With only one week to go in a whirlwind regular season, Duquesne still has one more conference powerhouse to face and a score to settle with a George Mason team that embarrassed them at home earlier in February.
The Dukes face off against a talented Massachusetts Minutemen team that boasts a 22-6 record and was ranked in the top 25 early on in the season. Although the game is home, don’t count on it being highly attended, since the students will be on spring break. Nevertheless, it will be the last home game of the season for Duquesne, and Ferry and his team will have a chance to go out with a bang in front of a home crowd.
The Minutemen are considered by some to already be a lock in the NCAA tournament, as they sit at fourth place in a strong Atlantic 10 conference. But their last game against Dayton, which they lost 86-79, gave them a rude awakening. Coach Derek Kellogg thought it was an issue of toughness for his team, coupled with not setting the tone early against the Flyers. This only means that the Minutemen will certainly be all business Wednesday night against Duquesne. Look for Kellogg’s team to go for the throat early, because the Minutemen cannot afford to lose again. George Washington and Dayton are right on their backs in the conference standings, with GW being just a half-game back from UMASS, who is 9-5 in conference play.
Massachusetts is led by senior Chaz Williams, a 5-9 point guard who is averaging 15.6 points per game. Williams doesn’t necessarily dominate the game with his scoring, although he certainly can do that. He leads the team in scoring, but also ranks among the top players in the assists category. Williams ranked as high as second – that was in early January – but is currently ranked third in assists per game (7.1), behind LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Smith.
Cady Lalanne, a 6-10 forward has been on the receiving end of many of the Williams assists. Scoring 12.4 points per game and pulling down 8.4 rebounds per game, Lalanne is a force to be reckoned with down low. His height also gives him a couple inches on Soko and McKoy – both big men will have their hands full Wednesday night. Lalanne is good on both sides of the ball, as he also averages over two blocks per game.
The Minutemen amassed a near-perfect non-conference record before entering Atlantic 10 play, beating LSU, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Providence. Their only loss came was to Florida State at home in late December. By that time, UMASS had climbed to #22 in the AP rankings. Needless to say they have lost more conference games than anyone expected, five in all, including a loss to bottom dweller George Mason.
Speaking of GMU, the Patriots are also hoping to end their season on a high note. After scoring their first conference win at Duquesne in early February, they went on to beat UMASS 91-80 later that week, and then Richmond on the 26th. In between, they suffered a close loss to #10 Saint Louis by four in overtime. If Massachusetts is in the upper tier of the conference this year, George Mason makes up the lower tier, along with Fordham and Rhode Island. But the Patriots still have fantastic guard play, which is what killed Duquesne the last time. Jerrod Wright torched the Dukes with 23 points last game, which Bryon Allen had 17. Although undersized as a whole, George Mason generally shoots well from the perimeter and plays sound defensively.
Although the Minutemen will be Duquesne’s biggest test, both of these next two games will be a good indicator of what we will see from the Dukes in the all-inclusive Atlantic 10 tournament this year.
Photo Credit: Duquesne Athletics