One of the true feel-good stories in men’s college basketball is building at Duquesne and involves a former Chaminade standout.
That’s the same Duquesne program that far too many times in recent years has been synonymous more with doormat than success. The Dukes are off to a 12-5 start and are 3-1 in the Atlantic 10, where they were picked to finish last out of 14 teams.
One of the reasons for the Dukes’ success is the overall play of Chaminade product Mike Lewis II, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard who is scoring a team-best 15.6 points a game.
Lewis wants to erase the memories of his first season at the Pittsburgh school, when the Dukes struggled to a 10-22 finish, their fifth straight losing record. Lewis is adamant when he says his expectations moving forward deal more with the program than himself.
“My biggest goal is to win,” Lewis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So I don’t have any personal goals.”
The hard-nosed attitude Lewis brings to the gym is a perfect match for equally hard-nosed first-year coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron James in high school in Akron, Ohio, and had four previous college head jobs before arriving at Duquesne.
Dambrot is not afraid to light a fire under his players, and that includes Lewis.
“If he gets sensitive and doesn’t like the criticism, then he won’t progress to the level that he should — but Mike Lewis is a high quality young man,” Dambrot said. “So he may not like it in the short term, but in the long term he knows it’s the right thing for him.”
Connecticut junior forward Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word), a key performer in the Huskies’ 2015-16 NCAA championship run and their 2016-17 Final Four appearance, may feel she is struggling, but her coach certainly does not.
The 6-1 Collier is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for the No. 1 Huskies (14-0). A year ago, she had norms of 20.4 and 9.1 in leading UConn to a 36-1 finish.
“Because she had such a phenomenal year last year, it really seems like she is struggling, and yet by any other stretch of the imagination she is having a great year,” coach Geno Auriemma told Newstimes.com. “I don’t know how you can duplicate last year. I don’t know how you do that.”
Collier, however, is not satisfied with her performance over the first half of the season.
“I know the work that I’ve put in, I know eventually the shots are going to start falling,” Collier said.
Collier has scored in double figures in the last 13 games and is on pace to set career highs in assists, steals and 3-pointers. She’s making 55 percent of her field goals, which is well above average, even for most elite players. Last year, however, she made 68 percent of her tries.
AROUND THE AREA
Washington University had a conference-best 11 former players named to the University Athletic Association 30th anniversary team.
Ten former UAA players of the year were among the 11 selected: Kevin Suiter (1988), Charlie Borsheim (1993), Kevin Folkl (1995), Brent Dalrymple (1996), Chris Alexander (1999), Troy Ruths (2007), Aaron Thompson (2009), Sean Wallis (2010), Dylan Richter (2012) and Chris Klimek (2014). In addition, four-time all-UAA honoree Tyler Nading (2005-09) was selected.
• Tennessee senior center Kortney Dunbar (Edwardsville) is averaging 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds for the No. 6 Lady Vols (15-0). The 6-2 Dunbar helped Edwardsville to a 92-5 overall record and three straight Southwestern Conference titles between 2011-14.
• Before the SIU Edwardsville women’s basketball team’s loss to Belmont on Wednesday, the Cougars (7-9) were 4-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference, their best OVC start ever. Senior guards Lauren White (Edwardsville) and Donshel Beck (Ritenour) average 14 and 13 points a game. SIUE hosts Tennessee State (3-11, 1-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
• Washington U. senior forward Andrew Sanders is the 24th member of the Bears’ 1,000-point club. He began weekend play with 1,038 points. Division III’s No. 10 Bears (10-2) host New York U. (8-3) at noon Sunday.
• Penn State hockey junior forward Chase Berger (SLUH), the 2013 Post-Dispatch All-Metro player of the year, has seven goals and 12 assists for the No. 14 Nittany Lions (12-7-3).
• McKendree’s bass fishing program is No. 10 in the school of the year standings. McKendree resumes competition Jan. 25 at Toledo Bend Reservoir in Many, La.
• SIUE senior forward Jalen Henry is the OVC men’s basketball co-player of the week after leading the Cougars to a pair of road victories. Henry averaged 25.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins over Eastern Kentucky (85-82) and Morehead State (70-65). Henry scored a career-high 35 points against EKU.
• Lindenwood-Belleville used an eight-game winning streak to pull within a half-game of first place in the American Midwest Conference women’s basketball race. The Lynx (9-1, 11-3 overall) trail only Columbia College (10-1, 12-5) in the AMC standings. The two schools face each another Jan. 25 in Belleville. Senior forward Allison Webb has averaged 19.6 points over her last five starts.