Two days later, Duquesne coach Jim Ferry was still shaking his head at the thrilling 83-81 victory Saturday night against St. Bonaventure at Palumbo Center, marveling not only how the Dukes won but who played hero.
With 5.5 seconds left, sophomore point guard Derrick Colter, a 75 percent free-throw shooter, missed both the potential tying and go-ahead free throws.
“He was devastated,” Ferry said Monday. “When he missed the free throws, my first thought was, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to make sure I go hug this kid at the end of the game if we don’t win it.’
“We all felt bad for Derrick at that point in the game. Here’s a kid who is in the gym every single day — New Year’s Eve, 11 o’clock at night the kid was in the gym working on his free throws, shooting jump shots.”
But from the moment his second free-throw attempt swung off the rim until the final buzzer, Colter finished flawlessly. The first step forward, Ferry said, was when Colter immediately fouled Bonnies guard Andell Cumberbatch after his second miss.
The quick foul left 3.8 seconds on the clock, enough time to get back up the court for a decent shot at the buzzer. Cumberbatch missed twice, and Colter rebounded. After a quick timeout, Colter raced over midcourt and sank a winning floater from just beyond the 3-point line.
“What a turnaround for a kid,” Ferry said.
Colter’s heroics were a much-needed confidence boost for his team, too. The Dukes had lost four games in a row, despite challenging VCU and then-No. 25 Saint Louis.
Duquesne’s two Atlantic 10 Conference victories are already one more than the Dukes had in the 2012-13 season.
“We’d been playing well but just hadn’t been able to get over the hump,” Ferry said. “This game is so fragile. We were 3.8 seconds away from losing five in a row, and now everybody is excited because Derrick’s shot is on ESPN and we won the game.
Robinson ruled out
Four months and 18 games into the season, Duquesne finally got a ruling from the NCAA regarding freshman forward Jordan Robinson’s initial eligibility.
“And it’s not good for the Dukes,” Ferry said.
Robinson, a product of Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C., has been ruled a “partial qualifier,” Ferry said, meaning he did not meet all NCAA academic requirements before arriving at Duquesne and will not play this season.
“It’s disappointing, real disappointing, but he’s taking it well,” Ferry said.
Robinson can remain on scholarship but cannot practice or compete for the Dukes until the fall. He will have four years of eligibility remaining.
With Robinson officially ruled out, the Dukes must make do with their thin frontcourt depth, anchored by junior center Dominique McKoy and senior forward Ovie Soko, for the remainder of the season.
Despite facing two of the best Atlantic 10 defenses last week in Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure, Duquesne shot 52 percent from the floor over the two games.
“I think we’re playing really unselfishly,” Ferry said. “We’re sharing the basketball. Our spacing has been great. I think we’ve tightened up our execution. And a big key has been we’ve outrebounded our last two opponents.
“When we do play the right way — unselfishly, with ball movement and player movement — we can be difficult to guard.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.