Duquesne's opponent still seeking first Atlantic 10 win

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There are 351 teams spread across 32 conferences in college basketball. More than a month into league play, only 12 have not registered a conference victory.

Today, George Mason, one of that lonely dozen, visits Palumbo Center hoping to snap its nine-game losing streak in a matinee against Duquesne (10-11, 2-6 Atlantic 10)

But Dukes coach Jim Ferry isn’t kidding when he called the Patriots (7-15, 0-8) “a really, really talented team.” Saying they’re better than their record might not do them justice, either.

George Mason’s average margin of defeat in the past nine games was six points. The current losing streak includes a pair of overtime road losses against Rhode Island and Saint Louis and a one-point loss Jan. 15 against No. 16 Massachusetts.

“It’s crazy, really,” Ferry said. “I think they had a chance to be 6-2 in this league right now. I’ve watched all of these games when they’ve been up 10, up 12 but got beat in the second half.”

A year ago, the Dukes lost their first nine Atlantic 10 games, so Ferry knows the feeling.

“They’re far from giving up,” Ferry said. “They’re far from throwing their hands up. They’re going to be coming in here with a sense of urgency, with a chip on their shoulder, and they’re coming in here thinking this is a game they can win.”

Duquesne is back home after a fruitless road swing with losses against La Salle and George Washington. The 71-57 loss Wednesday in Washington featured 30 combined turnovers and left Ferry scratching his head.

Starting point guard Derrick Colter played just 14 minutes, committing two turnovers, and backup Desmond Ridenour, a freshman, added two more in 13 minutes.

“We’re going to need to have some better point-guard play down the stretch for us to compete in this conference,” Ferry said.

He re-emphasized his confidence in Colter, a sophomore who is averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 assists per game.

“Derrick is a real competitive kid,” Ferry said. “Whenever I’ve challenged him in the past, he’s responded. He understands he’s not playing well, and that he’s got to make better decisions.”

NOTE — The game today will be fifth annual Chuck Cooper Classic, honoring the Duquesne alumnus who was the first African-American drafted by an NBA team (April 25, 1950). The Boston Celtics selected Cooper with the first pick of the second round, and owner Walter Brown famously exclaimed, “I don’t give a damn if he’s striped or plaid or polka-dot, Boston takes Charles Cooper of Duquesne!”

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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