PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Anticipation to the first game of the regular season is always high, but when your matchup is ranked 16th in the country and the game is on national television, the butterflies might tend to be a little more active.
“Kids today, when they grow up, they dream of playing in places like Tucson, Ariz. This is what they look forward to. This is what they prepare all their lives for,” said Duquesne Men’s basketball color analyst and Duquesne Hall of Famer, Jarrett Durham.
The Dukes travel to Arizona today, as they prepare to take on the No. 16 Arizona Wildcats, who last night increased their home win streak at the McKale Center to 20 after defeating Valparaiso 73-64 in their regular season opener.
Arizona senior forward Jesse Perry had a game high 10 rebounds in last night’s matchup, while freshman guard Nick Johnson had a stellar debut with 14 points and 6 assists. Senior guard Kyle Fogg, the Wildcats top-returning scorer, led the team with 16 points.
Wildcats head coach and one of the most recognizable names in Pittsburgh basketball, Sean Miller, has the seventh ranked recruiting class for 2011, including touted freshman guard, Josiah Turner.
“They are really talented and really good and for us to compete with these guys, it’s going to take a great effort on our part and we’re going to have to shoot the ball well, and we’re probably going to have to get a few bounces and be a little lucky,” said Duquesne Head Coach Ron Everhart, who is 2-1 against Miller as a coach.
“He’s a good friend,” Everhart said referring to Miller. “His dad’s a very good friend of mine. Now as it turns out this year, we have to play against Sean and his brother Archie, who’s now in our league (head coach of the University of Dayton), so as luck would have it, that always seems like it happens, where you have to play your friends and it’s always a tough thing to do.”
As much as this game and the opponent may be hyped, the Dukes players are mentally prepared, but are not fazed.
“We’re just gonna go in there and play our game. We’ve been going hard in practice, so this is a good opportunity for us and if we utilize our offense and play like we know how, I think we can be successful,” sophomore T.J. McConnell said.
“I’m ready, we just have to prove ourselves. It’s another great opportunity to play against a ranked team, especially at the start of the season,” added Mike Talley, the other half of the backcourt tandem.
Everhart says the big key for the Dukes is keeping the Arizona big men off the glass, even though the Wildcats only out-rebounded Valparaiso 34-32 last night.
The consensus is that practice the past three days has been good, but the Dukes understand that talk is only talk.
“No matter what anyone says, it’s just one out of 30 games, regardless. It’s nothing more, nothing less. We have to make sure we understand not to be out of our mind excited to where we lose focus on the individual stuff,” Everhart said.
The guys know that what happens on the floor during the game is the only thing that counts.
“I know they are a talented team. We’re gonna come out play as hard as we can,” said B.J. Monteiro. “I’m just ready to start my senior season off the right way. It’s on national TV, my people get to see me play so I’m excited,” he added.
Until then the guys will get in their zone the best way that works for them.
“Music always gets me in the zone,” said Monteiro. “J.Cole.”
The game will be shown on ESPN2 at 9PM as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic