It’s been a long time since the Duquesne Dukes have been the toast of Pittsburgh college basketball.
In fact, it has now been a decade since Julius Page’s technical foul shot rolled off the rim with 2.2 seconds remaining, securing a 71-70 victory for the Dukes.
Since then, the once joke of a Pitt program has exploded into a perennial power under Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon. Duquesne, on the other hand, disappeared further off of the college basketball radar, hitting rock bottom before returning to respectability under Ron Everhart.
While the Dukes slowly continue to progress, a true hurdle they have yet to jump has been beating their rival from up Forbes Avenue. The Panthers have won 28 of the last 31 meetings.
Now that the Dukes have proven they can compete against Pitt in recent years, they are no longer satisfied with just hanging with the Panthers.
But is 2011 the year they finally get over the hump?
Given Pitt’s early season struggles, some feel so. Vegas has the Panthers as just 5.5-point favorites, much lower than past years.
In order to pull off the upset, the Dukes will need to force Pitt to play their game, something much easier said than done. T.J. McConnell, Eric Evans and Mike Talley are very capable of wrecking havoc with the press the Dukes love to run. They will be dealing with very smart opposition that includes Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall that will be up to the challenge.
Sean Johnson and B.J. Monteiro have been scoring machines on the Bluff so far this season and they will need to firing on all cylinders against a tough Pitt defense that takes pride in shutting down shooters.
The biggest key however will be how the Dukes handle the much larger Pitt frontcourt. Andre Marhold has shown flashes of brilliance at times for Duquesne, but Wednesday night can’t be one of the times his production disappears as in past games. This may be also time for Ron Everhart to unleash 7-foot-1 center Martins Abele who has seen limited playing time so far this season.
Already going in the Dukes favor is the fact that the scoring has been evenly spread between players this season. At least four players have scored in double-digits for five straight games, making foul trouble much less of a concern as compared to past years with that kind of balance.
Even with all of this, the Dukes still face many things going against them including what will be a predominantly pro-Pitt crowd, and the Panthers’ ability to dominate their opponents in its past two games. Saying Duquesne faces an uphill battle is an understatement.
The Dukes’ attempt to erase years of futility against Pitt will tip-off at 7:00 PM at CONSOL Energy Center. The game will be broadcasted nationally on CBS College Sports Network.