Coaching rivalry in different setting for Dukes, Colonials

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Duquesne coach Jim Ferry is fairly new to town, but he's plenty familiar with Robert Morris and its fourth-year coach Andy Toole.

The Colonials and Ferry's LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds were perennial contenders for the Northeast Conference crown. And, taking another leap backward, Ferry remembers recruiting Toole while an assistant coach at Bentley in the late 1990s.

When reminded that he had said the same thing a month ago about recruiting another opposing coach, current Albany coach Will Brown, to Bentley, Ferry laughed.

"I don't know, man," Ferry said. "I guess that means I'm getting old."

The Dukes (3-4) hope an afternoon date with Robert Morris (3-7) at Palumbo Center will help them regain their footing after a nine-point loss Wednesday to Penn State.

Scouting report
Matchup: Duquesne (3-4) vs. Robert Morris (3-7), 2 p.m. today, A.J. Palumbo Center.

Radio, Internet: WPGB-FM (104.7), WBGG-AM (970),,

Duquesne: Leads all-time series, 15-8, and is 7-2 in games played at the Palumbo Center. ... Leading scorer Ovie Soko (16.4 ppg) had 19 points and 9 rebounds vs. Penn State, including 12-of-14 shooting on free throws. ... Freshman F Isaiah Watkins had 2 points and 5 rebounds Wednesday in his debut.

Robert Morris: Has won three consecutive games against Duquesne. ... Leading scorers Karvel Anderson (18.6 ppg) and Lucky Jones (14.7 ppg) had 23 and 25 points, respectively, in their previous outing vs. Toledo. ... Has lost its past five games spanning the previous three weeks.

Hidden stat: Duquesne starting guards Derrick Colter and Tra'Vaughn White had 42 combined points Dec. 4 against Maryland-Baltimore County, but they floundered in their next game, going a combined 3 of 21 from the floor for 8 points against Penn State.

When Ferry says to disregard the Colonials' record, you tend to trust him. Ferry is 9-10 all time against Robert Morris, and a meeting a year ago was a lopsided 91-69 final, the Colonials' third consecutive win in this backyard rivalry.

"We're going to have a major battle on our hands," Ferry said. "They beat us up pretty good last year, and we're going to have to respond."

If there's ever a good time to face the Colonials, this is it. They've lost five games in a row and seven of eight, but they also have had a week to prepare for this one.

Ferry called the Colonials "one of the hardest-working teams in the country" and lauded the program's signature commitment to defense.

"They're very, very difficult to score on," he said.

The numbers, though, tell a different story from the pregame platitudes. Robert Morris has allowed more than 80 points in each of the past seven games.

Still, Toole said he's nowhere near waving the white flag on defense and simply using his high-octane offense to try to outscore opponents.

"That would be way, way, way deep in the tool box," Toole said. "You still have to guard people at some point. We're scoring more points than we ever have since I've been here and we have our worst record. As much as everyone says we should try to outscore people, I don't know if we have enough scoring depth to be able to outscore people."

Robert Morris is led by the one-two punch of senior guard Karvel Anderson (18.6 points per game) and junior forward Lucky Jones (14.7 ppg).

"What Karvel has been doing is just phenomenal," Ferry said. "And Lucky has just gotten better and better and better every single year. Those are two tough matchups for us."

A key for the Colonials will be to keep the Dukes off the free-throw line. Duquesne had 34 free-throw attempts against Penn State; senior forward Ovie Soko alone made more foul shots (12) than the Nittany Lions attempted (10).

Fouling has been troublesome for Robert Morris, which averages nearly 24 personal fouls per game.

"It's hard," Toole said. "[The Dukes] are super aggressive, and even before some of the rule changes, that's something coach Ferry did at LIU. His philosophy was always to make more free throws than your opponent even shoots. It was very effective previously, now it's even more effective."

Stephen J. Nesbitt:, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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