Penn State Basketball Game 11 Preview: Duquesne Dukes

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

While Return To Rec looms, the Lions first must take on a pesky #duqane squad amidst their rebuilding project under second year coach, Jim Ferry.

Who: Duquesne Dukes (3-3)
When: Tonight, 7:00pm
Where: Consol Energy Center
TV: N/A, Free webstream here
KenPom Rank: 207
Vegas Line: PSU -6.5
Enemy Blog: We Wear The Ring

The Lions continue their season with another trip to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne in the final contest of their four-game deal that was signed by Ed DeChellis and Ron Everhart back in 2010. Penn State won in the BJC last year, 84-74 with DJ Newbill leading the way to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds. However, the last time these teams played in Consol, Pat Chambers' team faltered 66-59. Considering Consol Energy Center, the home of the Pens, is right across the street to the university, this will be the Lions third true road test of the year.

Scouting The Opposition

Dukes' coach Jim Ferry is in his second year at the helm, which, much like Chambers, still means he's putting together his own roster. Only two players from last year's rotation are still on the team, as four players transferred after the year. Ferry responded with a 7-man recruiting class that arrived this fall and included six spring signings. The overhaul is part of the necessary process that comes with any coaching change, as Ferry works his style of hoops into the program with players suited to thrive in his system.

Speedy sophomore point guard Derrick Colter still runs the show for the Dukes, but he has taken a step back with his usage after the addition of a couple transfers. However, Colter is averaging just 0.7 points less per game than he did a year ago (12.8 vs 13.5), while averaging four less shots per contest. That's due to his impressive start from behind the arc (13-28 in six games), which has helped dramatically increase his efficiency thus far.

UAB-transfer Ovie Soko handles the load down low as the Dukes' most involved player. The 6'8" senior is actually averaging a double-double with 16.0 PPP and 10.0 RPG. Soko, who played three years in Birmingham including two as a starter, has gotten off to a slow start shooting the ball (41% on 2's), but he has earned plenty of opportunities at the foul line to score his points (9.5 FTA per game). Soko's propensity to draw fouls could be problematic for the Lions' frontcourt, including former Duquesne signee Donovon Jack.

Junior college transfer Tra'vaughn White has also proved to be a valuable addition in the backcourt, scoring 15.7 PPG while sharing point guard duties with Colter. Don't get confused, however; both sub six-foot guards will be on the floor together a lot for Duquesne. The fourth (!) double-digit scorer for the Dukes is former Rhode Island Ram, six-foot-eight junior Dominique McKoy, who is averaging 10.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a night.

Duquesne goes 8-deep on the bench after losing Drake transfer and sharpshooter, Micah Mason, to a broken hand in just the fourth game of the year. They do expect to debut freshmen 4-man, Isaiah Watkins from Canada, who has sat out the start of this season while healing from offseason knee surgery, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Overall, the newcomers have added balance to a suddenly potent offensive attack. Ferry's teams are known for playing uptempo, and he now has the horses to do it. They have scored over 80 points in four of their first six games. However, with undersized underclassmen comes plenty of headaches on defense, as Duquesne's defensive efficiency ranks 323rd on KenPom's ratings. They don't do anything particularly well when protecting the basket, as opposing teams have coverted 41% of their 3's.

Key Matchup

This will be a great test for the Lions' frontcourt to stay out of foul trouble and make life difficult for Soko, McKoy, and Watkins, if he plays. Donovon Jack has to stay disciplined and out of foul trouble. Jack has been an underrated component to Penn State's attack, but he can't score points if he's on the bench. Same goes for Brandon Taylor, obviously. I don't expect Penn State to run into much trouble finding points in this game, but if they're not able to slow down the Dukes' speedy backcourt and hardworking bigs, they could be in danger of losing a game they can't afford to if they plan on making a run at the postseason.

Prediction

Nearly every prediction of this game expects a high-scoring affair. On paper, there's no reason to not expect this game to at least be in the 80s. I don't think coach Ferry's squad has nearly the experience to defeat the Nittany Lions, even at home, but this has a classic trap-game feel to it. I trust in this PSU team's leadership in the backcourt to avoid a disaster, but there's a reason this line is relatively small (PSU -6.5). I'm taking the Lions in a similar score to last year, 86-75.

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