Duquesne's Darius Lewis tries to find room against George Washington's Joe McDonald and Tyler Cavanaugh in the first half Wednesday at the Palumbo Center.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As Micah Mason’s layup slipped through the Palumbo Center net to give his team a 45-32 lead, it seemed as if little could go wrong for Duquesne against George Washington.
In need of a win to get a sputtering season back on track, the Dukes were executing offensively against a taller opponent and were largely limiting one of the Atlantic 10’s most efficient offenses.
The 6-foot-2 Mason easily sprinting past 6-foot-6 Patricio Garino, an A-10 all-defensive team honoree last season, for yet another layup summed up the teams’ differing fortunes Wednesday night.
About 17 minutes of game time later, Duquesne’s players walked off the court with an 81-74 loss and received some scattered boos from the crowd.
For the third time in as many games, the Dukes held a sizable second-half lead only to come away with nothing, the past two of which came at home.
The scripts of each game are far from identical, but they carry the same theme, one that has turned the Dukes (15-11, 5-8 A-10), who were 15-7 fewer than two weeks ago, into a squad scrambling for answers.
“It’s a program that hasn’t won in years,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “We’re trying to build it to win. This is a part of it. You have to learn how to win.
“We’ve done a better job of it earlier this season and we’ve been playing pretty good teams, but you’ve got to win these games.”
Duquesne’s breakdown against the Colonials (19-7, 8-5), while not a carbon copy of recent losses to Dayton and Massachusetts, was marred by some of the same defensive lapses in the final 20 minutes.
After shooting 38.7 percent in the first half, George Washington hit 52 percent of its shots in the second half. Its 3-point accuracy improved even more dramatically, as it made six of its nine shots from deep in the second half after making only three of 11 in the first.
In the Dukes’ past three games, their opponents have shot 54.5 percent (48 of 88) after the first half.
“We’re not really thinking about being up and them coming back,” Mason said. “That’s what has been happening. Right now, we just don’t have that edge to pull out wins.”
The loss to the Colonials, though, provided an extra wrinkle, one provided by the opponents’ defense.
Early in the second half, George Washington switched to a triangle-and-two defense in which two defenders applied constant pressure on Mason and Derrick Colter, limiting their range of motion.
By neutralizing the two senior guards, who combined for 44 of their team’s 74 points, the Colonials gave up just 12 points in a span of 12:31 in the second half. During that same period, they scored 31 points, turning a 13-point deficit into a six-point lead with five minutes remaining.
The defense wasn’t completely foreign to Duquesne — Ferry said his team faced it several times, including against George Mason last month, and “shredded it” — but it was unable to adjust.
“I felt we kind of froze a little bit,” Ferry said.
Mason made 10 of his 16 shots, including six of his nine 3-pointers, and scored a game-high 26 points, marking the fifth consecutive game the Highlands graduate has scored at least 20.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.
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