Maybe in a year or two -- or perhaps a month from now -- the Duquesne Dukes will find a way to win a game like the one they lost Saturday night against Saint Joseph's.
But experience is sometimes the only teacher for a young team, and the difference in experience between the Hawks, a veteran team picked by many to win the Atlantic 10, and Duquesne showed up plenty of times down the stretch of the Hawks' 74-66 victory at Palumbo Center.
That's because Duquesne had plenty of late chances to make a run and take the lead, but every time they had such an opportunity -- including a 51-51 tie with 9:35 left -- the Hawks showed poise and made a big shot or big play to regain or maintain their lead.
The Hawks never trailed, something coach Phil Martelli said was a welcome change.
"The improvement that we need to see is still not there, and we have a lot of work to do," Martelli said. "We are halfway through this season and we haven't improved. There are some things we did tonight that we have to do better, but we also did some did some things we haven't had done before.
"We got some buckets off the bench, we hadn't sreen that, and we never trailed, which is something we hadn't done when you consider we had second-half leads in four of our five losses, and we need to continue that.
"The bottom line, though, is we are older [than Duquesne]."
Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said the experience difference was a factor, but he refused to use it as an excuse. Instead, he explained, the Dukes had opportunities to come from behind and win but failed to make the necessary plays.
He said the Dukes effort -- evidenced by the fact they were in the game until the end and outrebounded the bigger Hawks by 14 rebounds (47-33) -- was outstanding, particularly on defense., Now, he added, they need to learn how to execute better down the stretch.
He pointed to a sequence that began with the Dukes trailing, 63-60, with 4:38left. Derrick Colter stole the ball, but the Dukes turned it over. After a defensive rebound, the Dukes had another chance to pull to within one or tie the game. Instead, they made another turnover.
"Our margin of error is so small, especially given their experience and talent, that those empty possessions really cost us, we just couldn't overcome them," Ferry said.
"I thought we played extremely hard and we guarded well, we rebounded well, we have to play this hard every single night -- with this discipline, with this focus -- in order to give ourselves a chance to win in this league every night.
"But we come away with some empty possessions, and [they] hit two big shots with our guys draped all over them in my opinion. Their ability to block our shots and play defense without fouling says a lot about their talent level and their experience.
"We just didn't take advantage of some open looks, but, that team was better than us [down the stretch]."
Saint Joseph's led, 40-33, at the half and by 49-42, with 14 minutes left, but the Dukes mounted a 9-2 run to tie the score at 51-51 on a 3-pointer by Quevyn Winters.
But the Hawks again responded with a three-point play by Ronald Roberts and two free throws by Langston Galloway and never looked back.
The Dukes (7-9, 0-2 Atlantic 10) made it 56-55 on another 3-pointer by Winters, but Papa Ndao and Galloway hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Saint Joseph's back ahead by seven.
Saint Joseph's (9-5, 1-1) was led by Galloway, who scored 16 points, and Carl Jones, who had 15. Duquesne was led by Sean Johnson with 13 points and Andre Marhold, who had 13 points, 11 rebounds.
"What [the Duquesne players] better take out of this is the difference when you play this hard and rebound the basketball," Ferry said. "You give yourself a chance to win if you play like this. We hadn't played with this kind of purpose and intensity the last three games. But we were playing like this prior to Christmas break when we won seven games."duquesnesports