You can't compare apples to oranges, so lets not even try. Tonight, the Duquesne Dukes Men's basketball team beat D-II Millersville of the PSAC, 101-43 in the first exhibition game of the 2011-12 season, and they couldn't have been more zoned in.
"I can tell you that we probably executed a little bit more effectively than I thought we would have this early in the year," said Ron Everhart, now in his sixth season as the Dukes Head Coach.
After a 4-1 record in the Canadian Tournament in August, expectations for the night's game, for Everhart, were to run an up -tempo offense, get open 3's and be effective trapping the ball –all over the court.
The Dukes did that—and more. They shot 61.3 percent from the field, drained 9 of 18 3's, and forced 28 turnovers, resulting in 35 fast break points.
The most glaring and encouraging takeaway from the night was the Dukes' ability and willingness to share the basketball, picking up exactly where they left off last season, leading the nation in assists with 17.8 apg above Kansas and Pitt, respectively--two number one seeds in last year's NCAA tournament.
They surpassed that average by an assist halfway through the game. Now sophomore and 2010-11 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, T.J. McConnell, just as last season, put on a passing clinic leading with 6 (10 for the game) and Senior Guard, B.J. Monteiro added another 4.
"When you share the ball like we do it's always fun to play, because you know if you run you'll get the ball," said Monteiro.
Their unselfish style of play resulted in 12 out of the 14 men on the Duke's roster scoring.
"There's a big difference between running a play or a series of plays, and developing a mindset to where you're finding your teammates and getting them shots within the structure of what you're doing. We've been doing that pretty good in practice, I was just glad to see it translated into a game because a lot of times you don't have that," Everhart said.
On the other end, Everhart says, for as well as they did pass the ball at times there were times when better passes, smarter plays could have been made as evident by their 18 turnovers.
When asked about replacing a guy like Damian Saunders, who combined for 3,139 career points and 1,699 career rebounds along with fellow senior graduate and 2nd Team All-A10 Bill Clark last season, Everhart tried to put it into perspective.
"You guys gotta understand. Damian Saunders is the only player—not Lou Alcindor, not Oscar Robertson, not Michael Jordan—Damian Saunders is the only player in college basketball history to have over 250 points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots." He then goes on to call him arguably the best stats sheet guy ever in college basketball.
You can't replace a guy like that, but Everhart believes that this year's team has components they haven't had in the past with several athletic big guys, and he also credits sophomore guard Mike Talley for his ability to be a game-changer, calling him their "motor," in terms of speeding up the offensive and defensive pace of a game.
Senior guard, Eric Evans, who missed 10 games last season with a fractured foot, had a game high 25 points, shooting 4-6 from beyond the arc. He says he worked hard in the off-season, things are coming along and he feels like he's at 100%.
T.J. McConnell led the game with 10 assists and 6 rebounds. Jaymes Miller had 13 points for Millersville, who shot just 30.4% from the field.
The Dukes take on Shephered this Friday (7PM) at the A.J. Palumbo Center in the last exhibition game before the regular season.
For the last thought, let's go out on Coach Everhart talkin a little B.J. Monteiro to help get into the mood.
"He was so excited to play," Everhart said. "He made the comment before the game, 'Man this is my senior year, this is game one, the clock is ticking and I'm not gettin' this one back. We're comin' to play.'"
College basketball is back my friends!
In case you wanted to know…
- Martins Abele, a 7-1 transfer from Radford University, is eligible for the 2011-2012 season, as NCAA has waived Division I basketball transfer requirements. Secondary violations committed by Abele for playing in summer league games before transferring will however mean he will have to sit out the first four games of the regular season. He averaged 5.4 ppg and 5.1 rebounds in 19 games last season while at Radford. When asked about his new team he said, " We work hard everyday, practice, weight room, no matter what we stay together and we can do some good things this year I think."
- Hometown boy, T.j. MConnell was named to Atlantic 10 preseason All-Defensive Team and preseason Third Team All A-10. He entered tonight's game with 344 points, 140 assists and 91 steals; the only freshman in the country last season to have over 300 points, 125 assists and 75 steals.
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