After losses to New Hampshire and West Virginia, the Duquesne men’s basketball team will try to get back on track today when it plays Albany at Palumbo Center.
But the Dukes (1-2) have no easy opponent on their hands. The Great Danes (2-1) beat Duquesne, 69-66, in the season opener last season en route to a program-record 24 wins, an America East tournament title and an NCAA tournament berth before losing by 12 points to second-seeded Duke in the second round of the Midwest Region in March.
“They’re an NCAA tournament team returning a lot of guys,” second-year Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “It’s a program that has been to the championship level and understands how to win.”
Ferry has plenty of experience with the Great Danes and their head coach, Will Brown. Ferry recruited Brown in the mid-1990s while an assistant coach at Bentley, and when Ferry was the head coach at Long Island University, his team would often scrimmage Albany.
The connection goes back even further, to the 1984 Empire State Games, Ferry recalled, when he played for Brown’s father, William, Jr., a longtime high school coach on Long Island.
Albany opened the season with wins against Siena and NJIT before losing to Quinnipiac, 79-69, Saturday afternoon.
The Great Danes are a defense-first team centered on their big men. Albany creates high-percentage shots around the basket, unlike the Dukes’ past two opponents who relied primarily on perimeter play, using slashing guards to penetrate and create open 3-point attempts.
The Dukes spent two hours watching and re-watching video Monday of their defensive lapses in the two losses in the past week.
“We’ve got to contain the ball better, rotate quicker and guard the ball harder,” Ferry said.
Junior forward Sam Rowley, one of three returning Albany starters, leads the pack with 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Ferry called the Great Danes a “disciplined” team on both ends of the court and noted Albany’s height advantage at every position except point guard.
“It’s going to be a tough game for us,” Ferry said.
NOTE — The athletic department announced the establishment of the Fund for Basketball Excellence, a campaign to which 10 donors have already committed a total of $1 million over the next five years. “There is a difference between success and excellence,” athletic director Greg Amodio said in a statement. “Succeeding is to attain a desired result once; excellence requires sustaining and building on success. These funds will help our basketball programs to achieve real excellence.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.