Dukes hoping to build on opening victory
With his third year as coach at Duquesne University having just begun, Danny Nee continues to search for a comfort zone with his men’s basketball program.
Perhaps Tuesday night’s 77-57 victory over Prairie View A&M at Palumbo Center was a good sign.
“I thought, for the first game, the way things were moving along, that we did OK,” Nee said.
Not great, but OK.
“We’re still building. We’re still in a learning process in terms of execution,” said senior Jimmy Tricco, who scored a game-high 18 points for Duquesne.
It has been two years since the Dukes’ record last was over .500. They opened the 2001-02 season with consecutive victories over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Vermont before settling into a typical losing pattern and ending with a 9-19 mark in Nee’s first year as coach.
“I liked how we won,” Nee said of Tuesday’s 20-point victory. “Last year, our largest margin of victory was only 11 points. I was comfortable with how we played because we got our bench involved. I can build on it.”
Duquesne immediately began the construction process Wednesday morning with a workout at Palumbo Center, where their season continues Saturday afternoon against Siena.
“We have a tough game Saturday,” Nee said. “Siena won 21 games last year and got to the third round of the NIT. They’ve been very successful. They have a very nice basketball team.”
The Saints will carry a 2-0 record into their 4 p.m. game with Duquesne (1-0) after routing another Atlantic 10 Conference team, Fordham, 77-59, on Tuesday night.
For Nee, there is at least one thing he was comfortable with even before the season began: The Dukes’ schedule.
The Siena game is the second of four home contests to open the season for Duquesne, which also faces Pitt on Wednesday night in the annual City Game and Loyola (Md.), like Siena, another team from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, on Dec. 6.
“This time last year,” Nee said, “we had opened up at Pitt (and lost by 15 points), lost a heartbreaker (at home) to Cleveland State (by seven), went to Maryland over Thanksgiving (and lost by 50), and then went to George Mason (and lost by seven). We came back from Thanksgiving 0-4. and it was like we were ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’ It was pretty rough.”
In other words, it wasn’t a comfortable situation for Nee and his Dukes, who went on to suffer their ninth consecutive losing season.
“I’ve been here longer than anybody on the team,” said redshirt junior Jon Pawlak. “I know what it was like, and now I know what it is like, and it’s 180-degree turnaround. It feels really good to know we’re going to go out there and compete every night, and if we don’t win, it’s a disappointment.”