Offensive dry spell slows Dukes’ pace, fuels losing streak

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Perhaps second-year Duquesne coach Jim Ferry jinxed his team a week ago when he observed, “Our offense is significantly ahead of our defense. I’ve said that over and over again.”

At that time, he was right. Through six games, the Dukes were scoring 81.5 points per game, an expected clip for Ferry’s hyper-tempo, transition offense, but they also were allowing 81 points per game.

The Dukes lost their scoring touch this week, netting season-low point totals of 59 and 63 in losses to Penn State and Robert Morris.

“This is the second game in a row that we held an opponent to under 70 points and still lost,” Ferry said after a 67-63 loss Saturday to the Colonials. “And I was complaining when we were winning and giving up 80 points per game.

That Duquesne had just four fast-break points against Robert Morris is telling.

The transition offense always has been a staple of Ferry-coached teams, and Colonials coach Andy Toole had his team prepared.

“They were just ready for us,” senior guard Ovie Soko said.

Robert Morris contained the Dukes’ pace by getting back on defense, sending fewer bodies to the glass for a rebound to ensure it had an extra defender or two back to slow the counter-attack.

“When you don’t have those fast-break points, you have to execute in the half court,” Soko said. “Our execution at the moment isn’t where it needs to be.”

The Dukes magnified the problem by making poor decisions in transition, opting for reckless beelines toward the rim instead of swinging the ball to the wings or to a trailing teammate. They turned the ball over 14 times.

“Guys were pressing,” Ferry said. “They forced it to the rim, took bad shots and missed them.”

Penn State and Robert Morris used effective zone defenses to stymie Duquesne. Ferry admitted that facing a zone “obviously has affected us a little bit” but thought the Dukes dealt with it far better Saturday than against the Nittany Lions.

Two other factors in a low-scoring week were the absence of sophomore guard Micah Mason — the team’s best shooter is out with a broken hand — and Duquesne’s struggles from the free-throw line.

The Dukes held a massive edge in the free-throw column, earning 34 and 35 attempts in the two games while Penn State and Robert Morris had just 10 and 12, respectively.

Soko alone had more free-throw attempts (24) and makes (20) than the two opponents had combined (22 attempts, 13 makes).

Duquesne converted on 44 of their 69 free-throw attempts (63 percent) in the two games, but take away Soko’s numbers and the rest of the Dukes were just 24 of 45 (53 percent).

Stephen J. Nesbitt:, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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