Saturday, November 24, 2007

Duquesne defeats Niagara 76-65

#33 Kojo Mensah and #2 Kieron Achara

Duquesne is now 5-0 for the first time since the 1985-86 season after defeating the Purple Eagles from Niagara who were an NCAA Tournament team last year. The Dukes played sloppy basketball in the first half, failing to take advantage of their massive height advantage. Niagara's Charron Fisher made the Dukes pay in the first half scoring from behind the arch and in the lane with his powerful 6-4 frame. Fisher ended the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Charron Fisher was 7-9 from the charity stripe against the Dukes.

Duquesne may have played poorly but they went into the half trailing by only 4. Duquesne's head coach Ron Everhart made a surprising decision when he abandoned the two platoon substitution system in the second half, electing to leave his key players on the floor for most of the second half. This decision proved to be successful, the extra playing time helped Kojo Mensah and Shawn James find their game. Mensa lead the Dukes with 17 points. Shawn James who looked lost in the first half ended the game with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. James was a constant force around the hoop in the second half on the defensive end of the floor.

Coach Everhart looked a lot happier after his Dukes had secured the victory.

With Shawn James and Kojo leading the way the Dukes battled back from their halftime deficit, and exchanged several lead changes with Niagara before pulling away in the final minute of the game. The game was a lot closer than the 11 margin of victory would indicate.

Statistics don't always tell the entire story, several Dukes who failed to score a lot of points played significant parts in the Duquesne victory. Senior Gary Tucker played solid defense and had several key steals down the stretch run to help Duquesne pull away. Aaron Jackson also played tenacious defense, {his specialty}, in the 2nd half.

Duquesne was horrible at the free throw line shooting only 65.6%. Philip Fayne (4-4) and Kieron Achara (6-7) were the only Dukes who seemed to know how to shoot free throws this afternoon. Poor free throwing shooting could haunt the Dukes in close games this season.

Kieron was 6-7 from the free throw line against Niagara.

This was a tough win for the Dukes, and the first time they have really been challenged this season. I'll be honest I was not happy when Coach Everhart dumped the two platoon system. In my mind the beauty of the two platoon system is that it forces the other team to either play their main players most of the game at a very fast pace and leave them extremely tired in the 2nd half, or to use players from the bench who are less skilled or less experienced. But Coach Everhart proved why he is the coach and I am a lowly blogger by dumping the system for today's game and winning anyway.

Tucker, Saunders, Achara, R. Jackson, and A. Jackson all wait to enter the game in the 1st half.

Late in the game Kieron Achara and Shawn James were put on the floor at the same time. Having the "Twin Towers" on the floor bode well for the Dukes as they pulled away for the victory as James and Achara scored, rebounded, and passed crisply inside during the final minutes to help seal the victory for Duquesne.

The Twin Towers - #2 Kieron Achara and #21 Shawn James.

Duquesne travels to the Iowa Realty Drake Tournament this week to play Cal State Northridge on Friday at 6pm.

Friday, November 23, 2007

4-0 Duquesne hosts 2-0 Niagara 2pm Saturday at the A.J. Palumbo Center

The Niagara Purple Eagles

The Niagara Purple Eagles come into the game 2-0, coming off of an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season. Niagara's biggest threats are preseason first team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference guards Charron Fisher (24.5 ppg.) and Tyrone Lewis (22.0 ppg.) who lead Niagara in scoring.

Niagara's Tyrone Lewis

The most telling stat for Dukes fans is that four Niagara players are averaging over 34.5 minutes per game. What this means for the Dukes is that Niagara runs a short bench, and will have a tough time keeping up in the second half against Duquesne's two platoon system, and hustle defense. Niagara has only one player on their roster who is taller than 6'7. Junior 6'10 center Benson Egemonye is averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds and 16 minutes of game time through two games this season after only averaging 7.7 minutes of game time as a sophmore. Look for Duquesne's twin towers Kieron Achara and Shawn James, {both 6'10} to have big games on Saturday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dukes receive first signed national letter of intent from 6-2 guard Johnny Higgins

Post Gazette beat writer Phil Axelrod gives us the details

Duquesne's press release's review of Higgins

Higgins averaged 15.5 points last season at Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) under Bill Barton, now an assistant at Duquesne, so it isn't a surprise he is coming to the Dukes or the first to sign. Barton is the newest Dukes coach, and it is no secret that he was brought in to get recruits like Higgins.

