Dukes lack go-to guy
They have found themselves in this position at home three times this season. Coming out on the wrong end of a back-and-forth finish against Robert Morris, losing a massive lead to St. Joe's and, most recently, being out-executed down the stretch against La Salle.
The truth is the Dukes lack a closer on their roster. A type of go-to scorer who will get it done, no matter the cost, is absent from this team. There are sparks of potential in T.J. McConnell's composure and all-out effort as a sophomore point guard. There is something special in Sean Johnson's ability to put the ball in the bucket in a number of ways. And there is B.J. Monteiro's talent of making the most difficult plays under the net seem pedestrian.
But we haven't seen any one of these players take over in crunch-time, putting the team on its back the way RMU's Velton Jones did, or the way Langston Galloway of SJU did. The Dukes haven't gotten that late-game killer production like La Salle's Ramon Galloway provided Saturday, driving to the net with just over a minute remaining, making the basket through contact and then converting the foul shot to put the Explorers up 69-66 and scoring his 13th point of the second half.
Monteiro's subsequent drive and basket was strong, but it only brought the Dukes within one. The defensive execution on the other end of the floor lacked focus and Sam Mills made two clutch free throws after being fouled.
Sophomore Jerry Jones attempted the buzzer-beating game-tying shot but had his first attempt blocked into his hands and missed the desperate second.
Jones hits 33 percent of his 3-point attempts, not a bad risk to take. But that decision makes less sense when you consider McConnell has connected on 30 of 60 attempts from beyond the arc, including two from NBA distance that very night.
It makes even less sense when you look at Johnson's 38 percent season mark from downtown, from which he was 3-for-4 in the game.
Duquesne's lack of a go-to, closer mentality, do-what-it-takes scorer has cost them dearly in close games, and it's been even worse watching the opponent's star take over when the game is on the line and within reach.
The answer lies within the Dukes' inability to attack half-court offenses and execute set plays in the final seconds. For years, coach Ron Everhart's teams have thrived on the ability to outrun and outhustle opponents while executing transition scoring plays flawlessly and getting back on defense.
Against La Salle, the Dukes got caught in the muck that is their half-court offense. Without a superb post-scorer, this season the Dukes are forced to spread it around the arc, and their drives are often met by a flurry of oversized defenders, which more times than not, the Dukes haven't fully conquered.
Duquesne doesn't need a do-it-all player, because the fact is they already have one in McConnell. McConnell just needs to develop or find that closer instinct and demand the trust to take the game into his own hands when the click nears zero.
If Everhart wants to run the "Aaron Jackson offense," it's time to let this era's Jackson get the last looks.
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