Freshman Tyus Verhoeven's big game helps Duquesne snap 6-game skid
For months, Duquesne's coaches and players kept telling Tydus Verhoeven to relax.
He was thinking too much, perhaps the product of demons running through his head, coach Keith Dambrot said.
All of those people are well-meaning mentors and friends, but they were lacking one important genetic characteristic.
They don't answer to the name Mom.
So before Duquesne's 76-69 victory against Saint Louis on Wednesday night at Palumbo Center, Jodi Verhoeven came to town.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk,” Tydus said. “It really helped.”
Finally relaxed and confident, Verhoeven, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Manteca, Calif., went out and scored a season-high 21 points — with four blocks, four rebounds and three assists — to help the Dukes (16-14, 7-10) end a six-game losing streak. More importantly, it set a school record for victories (13) at Palumbo.
Verhoeven, 19, was the catalyst for the victory, so he was asked to share some of the conversation with Jodi, who was a star herself at Fresno State in the early 1990s.
“She said ‘You need to go back to playing basketball the way you can do it, just relaxing and flowing in the game, not thinking so much.' Her saying it made it click.”
Jodi had to return to California before the game, but Verhoeven was eager to look at his phone when he got to the locker room. “I'm probably going to get a happy text pretty fast,” he said.
The victory was a reversal from Duquesne's 76-63 road loss to Saint Louis in January. The Billikens (16-14, 9-8) came into this game as the fourth-place team in the Atlantic 10. A victory would have pushed them closer to the coveted double-bye in the conference tournament next week.
Meanwhile, Duquesne has a better shot at a bye in round one.
Freshman guard Eric Williams scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to play that gave Duquesne a 62-60 lead. That came after the Dukes had lost most of a 12-point lead in the first half and frittered away a 10-point advantage in the second half.
While Saint Louis looked to be seizing control of the game, Dambrot didn't know what might happen next.
“You never know how a team that has lost as many games as we have in February was going to handle it,” he said. “That's what this is all about. Can you get hit in the mouth and recover?”
The Dukes responded by hitting 8 of 10 free throws in the final two minutes — 4 of 4 by Verhoeven, who was 7 of 7 from the field for the game.
The biggest play, however, might have been Kellon Taylor's steal at midcourt and layup that turned a six-point lead to eight with 48 seconds left.
Williams tied a Duquesne freshman record with his 11th double-double (20 points,11 rebounds), and his four 3-pointers gave him 66 and the freshman record set by teammate Mike Lewis last year.
Afterwards, Dambrot smiled at the contrasting thoughts running through the heads of his two freshmen.
“(Tydus') whole problem is he doesn't know how good he is,” Dambrot said. “The other guy (Williams) thinks he's great, and Tydus doesn't know he's good.”