loss to George Washington but had very little help, as the only other player in double figures was Jones, and that drew the ire of Ferry.
"Thank goodness we have two freshmen who played with heart and wanted to win the game," Ferry said. "If we can get our upperclassmen to play the same way, we wouldn't be in this situation."
Ferry has become increasingly frustrated with the post players and has gone to a four-center rotation in hopes of finding at least one who will step up and play with more urgency and give the team a post presence on offense.mobilehome - duquesnesports
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published February 9, 2013 5:00 AM