Duquesne’s losing streak hit seven games last Saturday with a 90-53 loss to Dayton. It started with a 76-57 loss to the Flyers on Jan. 14.
It’s officially done a lap.
This isn’t the first time the Dukes have had an extended cold spell in conference play. In fact, it’s been a staple since Jim Ferry has taken over the team.
Last season, they had a winless February and dropped eight straight. They lost six in a row and seven of their first eight to open A-10 play in 2015. In 2014, it was a stretch of six losses out of seven starting on Feb. 1. The 2012-2013 team’s 1-15 conference record speaks for itself.
Not surprisingly, there’s a common theme between last year’s stretch of losses and this season’s: turnovers and defense. During the eight game skid a in 2016, they turned the ball over an average of 14 times and surrendered 84.5 PPG. This season, it’s 16.1 turnovers and 81 PPG.
For reference, that 1-15 team gave the ball away 13.6 times per game and allowed on average 78.2 points in conference play. Those two losing stretches have been worse than a cellar dweller.
If you missed how the Dukes got here, let me get you up to speed.
Turnovers have been a focal point all season long. As expected, the young team had some troubles protecting the ball early in the year, but things started looking up in December. Starting with the win in the City Game, Duquesne had a stretch where they won five of six. In those five wins, they turned the ball over 54 times, including just eight times against Pitt.
They have lost possession 113 times over their last seven games.
“We struggled with that in the beginning of the season and we kind of figured it out, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and see where we turned over and learn from it,” freshman guard Mike Lewis II said after a 71-64 loss to St. Bonaventure Feb. 1.
Defensively, other teams are shooting at will. Dayton shot .587 in their last contest. One week earlier, Richmond had a field goal percentage of .534.
After that St. Bonaventure game, guard Emile Blackman said it all comes down to limiting the other team’s scoring runs. He’s right, but there needs to be a better plan in place, especially from three. Other teams have shot .400 or better in 10 of the Dukes’ 24 games this season, including six of their 11 conference games. A-10 foes are making 37.3% of their shots from behind the arc.
Duquesne could occasionally make up for these struggles earlier in the year. They turned the ball over 20 times against St. Bonaventure and lost by seven. They turned it over 20 times on Nov. 27 against Cleveland State and won by seven.
Simply put, these are problems that appear to be fixed earlier in the year because their opponents are just as undisciplined, and they get exposed again once conference play rolls around.
There’s still a good chunk of season left. There are a couple of winnable games on the slate, including one Saturday against Saint Louis (who happens to be the Dukes’ last win). The only question is will they finally protect the ball and defend better, or will it be another one and done in the first round of the conference tournament.