Explorers set to face the new Dukes

They met exactly four weeks ago. The Explorers dominated the Dukes on their own home floor. Since then both La Salle and Duquesne have proceeded down different paths. The Explorers have struggled mightily losing their last three in a variety of ways while 1st year head coach Ron Everhart's squad has found a new offense as well as finding themselves as a team.

In September not many Duquesne fans could see blue skies above the dark clouds over the program. A program devastated by a shooting where numerous basketball players were shot started the school year, which many never thought the Dukes would ever recover from in the near future. Then a bad stretch of basketball, which included a 16-point loss to La Salle, had darkened the clouds even further. Instead of folding the tent Everhart circled the wagons and went back to the drawing board. This program felled by tragedy but in the end pushed by mental toughness acquired from tragic events decided to create their own game of basketball. Armed with just one experienced junior, two walk-ons, a slew of freshmen and junior college transfers the Duquesne Dukes re-invented themselves and come into Tom Gola arena on a four game winning streak and confidence not seen in this program for years.

Led by five-time Rookie of the Week Robert Mitchell the Dukes are reminiscent of past Loyola-Marymount teams averaging 99 points per game over their last 5 games and scoring over one hundred points twice in that span. The Dukes own impressive wins over Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis, and Boston College this season but their upward surge inside the conference has been nothing short of miraculous given their situation. Mitchell is the front-runner for A-10 Rookie of the Year and is averaging over 18 points/gm while shooting close to 50% from the floor, 40% from 3pt. range, and 77% from the free throw line; All impressive numbers for a freshman. 6"10 junior center Kieron Achara has been excellent getting over 16 points a night over the last five games. Sophomore guard Aaron Jackson and freshman Scott Grote, also check in as double-digit scorers. While Dukes can score the basketball they remain last in the conference in defense allowing over 80 points per game.

The Explorers are coming off a very disappointing 89-64 loss to Temple on Sunday. La Salle has been the epitome of inconsistency. They were run over by Temple's offense and while they have played tough in all of their A-10 games except Temple, one must wonder how they will react to the frantic pace the Dukes will play with in this game. Leading scorer Darnell Harris remains hampered by an ankle sprain, which will not be helped by the pace of this game. Can Harris play extended minutes with the expected pace is a real question for Explorer fans. The Explorers need the freshman class to mature quickly if there is any hope of winning some tough games down the stretch. The Explorers are last in the A-10 in both turnover margin and assist to turnover ratio. While stats don't tell the whole story, those stats paint a pretty accurate picture of La Salle's struggles. Both areas will be tested by the Duquesne's frantic pace.

Keys to Victory:

Handle Duquesne press
Get back on defense
Get off to a good start

Explorer Hoops Report Top Stories