Duquesne bracing for visiting Massachusetts
In these urgent times for the Duquesne University basketball team — not to mention the harrowing weather conditions gripping the region — senior guard Jason Duty paused on the eve of the Dukes' next Atlantic 10 Conference game.
"Hopefully, UMass gets here safely, and the officials, too," Duty said Wednesday following a Dukes practice inside cozy Palumbo Center. "That's what really matters. Then, hopefully, we can play the game."
Having experienced their own bit of travel woes last weekend in snowbound Washington, where the Dukes beat George Washington for just their second road win of the season, Duquesne (12-11, 3-6) awaits Massachusetts (8-15, 2-7) tonight for a chance to continue building a case for an A-10 Tournament berth.
UMass arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon without incident, said the school's sports information director, Jason Yellin. The Minutemen took a successful chartered flight from Western Massachusetts, where only a dusting of snow was received, to snowbound Pittsburgh International Airport and practiced last evening at Palumbo Center.
The game was expected to go on tonight, and a victory over the Minutemen would put the Dukes in better shape heading into a Sunday home game against La Salle, with whom they are tied for eighth place in the A-10 standings.
The top 12 teams qualify for the league's postseason tournament.
Just one game separated Duquesne from UMass and GW, both 2-7 in the league and tied for 12th place, with just seven regular-season games remaining for the Dukes.
"In the end, it's all going to come down to giving a great effort, making some perimeter shots and sticking our free throws at the end," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "Whatever it is that helps us do those things is going to be good for us."
Surviving their 70-63 victory at GW on Saturday after suffering a lopsided loss at No. 21 Temple speaks volumes for the Dukes' resiliency in a season that has offered some potential for disarray. Duquesne's latest victory was just its fourth in the past 12 games.
That the Dukes accomplished it on the road amid snowy conditions that caused their chartered bus to get stuck not once but twice makes it more satisfying.
"We're still a young ballclub," Everhart said. "I'd like to think that what we've been through the last couple of weeks — road trips, tough wins, tough losses — I'd like to think at some point we've come together and we've grown a little bit and gotten to know each other a little better.
"We played a little harder at GW, maybe with a little more confidence down the stretch. We made the extra pass. Make or miss shots, we gave a good effort. I think we were willing to share the ball. I guess when you break it down to basics, that's one of the things we've got to do to have a chance to turn the corner and get better."
Junior forward Damian Saunders, who finished with a career-high 27 points and 16 rebounds against GW, needs 14 points to become the 33rd player in Duquesne history to reach 1,000 for a career. Junior forward Bill Clark is 32 points shy of the mark.
UMass is 1-8 on the road this year after a 93-85 loss at Rhode Island. Its lone victory away from home came against Saint Joseph's, 87-80. Duquesne upended Saint Joe's at Palumbo Center, 74-71.
Not since a span covering 1988-90 has Duquesne beaten UMass three consecutive times. The Dukes, who defeated the Minutemen in Amherst, Mass., during the regular season and in the A-10 Tournament last year, will try to match that span tonight.
"The weather won't be a distraction to us," Duty said. "We get a little extra rest with classes being off, and we get a little extra time to make up the time we missed (on the recent two-game road swing through Philadelphia and Washington). Rather than being a distraction, it's helping us relax and rest and get back to where we need to be for the last stretch of the season."Additional Information:
Massachusetts (8-15, 2-7 Atlantic 10) at Duquesne (12-11, 3-6)
When/where: 7 p.m. Thursday/Palumbo Center
TV/radio: CBS College Sports Regional/KQV-AM (1410)
Favorite: Duquesne by 6.5
Series record: Massachusetts lead, 33-23