Basketball has always been considered a city game. The 2011-12 Duquesne University Dukes have put an exclamation point on that statement. The team's home opener on Sunday at the A. J. Palumbo Centre would have made Pete Axthelm proud. Duquesne is located in downtown Pittsburgh and basketball fans in attendance were to witness to an inner-city game, an informal sort of duel obscured by the trappings of sport convention. No tuxedoes or shot clock required here. Prompted by Duquesne's attitude, both teams seem to run and shoot at will. The visiting University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix conspire with the Dukes to play at breakneck speed as if on a park court trying to stay in control of the run. Many shots are taken, many shots are missed. Both teams score thanks to sheer volume. The Dukes will win the game going away by making only 39% of their 73 shots.
But the truth be told, the city game has been reigned in at Duquesne to the Dukes' advantage. Coach Ron Everhart has got his team believing. Believing that together they can win. That they can trust their teammates. That the selfish side of the city game doesn't play on his team. The Dukes force the game to be played at its high octane-fueled pace, while the coordination of their defensive trapping and transition game lifts them over the bewildered and youthful Wisconsin-Green Bay squad. The storm that is Duquesne's unique version of the street game is unleashed upon them and the Phoenix are just not able to rise again. By the 3:24 mark of the opening stanza the score is 33-18.
For their part, Coach Brian Wardle and the Phoenix may have initially felt welcome at the Palumbo Centre. It's a small, cozy venue. Intimate to the point that you can hear fans calling out from almost anywhere in the arena and eavesdrop on the coaches during timeouts. Wardle, looking nearly as young as his players, gives his instructions in measured tones and the kids are rapt listeners. Despite his best efforts Green Bay's zone defense seemed to always be a pass behind the Duquesne offense and their attempts to move the ball into scoring positions succumbed to the Dukes' pressure.
For a moment in the second half, with 17:26 still remaining to play, the swagger and confidence of the Dukes runs afoul of Coach Everhart. After a steal T.J. McConnell drives the length of the court for an uncontested lay-up and a sure two points. Instead of taking the gimme, he lobs the ball off the glass for B.J. Monteiro. But the showboating surprises Monteiro and results in a missed dunk. On the next stoppage of play McConnell is summarily assigned to the bench and incurs the wrath of the coach as he passes him by.
Undeterred by the excesses of an individual, the hosts cruise on in team mode and with the signalling of the final media time out at 3:37, the score rests at 77-56.
The game ends with an 84-66 tally. Our heads are spinning as my buddy Jack and I leave the arena. We don't expect to see that extreme staccato, street-style of basketball any time soon, but they will at Duquesne University because for Ron Everhart's Dukes, heaven is a playground.
at DUQUESNE 84, GREEN BAY 66 11/13/2011
GREEN BAY 1-1 (0-0) -- A. Brown 7-15 0-1 14; J. Williams 7-11 3-6 17; D. Turner 1-4 0-0 2; K. Sykes 3-10 2-2 8; B. Cougill 4-7 1-2 10; S. Baker 1-7 0-0 3; A. Armstead 1-7 0-0 2; T. Johnson 3-6 0-0 6; K. Cerroni 1-4 0-0 2; G. Mays 1-1 0-0 2; C. Heuer 0-0 0-0 0; E. Valentin 0-1 0-0 0; J. Humphrey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-73 6-11 66. DUQUESNE 1-1 (0-0) -- B. Monteiro 6-15 3-4 17; T. McConnell 6-11 0-0 12; E. Evans 3-9 3-3 10; S. Johnson 6-10 0-0 14; A. Marhold 6-7 5-7 17; M. Talley 1-7 7-8 9; J. Jones 1-3 0-0 3; M. Datt 1-2 0-0 2; K. Pantophlet 0-1 0-0 0; D. Herrera 0-0 0-0 0; D. Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-65 18-22 84.
Three-point goals: GB 2-13 (B. Cougill 1-1; T. Johnson 0-1; S. Baker 1-4; K. Cerroni 0-3; E. Valentin 0-1; A. Armstead 0-2; K. Sykes 0-1), DUQ 6-19 (E. Evans 1-4; B. Monteiro 2-5; S. Johnson 2-4; J. Jones 1-2; T. McConnell 0-1; M. Talley 0-2; K. Pantophlet 0-1); Rebounds: GB 46 (A. Brown 10), DUQ 29 (M. Datt 5); Assists: GB 12 (D. Turner 3), DUQ 20 (T. McConnell 7); Total Fouls -- GB 22, DUQ 17; Fouled Out: GB-None; DUQ-None.