Pittsburgh, PA — Duquesne lost an eight-point halftime lead and had as much as a 13-point advantage, before ultimately falling 78-67 to VCU Tuesday night in its first Atlantic 10 setback of the season.
Mike Lewis II led all scorers with 23 points, while teammate Eric Williams Jr added 15 points for Duquesne (12-5, 3-1 Atlantic 10).
VCU was led by Jonathan Williams who had 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half. Justin Tillman scored all 10 of his points in the second half and recorded his eighth double-double of the season when his 17 rebounds are added to his final line.
Duquesne shot 31.4% from the field in the second half.
“We’ve had a lot of good things, now we have a bad thing,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “We’ll see what we have in the tank. I have tremendous faith in our guys, they thought they should have won the game so we’ll move forward, learn from it and keep fighting.”
1. Duquesne was given some early adversity in the first half when just 1:25 into the game, Williams Jr was assessed a technical foul for exchanging words with the VCU bench following a made three-point basket which put the Dukes up 6-5.
Earlier in the season, Chas Brown was assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul after a dunk and words exchanged from Dayton’s Kostas Antetokounmpo. Duquesne was able to seize momentum from that carrying an advantage at half.
In a Siegel Center filled with 7,637 screaming fans, Duquesne kept its composure and maintained its advantage into halftime. Williams Jr scored 12 of his 15 points in the opening 20 minutes.
2. There is no way to get around it, the second half was officiated completely differently and it dearly cost Duquesne.
VCU, Tillman in particular pushed off on the offensive rebounds and Williams over exaggerated several plays which earned free throw trips.
These whistles resulted in VCU shooting 29 free throws to Duquesne’s 14.
“We have to stay out of trouble and if we do that it becomes a different defensive game and then the score gets down to where we can win,” Dambrot said. “We can’t win the game when we go to the line 14 times and they go to the line 29 times. That’s just not a good recipe for us.”
Both Chas Brown and Jordan Robinson fouled out, playing a total of 17 minutes, which forced Duquesne to adjust. Verhoeven would also foul out late in the game.
“We had to play a little small,” said Dambrot. “I like Tydus at the four-man and not the five-man necessarily and it was kind of like the beginning of the season when we didn’t have anybody. It was the same type of deal.”
When asked on Duquesne’s postgame radio show by Jarrett Durham about the significant difference in foul shots, Dambrot offered the following.
“No comment,” he said.
The fouls clearly took Duquesne’s defense out of the game as players switched and VCU shot 57.7% from the field in the second half.
Even with the game in hand, a clear traveling violation was missed on VCU’s Williams and for what was at least the 10th time in this contest, Dambrot stretched his arms out showing his displeasure over the lack of a call.
3. Duquesne did do a good job defending Tillman in that first half, keeping him off the scoreboard though he did miss a few free throw opportunities as well.
In limited minutes, Brown defended him well and forced other players to beat Duquesne, which Isaac Vann had some success doing, scoring 11 points.
Tillman eventually got his numbers and got Duquesne in serious foul trouble in the process, which is a credit to VCU on making some good halftime adjustments.
Following a loss to Saint Joseph’s, VCU trailed at halftime against La Salle this past weekend and came back to win and was able to replicate the feat Tuesday.
Jonathan Williams, on VCU's press in the second half, said he felt it was the most energetic the team has been.
— Wayne Epps Jr. (@wayneeppsjr) January 10, 2018
4. Coming into this game, Duquesne was 11-1 when leading at the half with Cornell being the lone setback.
5. By no means should this loss discourage Duquesne or its fans. The fact that Duquesne led this game for 26:31 is a great sign of how far this team has come.
Many Atlantic 10 fans have been skeptical of Duquesne’s success and those who just look at the final score may not change that viewpoint, but the Dukes certainly earned VCU’s respect.
VCU’s offense, aided by plenty of whistles, pulled through in this game as Duquesne tied its season high in points allowed but will still fly back home to Pittsburgh with momentum.
Playing at VCU is a tough place to play with Dambrot calling it “the hardest”, qualifying his statement by stating he has coached games at Dayton and Rhode Island as well.
For one thing, Lewis II found something in his game, Williams Jr made some plays, Tarin Smith had some first half answers and VCU was held to a 33.3% shooting percentage in the opening 20 minutes.
Tydus Verhoeven had three official blocks, though two were missed and he also pulled down eight rebounds while creating some problems on the defensive end.
Kellon Taylor also had an impact on the defensive end. in his 23 minutes, though some of that time may have been forced due to foul trouble.
Still at 3-1 in conference play, Duquesne remains tied with VCU for second place.
Atlantic 10 scoreboard
Rhode Island 72 Saint Louis 65– Rhode Island won its seventh consecutive game, this time on the road led by Andre Berry’s first career double-double consisting of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jared Terrell scored 20 points reaching that figure for the seventh time this season and Jeff Dowtin added eight assists.
Dayton 87 Richmond 81– Dayton’s Trey Landers set career highs with 18 points and nine rebounds as the Flyers evened their record to 8-8 overall and 2-2 in Atlantic 10 play. Dayton forward Josh Cunningham was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field, scoring 20 points on the game. The win improved Dayton to 8-0 when scoring 71 or more points.
Duquesne returns to the Palumbo Center for a game against La Salle. The contest will be played Saturday afternoon with a 12:30 p.m tip and televised by NBC Sports Network.