There’s no rest for road-weary Duquesne. After a fruitless two-game road swing last week, the Dukes resume the Atlantic 10 gauntlet tonight when No. 19 Saint Louis visits Palumbo Center.
“This is a tough league, an unforgiving league,” second-year Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said, adding, sarcastically, that things now get “real easy” for the Dukes.
The Billikens (17-2, 4-0 A-10) own an 11-game winning streak, the sixth-longest active streak in Division I, and are one victory away from their longest winning streak since 1993-94. They are unbeaten in conference play and have a 6-0 road record this season.
Conversely, Duquesne (8-8, 1-3) is on a three-game slide and trying to regain its footing after suffering nine- and 15-point defeats at Saint Joseph’s and VCU last week.
So what’s priority No. 1 for the underdog Dukes against Saint Louis?
“Trying to score a basket against these guys,” Ferry said, with a chuckle. “It’s extremely difficult.”
He’s not kidding.
The Billikens have allowed 57.3 points per game, the sixth fewest in Division I and have not allowed more than 70 points in any game.
That explains much of their average scoring margin of 12.8 points per game.
“Obviously, they’re the best defensive team in the country,” Ferry said.
“And they’re one of the best defensive teams I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Duquesne has scored 64, 60, 41 and 51 points in its past four games against the Billikens — all losses.
“When you talk about paying attention to details and execution, it’s for games like this,” Ferry said.
“They don’t give up much in transition. Everything is challenged — every pass, every cut, every screen action, every post-up. …
“Everything has to be done the proper way.
“And then you have to take good shots. If you don’t take good shots, you don’t have a chance.”
While Duquesne has installed nine new players on its roster this season and three first-year starters, Saint Louis coach Jim Crews starts five seniors.
“A rarity in college basketball,” Ferry said.
“I heard a quote [recently] where Jim has mentioned how his team really takes care of itself,” Ferry added. “That’s experience, and that’s winning experience.”
The Billikens are 45-9 since Crews took over for the late Rick Majerus in October 2012.
“When you taste that winning, sometimes, it’s easy to buy in,” Ferry said.
“These guys are really playing basketball the right way. I think Jim is doing a fantastic job.
“When you have a group like this that has been together for so long, that’s something that we all dream about.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.