Duquesne hopes to get act together with trip to UMass
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The Duquesne University basketball team that looks sharp in practice isn't always the same one that shows up for games.
The Dukes followed a couple days of what coach Ron Everhart called "some of our best practices of the year" with a lethargic effort in a 71-59 loss to Fordham last Sunday at the Palumbo Center.
"We're practicing really hard and then we come out flat in the game," said 6-foot-10 junior Kieron Achara (13.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg), who will be the only Duquesne player taller than 6-6 when the Dukes (5-10, 1-3) play at Massachusetts (13-5, 3-1) 2 p.m. today in an Atlantic 10 Conference game.
Duquesne will be without 6-9 Almamy Thiero, who was hospitalized Friday for treatment of blood clots in his lungs.
Playing on the road might be just what the Dukes need to wake them after snoozing in home losses against La Salle and Fordham.
They are 3-5 on the road with victories against heavily favored Boston College and Saint Louis compared to 2-5 at home.
"If I knew the reason why we play better on the road, I'd fix it," Achara said. "Maybe we're a little too comfortable at home. There are a lot more distractions at home and on the road we're more focused because we're just there for basketball. I've always liked playing on the road because I like proving road crowds wrong.
"A lot of people are motivated because people expect [us] to lose on the road."
It's impossible to know what to expect from Duquesne, one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in Division I. Just when it looks like the Dukes have no chance, they turn around and shock Boston College and Saint Louis. Then, just when they seem to have some momentum they lose games at home that are winnable.
"To win, you have to be consistent," Achara said. "That's something we haven't been."
Massachusetts, tied with Xavier for first place in the Atlantic-10, isn't a good matchup for Duquesne. Massachusetts' strength is rebounding. which is one of Duquesne's weaknesses. The Minutemen lead the conference in rebound margin per game at plus 6.5, while the Dukes are 12th at minus 4.4. Massachusetts is coming off an 83-77 loss at Xavier, despite holding a 47-31 advantage on the boards.
The Minutemen feature two of the premier big men in the league in 6-9 center Rashaun Freeman (17.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and 6-8 forward Stephane Lasme (13.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg). Lasme, who had two blocks against Xavier, entered the week tied for first in the country with 5.4 blocks per game.
"Both of those big guys could be on the all-league first team," Achara said. "Freeman is a very hard worker with real nice post moves. I'll have to try to limit his touches. Lasme is very athletic and causes a lot of problems with his speed and the way he runs the floor. They have two big guys who are very powerful."
Steffphon Pettigrew, a 6-5 senior at Elizabethtown, Ky. who made a visit to Duquesne in the fall but didn't sign a national letter of intent, is the leading candidate for Mr. Basketball in Kentucky. He leads the state in scoring (35.6 ppg) and rebounding (14.3 rpg). Pettigrew set a school record with 54 points against John Hardin earlier this month and has scored more than 40 points in six other games. Duquesne, Bradley, South Carolina State and Western Kentucky have been heavily recruiting Pettigrew and New Mexico State, Mississippi and Massachusetts have recently gotten involved. Kentucky has only offered him a chance to be a walk-on and Louisville is interested in him for football.Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Freshman Robert Mitchell has been in double-figures in scoring 13 times.
Click photo for larger image.
Matchup: Duquesne (5-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10) vs. Massachusetts (13-5, 3-1), 2 p.m. today, Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
Radio, Internet: KQV-AM (1410)/redzonemedia.com, GoDuquesne.com
Duquesne: Coming off a 71-59 loss to Fordham in which the Rams shot a Palumbo-record 69 percent from the field. ... Opponents shoot 51.2 percent for the season vs. the Dukes. ... F Robert Mitchell (17.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the fourth-leading freshman scorer in Division I. He has scored 20 or more points seven times, with a high of 29 against Robert Morris.
Massachusetts: Coming off an 83-77 loss at Xavier despite Rashaun Freeman's 22 points and 13 rebounds. ... Leading scorers are Freeman (17.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Stephane Lasme (13.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 93 blocks), James Life (12.6 ppg) and Gary Forbes (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg). ... Tied with Xavier for first place in A-10.
Hidden stat: Massachusetts has won 10 consecutive games at home against Duquesne since the Dukes won, 88-84, 1989.
First Published January 21, 2007 12:00 am