PITTSBURGH-Duquesne continued their exceptional season tonight, beating the VCU Rams 79-70 to advance to 12-4 (2-1 A10) on the season. The Dukes, picked to finish dead last in the A10 preseason poll led the preseason third place Rams wire to wire, with the contest teetering on blowout territory for most of the game. Jimmy Clark was the star for the Dukes, finishing with 26 points, six rebounds, and five steals.
FIRST HALF RECAP:
Duquesne came out of the gates hot tonight, shooting 5-8 from the field, producing 14 points by the time the first media timeout rolled around. Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III each had six of those first 14, with Grant knocking down two threes.
This served as a sort of revenge game for Clark, who played at VCU from 2019-2021, and the extra energy he was playing with was evident early on.
VCU struggled with turnovers early, handing the Dukes the ball on seven occasions. The Dukes took advantage, turning those into eight points off of turnovers. If there was one thing Duquesne did wrong in the first half, it was turn the ball over right back to the Rams, as sloppy passing from the Dukes backcourt led to 10 first half turnovers.
When the Dukes can hit threes consistently, their offense is one of the more electric groups of anyone in the A10 conference, and it was on full display tonight. 12 minutes into the first half the Dukes were shooting 60% from beyond the arc, 6-10 overall. On the half Duquesne shot 7-14 (50%).
VCU looked awful from the tip, and the rust seemed to never come off for the Rams. They shot 7-26 (26.9%) on the half, including 0-5 from three. With 6:30 to go in the half VCU (8) was being outscored by both Clark III (9) and Grant (9). They took ill advised shots, frequently driving into a clogged paint area.
The Rams struggled to move the ball, reflected in the assist battle, of which Duquesne won a remarkable 9-1, further proof that a Rams team that had come into this contest hot, winners of five straight, were uncharacteristically slow with ball movement and offensive sets.
Another big advantage for the Dukes was their prowess on the boards, leading that battle 24-14 at half. While the Dukes limited second chance opportunities throughout the half, the Rams hemorrhaged them, with second chance points favoring Duquesne 9-0.
The Dukes would go out quietly at the end of the half, not scoring in the last two minutes and heading to the locker room with a 37-22 lead.
SECOND HALF RECAP:
VCU started the second half with a little bit more life than they had in the first half. With two triples in the first three minutes of the half, the Rams had opened up their scoring from beyond the arc and in turn cut the lead to seven after a David Shriver bucket and a foul.
What was once near blowout by Duquesne quickly became a more testy affair as the halftime adjustments by VCU coach Mike Rhoades were quickly apparent. A once nonexistent front court presence quickly turned itself into a force, dominating the Dukes on the boards.
After posting zero second chance points in the first half, the Rams had 9 within the first 10 minutes of the half.
After a slow start, the Dukes settled back in and expanded their lead once more, keeping pace, if not outrunning a VCU team that was shooting much hotter than in the first half. With the lead wavering between 15-20 points, Jimmy Clark III continued to generate the majority of the offense for the Dukes. The former Ram would finish with 26 points to lead all scorers.
The highlight of the game for both Clark himself as well as the whole contest came with five minutes left after a brief VCU run. The Dukes guard stole a pass from the three-point line in full sprint and threw an alley-oop to himself off the backboard, slamming both the ball, as well as VCU’s hopes of a comeback victory, down with two hands.
WHAT COMES NEXT:
Duquesne takes a trip to face Richmond January 7th at 6 PM ET.