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Will Higgins find his shot as 'Instant Offense?'

| Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004

A year ago, Jack Higgins was raining shots from all around the arc. He finished second in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 3-point field-goal percentage, earning a reputation as "Instant Offense" in his role as a reserve guard for the Duquesne basketball team.

This season has been much different for the slumping Higgins, who has lost his starting job with the Dukes -- at least temporarily -- after his latest effort resulted in another woeful showing.

The 6-foot-5 Higgins scored just two points on 1-of-8 shooting during Duquesne's 78-59 loss Saturday at George Mason, and he has made only 5 of 27 field-goal attempts in the past three games,

including 1 for 10 in a listless 85-71 setback to Lafayette in the Dukes' home opener Nov. 20.

"I want to help Jack be successful," Duquesne coach Danny Nee said Tuesday. "He has been putting a lot of pressure on himself, and I think this might be a good thing for him for now. He has continued to work hard in practice, and he had a good practice today."

Freshman Chauncey Duke will replace Higgins when Duquesne (1-5) entertains Akron (2-1) tonight at Palumbo Center with hopes of ending a four-game losing streak that has dampened the spirits of the Dukes' coaches, players and fans alike.

Duke, a 6-6 swingman, is averaging 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 13.0 minutes and enjoyed his best game in Duquesne's lone victory -- an 82-69 win over North Carolina A&T, when he hit all four of his 3-point shots.

He and fellow freshman DeVario Hudson will begin to get longer looks from Nee. Hudson, a 6-6 power forward, is coming off an impressive, career-high 18-point, 8-rebound performance in 21 minutes at George Mason.

"They both will get opportunities to play, but they both have a lot to learn, and we'll help them through it," Nee said.

After Saturday's dismal outcome against George Mason, Nee promised changes. This week, he made at least one with regards to the lineup.

But, just as he isn't about to hang his head, he doesn't expect anyone else associated with his basketball program to do so, either.

"We're in rough times, but the team hasn't quit," Nee said. "Between the tough schedule (Duquesne already will be playing in its seventh game on the first day of December) and injuries, we're underachieving a little."

For Higgins, the Schenley High School graduate, it has been a difficult struggle through the first six games. He is shooting 30.4 percent from the arc and just 27.7 overall. As a sophomore last season, he converted 45.6 percent from 3-point range to finish second in the A-10 to Pat Carroll of Saint Joseph's (45.8).

"It's been real hard, but you just have to stay positive. Nothing like this has happened to me before," said Higgins, who is averaging 7.5 points after opening the year with a season-high 15 in Duquesne's 74-65 loss to Santa Clara.

"All good shooters go through shooting slumps. It gets into your mind and you definitely start thinking more about putting the ball in the hole."

Higgins and backcourt mates Bryant McAllister and Martin Osimani struggled to score in the Dukes' most recent game Saturday. The trio combined for just 11 points, including seven by Osimani, the Dukes' pass-first point guard.

"I feel that my coaches and teammates expect a lot out of me and that they are behind me. I expect a lot out of myself, too," Higgins said, adding that he won't let pride get in the way of the team's progress.

If Higgins' role becomes "Instant Offense" again -- he scored in double figures 10 times off the bench last season -- what will it mean to him?

"Coach has been real humble and very positive with me. I understand what he's doing," Higgins said. "I had to play that role last year, and if it does work out that way, if it's going to be good for the team and if it's going to make the university look good, then that's what I'll do."

Duquesne (1-5) vs. Akron (2-1)


When, where: 7:05 p.m., Palumbo Center

Probable starters

Duquesne

Pos. Name Ht. PPG
F Gayden 6-8 8.2
F Duke 6-6 3.0
C Achara 6-9 12.8
G McAllister 6-3 14.3
G Osimani 6-4 9.8

Akron

Pos. Name Ht. PPG
F Wood 6-6 14.3
F Peterson 6-5 12.7
C Meyers 6-9 2.3
G Collins 5-5 4.3
G Joyce 6-0 6.7

Around the Dukes


  • After sitting out Saturday's 79-58 loss at George Mason with a sprained ankle, junior forward Keith Gayden will be back in the Duquesne lineup tonight against Akron. The 6-foot-8 Gayden, playing in his first season with the Dukes after transferring from Kennedy-King (Ill.) College, started the Dukes' first three games and has played in 5 of 6, averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, which is second on the team. He injured the ankle the day before posting career highs of 15 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench in a 72-69 home loss to West Virginia on Nov. 24.

  • While Gayden will be back in the starting lineup for Duquesne, senior forward Jon Pawlak is out with a similar injury. The 6-9 Pawlak, who has played in all six games, starting two, hurt his ankle during the loss to George Mason. He is averaging 1.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.2 minutes. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman center Sean McKeon remains sidelined with mononucleosis and senior point guard Martin Osimani has nearly recovered from a broken nose that required him to play with a face mask for the Dukes' first five games.

  • Three of the past five meetings between Duquesne and Akron have been overtime affairs. The Dukes lead the series, 12-5, but Akron has taken the past three meetings, including a 64-61 OT victory a year ago. While Duquesne has lost four in a row, including both of its home games thus far, Akron looks to keep a two-game season winning streak alive. The Zips have posted home victories over NCAA Division III Mount Union (77-47) and Hampton (80-59) after opening with a 90-88 loss at Drake.

  • Sophomore center Kieron Achara has scored in double digits in Duquesne's first six games and has recorded double-doubles in three of the past four. The 6-9, 255-pound Achara is coming off a 15-point, 11-rebound effort against George Mason.

  • First-year Akron coach Keith Dambrot's father, Sid, played basketball at Duquesne from 1952 to 1954, when the Dukes competed in the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament in 1952 and the NIT in 1953 and 1954. The younger Dambrot also has been a head coach at Central Michigan and at NCAA Division II schools Ashland and Tiffin as well as at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

    Digits


    60-31 Duquesne's all-time record against schools from the Mid-American Conference, of which Akron is a member.

    80.9 Duquesne's free-throw shooting percentage this season.

    2.4 Difference in average assists per game between the top returnee in NCAA Division I (Aaron Miles of Kansas, who averaged 7.3 last season) and Duquesne point guard Martin Osimani, who is 12th on the list at 5.9.

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