For openers, Duquesne Coach Jim Ferry was satisfied. Sort of.
In a game that was the tale of two halves, the Dukes were efficient and energized to build an insurmountable lead at the outset and then lost their focus and intensity after intermission to come away with a 94-75 victory against Abilene Christian Saturday at A.J. Palumbo Center.
"We were locked in defensively and offensively early and set the tone for the game," Ferry said of the Dukes, who raced to leads of 12-0, 24-8, 41-16 and finally 54-29
at halftime. "In the second half we didn't handle things as well."
Abilene Christian, which is competing in NCAA Division I for the first time, never seriously challenged the Dukes but they manage to poke a lot of holes in their defense with guard Harrison Hawkins scoring a game-high 26 points.
"I was a little disappointed giving up 75," Ferry said. "But we did score 94."
When the Dukes were on top of their game, they hounded the Wildcats on defense and displayed a crisp passing game that produced a number of highlights. There was the in-bounds pass from Derrick Colter to Ovie Soko for a dunk. There was freshman guard Desmond Ridenour finishing an end-to-end of the floor dribbling act with a rim-rattling tomahawk jam. There were Colter and junior-college transfer Tra'Vaughn Whiter torturing the Wildcats with spinning, twisting acrobatic drives and a sprinkling of 3-points.
Finally there was Micah Mason draining a 3-pointer the first time he touched the basketball 28 seconds after he entered the game in the first half.
"That was kind of neat for him," Ferry said of Mason, who received a medical waiver from the NCAA on Thursday after transferring from Drake. Mason, the most prolific 3-point shooter in WPIAL history at Highlands High School, threw up a couple airballs from 3-point territory and finish with seven points on 2-of-10 shots from the field and two free throws.
"He doesn't have his legs yet," Ferry said. "He didn't even know he was going to play this season and hasn't worked in our rotation."
The Dukes got balanced scoring from Colter (23 points). White (20 points), Soko (17 points, 13 rebounds), Jeremiah Jones (12 points) and Dominique McKoy (11 points, 6 rebounds). Seven of the first nine players off the bench were appearing in their first "real" game in a Duquesne uniform. That included 6-foot-11 Darius Lewis, who played sparingly and won't be eligible for a redshirt. The original plan was to redshirt Lewis, but he has been pressed into service because two of Duquesne's prized freshman recruits 6-8 Jordan Robinson and 6-7 Isaiah Watkins aren't available. Watikins (knee surgery) has been cleared for limited practice and Robinson is waiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility status.
Duquesne is extremely thin up front with 6-8 Soko, 6-7 freshman McKoy, 6-7 freshman L.G. Gill and Lewis the only big men on the roster.
"We have to bring an attitude every time we step on the floor," said Colter, a 5-10 sophomore who led the Dukes in scoring and assists last season and on the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie team. "We're together as a team. Last year some people seemed to be on their own at times."
Soko, a fifth-year senior who sat out last season after transferring from UAB, added, "It's genuine. No-one has a problem looking out for each other. I try to set a good example because I've seen a lot more than they (freshmen) have. I know how hard you have to play for 40 minutes. You could see the drop-off in the second half.
NOTE -- Duquesne's next game is Wednesday against New Hampshire at Palumbo.