Duquesne looks for answers after OT loss
A clearly frustrated Ron Everhart addressed the media Thursday night, just minutes after his Duquesne Dukes had lost yet another overtime game, 84-80, to Massachusetts at Palumbo Center.
"I think I could sit here after every game — win or lose — and probably tell you 20 things I could have done differently or better," the Dukes coach said after his team blew a 16-point second-half lead. "(UMass) played really hard. They made some really tough shots down the stretch.
"Our effort was very good, but in the second half, we didn't guard nearly as well as we did in the first. A large part of that was those guards made some deep 3s that they missed early in the game."
Senior Ricky Harris and redshirt junior Anthony Gurley combined to shoot 9 for 19 from behind the arc after halftime after struggling for a combined 1 for 7 in the first half for the Minutemen.
But were they guarded as crisply late in the game• It wasn't just Duquesne's defense that sagged. The Dukes were a bit slower in getting to loose balls and grabbing rebounds. They missed shots that they had been making earlier, particularly from the free-throw line with the outcome in the balance.
Duquesne's bench was outscored, 29-9, and all of the points from their reserves came from senior guard Jason Duty, who only recently was replaced in the starting lineup.
In essence, just six Dukes set foot on the court, not counting reserves Morakinyo "Mike" Williams and Rodrigo Peggau (2 minutes each) and Sean Johnson (1). This despite the Dukes playing in their sixth overtime game this season, a team record.
Fatigue most likely played a factor in the outcome for Duquesne, and Everhart said as much.
"(But) fatigued or not fatigued," he said, "we've got to get a rebound on a free throw. We've got to get that rebound at the end of the game there, where we just dropped it out of bounds. Those are effort plays, and that's just one man's will over another man's skill, and we didn't make the plays."
When junior forward Damian Saunders, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, was forced to the sidelines with leg cramps, UMass capitalized. Saunders, who has 17 double-doubles this season, finished Thursday's game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 blocks and 3 assists.
"I definitely think we took advantage when he was out," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "He's one of those guys that's just a difference-maker on both ends. He's a tough matchup."
Sophomore guard Eric Evans played 42 minutes, Saunders played 41, junior forward Bill Clark played 40 and sophomore guard Melquan Bolding played 39.
Also, sophomore guard B.J. Monteiro played 31 minutes and Duty played 27.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard who was named the MVP of the New York Catholic High School Athletic Association in 2008-09, has drawn past praise from Everhart for his defensive prowess. Yet Thursday, he barely played, even though he was averaging 15.6 minutes per game.
Everhart, obviously, felt more comfortable with his veterans.
"(Evans) got kicked in the back, and he was really struggling," he said. "We had to take him out for a while. And then, when he got back in there, I thought he really struggled guarding Harris. That really hurt us. That was a good matchup all night until Eric got knocked around."
It was Duty, the senior and 3-point shooting specialist who got the bulk of the extra minutes. Evans returned when Everhart was convinced he was able.
"We needed him in there to handle the ball, so we had to switch the matchups," the coach said. "Then, when we went to the zone, I thought we were doing a good job. They just backed up and made a couple of tough 3s. I thought we had them covered up pretty well twice, and they drained two of them very deep (in overtime)."
With the season winding down and time running out for Duquesne to secure even a spot in the 12-team field for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in March, the Dukes seemingly find themselves playing the starting five plus one for a majority of the minutes.
"Damian had a tough night ... he was just fatigued," Everhart continued. "He had some cramps in his legs, and we elected to go with him because he seemed like he could go. He said he could go, but I didn't think he had the bounce he had in the first half later in the second half. But when he came out with cramps, we kind of went into the tank a little bit.
"They went on a 9-0 run, so I elected to kind of go with him down the stretch because I thought he gives us something that we just needed tonight."
Everhart searched for more answers.
"Even given the fact we got outrebounded that badly (60-33), we still were in a position to win this game and should have won this game. But they made the plays down the stretch, and we didn't."