Sometimes you can’t understate how important a win is.
Duquesne’s - what’s the right word, stunning, emotional, long-awaited? - win over Pitt Friday night certainly falls into that category. Jim Ferry summed up what it meant to TribLive.com after the Dukes’ first City Game victory since 2000.
“It hasn't been much of a rivalry and I think it is now,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “A credit to our kids and how hard they played.”
Two days earlier things were a little different.
Ferry was equally candid after the Dukes dropped a disappointing game at home to UMBC.
“Our margin for error is very small. If we continue to turn the ball over the way we do it makes it even more difficult, especially to come back in a game,” Ferry said in his post-game press conference. “We’ve shown how good we can be, we’ve shown how bad we can be. We’ve just got to focus on our ourselves, keep plugging and keep working to get better.”
It’s hard to come up with a more immediate sign of progress.
On a micro level, the Dukes turned it over just eight times against Panthers and did in fact rally after falling behind midway through the second half. But on a macro level, the win over Pitt puts a green arrow next to a Duquesne team that had dropped home games to Canisius and UT Martin, in addition to UMBC.
In hindsight, the Panthers were pretty ripe for an upset. Senior forward Jamel Artis was suspended and Pitt was coming off a draining win at Maryland earlier in the week.
Still, this is a resounding win for Ferry has he builds his program in his fifth year.
Recruiting appears to be on the uptick. Freshman guard Mike Lewis II looks like a steal after being overshadowed by high school teammate Jayson Tatum in St. Louis. He’s already got Ferry’s faith (26.1 MPG) and it was his second half scoring burst against Pitt that put the Dukes in position to win.
Sophomore Nebraska transfer guard Tarin Smith (30.9 MPG, 11.1 PPG) and freshman forward Isiaha Mike (26.9 MPG, 17.0% DRB) have also shown promise as long-term pieces. They’ll be joined by a pair well-regarded Florida prep prospects next year in point guard Jamari Wheeler and small forward Darius Banks.
But that’s getting pretty far in the future.
In the present, the Dukes have gotten good production from upperclassmen Emile Blackman, Rene Castro and Darius Lewis, and will be favored in the rest of their non-conference games.
It’s hard to imagine any win being as gratifying the rest of season. The question will be whether it’s a one night sensation or a springboard for Duquesne.