With its lead quickly shrinking — and its confidence, too — Duquesne put its faith in Thing One and Thing Two.
Derrick Colter and Tra’Vaughn White, wearing Nos. 1 and 2 for Duquesne, scored 20 and 22 points, respectively, as the Dukes fended off a late comeback and captured a 94-88 victory against Maryland-Baltimore County Wednesday night at A.J. Palumbo Center, pulling Duquesne (3-3) back even at the midpoint of its non-conference season.
The guard tandem combined for 29 second-half points to propel the Dukes from a three-point halftime lead to an 18-point lead midway through the second half. The Retrievers came battling back, closing the gap to six points in the final minute.
It was far from a shower of compliments from Duquesne coach Jim Ferry after the game. The Retrievers’ full-court press flummoxed and frustrated the Dukes guards and kept the game close.
Ferry sat down Colter, his floor general, early in the first half.
“I was just really disappointed in Derrick, a sophomore now that played big minutes last year, for going in against their pressure and going in so timid,” Ferry said. “That’s just not the way we play.”
White and Colter agreed they simply weren’t aggressive enough in the early goings against UMBC’s press.
“We feel like we’re quick enough to beat anybody’s pressure,” White said.
“I was just thinking too much,” Colter added.
Colter bounced back after the break, recording 15 second-half points to go with his 7 assists and 4 steals.
Colter and White have proven to be something of a Catch-22 for the Dukes. Their speed and skill sets play perfectly into Ferry’s transition game, but their all-too-common defensive lapses and diminutive size — both standing well under 6 feet — have been cause for concern.
Ferry admitted he has been forced to adjust his defensive philosophy and approach to compensate for the short stature of his starting guards.
“I’m not going to share exactly what, but yes we have,” Ferry said with a grin. “We have to. They’re two good players, but they’re not going to change. They’re not going to all of the sudden wake up 6-foot-4.”
The savior of the first half, meanwhile, was senior guard Jerry Jones.
Jones, earning extra minutes with guard Micah Mason out with a broken hand, came off the bench and sparked the Dukes with 12 points on six shots in the first half, including an individual eight-point run that pushed Duquesne ahead.
“Jerry was great,” Ferry said. “The ability to have a senior come off the bench with some experience really helped us. ... If we can continue Jerry playing that way, maybe the lack of Micah won’t be as glaring. I think that showed [Wednesday night].”
Duquesne led the Retrievers, 48-28, in points in the paint, but those points weren’t coming from the big men. That was a product of the guards beating the press and attacking the rim, Ferry said, which was part of the plan all along.
Joining Colter and White in double-figure scoring were Jones (14 points) and junior forward Dominique McKoy (13).
Senior forward Ovie Soko, who finished with six points and nine rebounds, was held under 14 points for the first time as a Dukes player.
“Balance is so important,” Ferry said. “That’s why we have the ability to score 94 points. Some teams don’t. We play unselfishly; we have weapons all over the floor. It’s going to be different people each night.”
Duquesne has a week to rest and practice before playing host to Penn State Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published December 4, 2013 9:15 PM