There’s plenty still on the table for Duquesne in the regular-season finale tonight against George Mason at Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. With the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament looming next week, both teams are desperate to avoid the play-in game.
A win against the Patriots (11-18, 4-11) would secure Duquesne (12-16, 4-11) a No. 10 seed in the tournament. Whichever team losses will slip to 12th and face 13th-seeded Fordham in the play-in game Wednesday night in Richmond, Va.
That the Dukes are in such a position is a harsh reality for these kings of near-wins. Duquesne is 2-3 in the past five games, but the Dukes had a chance to tie or win in the final half-minute of their losses against St. Bonaventure, Dayton and, most recently, Massachusetts.
Duquesne missed two shots off drives that could have tied the score in the last 30 seconds against the Minutemen Wednesday at Palumbo Center.
After the game, sophomore guard Micah Mason, who had his floater blocked with 27 seconds left, said despite what the win/loss column might show, the Dukes are peaking at the right time.
Duquesne coach Jim Ferry agreed.
“For us to be winning and competing against some of the better teams in our league, which has played out to be one of the top leagues in the country, means we are playing good basketball,” Ferry said Friday. “We’ve gotten better, and this time of the year it’s about being as good as you can be.
“I think we are hitting our stride at the right time.”
George Mason knocked off the Dukes, 74-68, Feb. 8 at Palumbo Center. Duquesne led only once and allowed the Patriots to shoot 61 percent in the second half to pull away.
George Mason guard Sherrod Wright scored 23 points in that game as the Patriots ended their nine-game losing streak. This time, Ferry hopes to have an answer for Wright, who has averaged 20.6 points per game over the past month.
“He’s a senior playing with a sense of urgency,” Ferry said of Wright. “We’ve broken down a lot of tape of him. I think we’ve kind of figured out what his comfort zone is, and we’ve got to get him out of it.”
The biggest factor in this matchup, Ferry said, might be rebounding. George Mason outrebounded Duquesne, 36-30, last month. The Dukes have rebounded well recently, and bested Massachusetts, the conference’s top rebounding team, by four.
“In this league, that’s what it comes down to: you’ve got to be able to compete on the glass,” Ferry said. “We’ve been able to do that the last couple weeks, and that’s why we’ve been in games and winning games.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.