Johnny Higgins is listed as a 3 star recruit by

Coach Everhart expects to get signatures from 6-9 Ali Abdou Djim, 6-7 Shawntez Patterson and 5-10 Eric Evans. What is most telling about this is that Schenley's 6-4 Deandre Kane is not mentioned. Kane had verbally committed to the Dukes in July however his comments regarding the commitment were not very committal: "I didn't fully commit yet, I just gave a verbal commitment. It's not like it's locked in stone yet."

Kane had also been recruited by Pitt, Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Wyoming and Toledo.

Duquesne will graduate three players from this years team, seniors Gary Tucker and Reggie Jackson, along with graduate student Kieron Achara. There has also been speculation that Shawn James will at least contemplate giving up his final year of eligibility to turn pro after this season as well. It has been reported that the Dukes had 5 scholarships’ to give, however I am not sure if that 5th scholarship is contingent on James leaving the team or not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Still waiting for commitments

Coach Everhart watches practice

Duquesne has received 5 verbal commitments for the Dukes next recruiting class however Coach Ron Everhart said he hasn't received national letters of intent from the five players who have given Duquesne a verbal commitment, but expects to have them signed this week.

Coach Everhart received verbal commitments from:
6-9 1/2, 235-pound Ali Abdou Djim, a forward/center from Bethel High School in Hampton, Va.

Schenley's 6-4 Deandre Kane, who averaged 14.9 points for the PIAA Class AAAA champion Spartans

6-2 Johnny Higgins (15.5 ppg), who played at Notre Dame (Mass.) Prep last season under current Duquesne assistant Bill Barton

Detroit Northwestern High School's 5-10 Eric Evans (23.8 ppg, 7.1 apg)

6-7 Shawntez Patterson (14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

Duquesne has five scholarships to offer.

I have been pestering Post Gazette beat writer Phil Axelrod everyday this week regarding commitments, as soon as i hear something I'll post it. Hopefully the Dukes hot start will encourage these guys to commit.

Dukes 4-0 for the first time since 1986-87

Shawn James with one of his many blocks this season

Duquesne handled their toughest competition of the season last night with a 15 point victory over Oakland. Last season Oakland had a school record 19 wins, and this year's squad returned 3 starters from that team. Oakland's coach Greg Kampe was impressed, "That's the best team to play in this building in 10 years except for Michigan State's Final Four team [in 1998]."

Some stats:
Kojo Mensa was the Dukes leading scorer with 20 points; he was 5-6 from the free throw line.

Mensa shared the lead in boards with super frosh Damian Saunders, both players had 13 rebounds. Saunders is an example of just the kind of luck the Dukes program hasn't had in a long time. Saunders had committed to Marquette, however he had his scholarship pulled when one of Marquette's players decided to return to the team rather than go to the NBA. Marquette officially claims he didn't qualify academically. Saunders had a relationship with new assistant coach Bill Barton, and Barton helped bring him into the Dukes program. Saunders is an athletic 6-7 forward who can do it all, rebound, score; shoot the 3, not to mention play the kind of tough D Coach Everhart loves.

Saunders isn't the only freshman who has been a big addition to the Dukes, Bill Clark has been playing a significant role for the Dukes and he turned it up a notch last night scoring 16 points and grabbing 8 boards. Clark has a solid 3 point shot, {he loves to shoot from the corners}, and he plays tough D.

While Shawn James only scored 1 point last night he set a school record with 12 blocked shots {the old record was 7 set by Derek Alston}. James' 12 blocks are an Atlantic Ten Conference record as well, breaking the previous record of 11 that was set 4 times, 3 of those 4 by Stephane Lasme of Massachusetts. The Dukes also set a team record with 15 total blocked shots in last night's game. Shawn James transferred from Northeastern 2 years ago, and sat out last season per NCAA rules. James played for Coach Everhart at Northeastern and set an NCAA record with 6.53 blocks per game in 2005-06. James was send in the country in blocked shots as a freshman. James is a legit 6-10 and will be a defensive presence in the middle for the Dukes. James can score too, his career high is 26 as a sophomore at Northeastern, and he is averaging 13.3 points per game this season wiht Duquesne while shooting 59.9% from the floor.

Senior Gary Tucker also scored 18 points last night. Tucker who was originally a JC transfer to Duquesne was playing in front of his grandparents last night who are from Flint Michigan; it was the first time they saw him play. If there is one thing you need to know about Tucker it is that he can jump, watch for him to slam a big alleyoop sometime this season.

The Dukes are home against Niagara on Saturday, tip is scheduled for 2pm. My father and I will be in attendance to cheer on our beloved Dukes.