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Duquesne clobbered by Virginia Commonwealth

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No. 22 VCU used a 26-2 first-half run to send Duquesne to their sixth-straight loss, 90-63, at the Consol Energy Center Saturday night.

Coming off another loss on the road at UMass Thursday, Duquesne (7-11, 0-4 A10) was unable to take steps to right the ship Saturday as Virginia Commonwealth (16-3, 4-0) rolled up 90 points in a 27-point, 90-63 victory at the expense of the Dukes.

The Rams’ win represented a milestone for head coach Shaka Smart, serving as win No. 100 in his fourth year at the helm of VCU’s program. But for Duquesne, the loss represented the need for head coach Jim Ferry’s squad to continue to improve and hope to end its current six-game losing streak in the near future before the season is a lost cause.

“I don’t know what kind of statement you’re expecting, but that was just a superior basketball team than we are, in every aspect,” Ferry said. “What I talked to the kids in the locker room about was we gotta learn from that game.”

Against VCU, the Dukes had a difficult time preparing for the Rams as a result of VCU’s style of play that aims to wreak “Havoc” on each side of the ball. This entails forcing turnovers, full-court pressure, and knocking down three-point shots.

“One of the reasons it’s so difficult to prepare for is because you can’t simulate it in practice,” Ferry said. “They come at you in waves, their pressure is immense. They take you out of your offense…They do that to everybody they play.”

In the opening minutes, Duquesne fared relatively well against VCU’s “Havoc”, as the Dukes trailed by a single point, 13-12, early in the first half.  But from there a 26-2 run by VCU effectively put the contest out of Duquesne’s grasp.

“What went wrong [at that point} was VCU is better than us, in this game,” Ferry said. “

Colter kept the Dukes in the game before the VCU run, which Ferry didn’t credit to the offense setting up looks for him, but “Derrick just making plays.” In the initial part of the first half, Colter put up eight of Duquesne’s first 12 points.

“I was out there just playing. Coach told me to just play,” Colter said. “Coach told me they were going to deny our passes so coach told me to go downhill, go straight at ‘em, so I just kept going forward. They were leaving lanes open for me to shoot, and I just took ‘em.”

Colter finished with a team-high 15 points, shot 6-11 from the field, and handed out a team-high in assists as well with four. A major blemish however was Colter’s turnover total of five, a derivative of VCU’s full-court press.

Beyond Colter, three other Dukes ended up in double-figures but in quite inefficient fashion. Senior and leading scorer Sean Johnson notched 11 points, but shot 3-10. Jeremiah Jones pitched in 10 off the bench on 3-7 shooting and Quevyn Winters also scored 12 in his reserve role, but going only 4-10 from the field.

As a unit, Duquesne shot 42.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over 19 turnovers while VCU coach Shaka Smart expressed a desire for the Rams to have forced at least 20. But, Smart was content with the Rams’ first-half defense holding Duquesne to only 18 points on 31 percent shooting.

“I thought our guys did a really nice job defensively in the first half, that was certainly a focus of ours over the last couple days coming out of the St. Joe’s game. We gave up 80 points in regulation in that game and that’s just flat-out too many,” Smart said.

For Smart’s squad, three players topped double digits with two players delivering 20-point performances. Rob Brandenberg scored 22 and pulled in six rebounds, and Treveon Graham scored 20 as well. Juvonte Reddic anchored the offensive low post, posting 16 points and pulling down six boards.

“We forced 19 turnovers, that’s ok. We like to be up over 20, but it did create some easy opportunities for these guys,” Smart said. “And I thought we rebounded well. That helped us score as well.”

On the Dukes’ end, the team will travel back to the Palumbo Center Wednesday night for a match-up with the St. Louis Billikens and continue what Ferry calls a rebuilding process.

“I’ve been through [a game like this] before, and having to experience that. Both the players and the coaches have to experience that to understand what it takes to get to a championship level,” Ferry said. “We don’t have the pieces yet to become that.”

“I knew what I signed up for, when I got here. We gotta rebuild this program.”

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