|Duquesne Dukes (2-0)
|Consol Energy Arena
|Free Web Stream
For the sixth straight season, it's #duqane week at BSD. The Lions travel to Pittsburgh to face the Dukes in their first road test of 2015-2016. Penn State has won the last three meetings between Duquesne and four out of the last five. Tonight wraps up a four-game home-and-home series between the in-state programs, and it remains to be seen if they will renew their matchup for next year and beyond.
Both teams have won their first two home games, but neither have played stiff competition. The Nittany Lions at least defeated a Big East team in DePaul, but questions still surround this unproven team. The Dukes were only picked 11th in the Atlantic-10, but they have an experienced group that can score in a hurry. For two teams that share limited expectations, the winning side of this one should gain some early confidence.
Scouting The Opposition
Jim Ferry is in his fourth year at the helm, but he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. The former Long Island coach was a valued commodity on the coaching market after he led his program to back-to-back auto-bids by winning the Northeast tournament in 2011 and 2012. It seemed like a great fit for Ferry to bring his high-tempo style to the Atlantic-10 when he was hired to replace Ron Everhart. But in three years, he has not produced a winning season or more than six conference wins in any year.
While Duquesne was picked to finish near the bottom of their league again, they do have an experienced and deep roster. Led by three seniors in the backcourt, they've scored 96 and 95 points in their first two games against D-2 Seton Hill and KenPom's No. 308 squad, New Orleans.
Micah Mason, a senior from nearby Natrona Heights, is going for the all-time 3-point accuracy record held by current Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. Mason's a career 49.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc, while Bennett's mark stands at 49.7 percent. It's highly unlikely Mason shoots 1-for-7 again like he did in the Bryce Jordan Center last year. He's coming off of a 6-for-9 performance (nice) that produced 28 points against New Orleans.
One of Mason's backcourt mates, Derrick Colter, is lightning quick and averaged 13.2 points and 3.6 assists per game last year. The other wing, Jeremiah Jones, is a wily veteran that has started 74 consecutive games. Surely the trio of seniors will be determined to finally get a win against Penn State in their careers.
What To Watch For
Duquesne doesn't possess great size, so this could be a game for Penn State's frontcourt to prove they can score in the post. Junior center Darius Lewis is listed at 6'11" and has had a promising start in his new starting role, but the Dukes have no one else listed over 6'8". They may also be without forward TySean Powell, who has been suspended from the start of this season for violating team rules. This could be a game for Julian Moore and Donovon Jack to play aggressive and force foul trouble on the opposing frontcourt. Jack has had success against his would-be college, averaging 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in his two games against the Dukes.
However, the Dukes' backcourt will really challenge Penn State's Josh Reaves and Shep Garner on the defensive end. The Lions don't have many options behind their starting underclassmen. Devin Foster has not had a good beginning to his senior season, while Isaiah Washington is just earning his first playing time. Penn State can not lose their assignments on the perimeter, as Mason and company will make them pay.
It will interesting to see what defensive looks Chambers employs tonight. Jim Ferry's team has far more shooters than DePaul that are capable of busting the Nittany Lions out of 2-3 zones. Tempo could be a determining factor, as the Dukes will look to push the pace. Penn State has played fairly slow in their first two contests with the new rules, so controlling the tempo could give one team an advantage.
Vegas has Penn State as a 2-point underdog, and it's hard to argue with that. The Lions are still finding their chemistry with scorers that must prove they can consistently shoot well on the road. Growing pains are to be expected, as the PSU defense will be tested by the Dukes' perimeter onslaught. Behind four senior starters, I expect Duquesne to be focused and hungry for that elusive win over PSU. I'd bet the Dukes to win 79-74 in an entertaining contest at Consol Energy Arena.