Just three games ago, Mike Lewis II had the worst game of his young collegiate career. The freshman went 0-5 from the field at Dayton and was saddled with a goose egg despite playing 23 minutes. It was the seventh of eight straight losses for the Dukes.
Wednesday started poorly for Lewis as well, missing his first six shots from the field. For plenty of freshmen, the memories of what happened two games ago would sink and they would continue to flounder. Instead, Lewis caught fire.
The freshman made his last eight shots, including six three-pointers. The highlight came in the final seven seconds of the first half. After sinking a bankshot, Lewis grabbed a loose ball on the inbound pass and nailed an over the shoulder 38 footer at the buzzer.
You may have seen it on SportsCenter. It was the number five play of the night. One behind Julian Edelman cooking.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) February 16, 2017
“I think that got us really juiced up,” Isaiah Mike said. To him, that was the play of the game in the 96-66 win over UMass.
Sometimes when you’re hot, you’re hot; Lewis was en fuego. He ended the night with 31 points: one shy of the school’s freshman single game record set 102 years ago.
So what changed between the first six shots and the last eight, or more importantly, the Dayton game or Wednesday?
Well, that’s a tad anticlimactic.
“I kept my confidence, and kept getting open shots to go in,” Lewis said.
That confidence could have been shaken when adjusting to the A-10 schedule, but he muscled through it. In the six games from Jan. 18 to Feb. 4, he shot just 24 percent from the field (and that’s even with a strong 7-14 showing at Richmond). Still, he kept taking chances, shooting the ball at least 11 times in each game besides Dayton.
Now he’s set a new career high in points his last two games, shooting 65.4 percent and 11-13 from three.
Lewis credited his demeanor to his coaches, who tell him to be aggressive even when he is in a rut. Instead of backing away from the rookie when the game is on the line, they have turned to him in the closing moments of tight contests several times.
“I’ve been impressed with Mike all year. He’s a great kid,” Ferry said. “…I’m really impressed with him when he scored zero against (Dayton). He’s a great kid, and he’s going to be a fantastic player.”
The Dukes may not have to wait much longer to see him be a fantastic player. He’s been named the A-10 rookie of the week multiple times already, and I can only assume he’s going to get another blue ribbon for what he did to the Minutemen. He’s shooting from the field and from three at a better clip than Derrick Colter did his senior campaign. He’s emerging as the type of player the program can build around.
And best of all, he’s confident.
“You put work in, not only a couple days before the game, but (your) whole life, summertime, extra nights,” Lewis said. “You never should lose confidence, even if you’re going through a shooting slump. The ball’s going to start going into the basket sooner or later.”