Duquesne returns four starters from the team that gave the Mountaineers all they wanted last year in the Palumbo Center, and certainly has designs on springing an upset on a West Virginia squad that has final exams looming next week.
Leading the way for Duquesne is scorer Bryant McAllister (Sr., 6-2, 190 lbs.) who can get to the basket and score in a variety of manners. The preseason first team all-A10 pick is averaging 18.5 points per game – the only Duke in double figures. Joining McAllister in the backcourt is Jack Higgins (Sr., 6-5, 205 lbs.), a fellow Pittsburgh native who averages 7.8 points on a not-so-robust 27.8% shooting mark. Despite the low mark, Higgins has taken more than half of his shots from beyond the arc, and is converting on just 25% of those tries, which is far below his career mark of 37.8%.
The Dukes run an open offense without much in the way of post players, and feature three forwards in the starting lineup. DeVario Hudson (So., 6-6, 200 lbs.) leads the trio in scoring with 8.2 points per game, followed by Ryan Lambert (So., 6-7, 200 lbs.) at 7.8. Strongly built Chauncey Duke (So., 6-6, 225 lbs.) leads the team in rebounding with 6.8 per outing, and will be a challenge for West Virginia's slender front line.
Duquesne's other inside presence is Keith Gayden (Sr., 6-8, 215 lbs.), who missed a start against Pitt due to a hamstring problem. He could be in the starting lineup against WVU, and if so would provide a bit more boost to Duquesne's inside game. His 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game will likely increase with the absence of Kieron Achara, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Gayden scored a career-high 15 against WVU last year.
Also providing support minutes are Aaron Jackson (Fr., 6-2, 180 lbs.) who takes care of the ball well. He has just one turnover on the season while averaging 20 minutes per game. Brian Kelly (Fr., 6-7, 195 lbs.) is the only other player off the bench averaging in double digits, averaging just 3.6 points per contest.
Is it a coincidence, or does Duquesne simply match up with West Virginia well? Over the last eight meetings, the series record stands at 4-4, and the majority of those games have been close, hard-fought contests. While the Dukes obviously love to get wins over a Big East foe such as West Virginia, they would certainly have traded a couple of them for victories over city rival Pitt, so it's not even as if the Mountaineers are the Dukes' #1 out of conference opponent.
|Sat Dec 10|
WVU 5-3, 0-0
DU 1-4, 0-0
WVU - 145
DU - 308
This game marks the end of a three-game home stand for WVU, and will also be the Mountaineers' last contest in a stretch of 12 days. The Mountaineers, after dropping two very good chances for RPI-building wins, can't afford a stumble like they had last year against Marshall – another bottom-of-the-RPI-barrel-denizen. With only one solid scoring threat to deploy against West Virginia, this should be another win for the home team, but the Mountaineers need to play more crisply they did against UMBC on Wednesday.
WVU: Mike Gansey (Wrist, Back) Will play
DU: Kieron Achara (Shoulder) Out, Keith Gayden (Hamstring) will play
One area WVU must improve upon is breaking up long scoreless droughts. While two or three minute scoreless streaks are bound to happen, it's the big five or six-minute dry spell that has plagued the Mountaineers this year. West Virginia has to develop a go-to guy to replace Tyrone Sally, who often ended those dry runs a year ago with strong drives to the basket.
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New Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio is a graduate of Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.
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If form holds, this could be one of the shortest games in college basketball this year. Neither Duquesne nor WVU go to the basket much, and when they do, there doesn't seem to be a lot of contact. The Dukes have attempted just 92 free throws in their first five games, while West Virginia has shot just 92 times in eight games. WVU's 11.5 free throws attempted per game has to be one of the lowest marks in the country.
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Saturday's game marks the 33rd consecutive year the Mountaineers and Dukes have met in men's basketball.
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West Virginia has assists on 153 of its 218 baskets this year.