Dukes Drop Season Opener, 67-59
TUCSON, Ariz. (93-7 The FAN/AP) — Jordin Mayes scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, Jesse Perry had his second straight double-double and No. 16 Arizona pulled away from Duquesne for a 67-59 victory Wednesday night.
Arizona (2-0) struggled against the Dukes’ pressure well into the second half before pulling away on a run triggered by Mayes and its defense.
Mayes scored nine points in a 3-minute span and the Wildcats hounded Duquesne into one tough shot after another to open the season with consecutive wins. Perry finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Duquesne (0-1) created havoc on defense, as usual, forcing Arizona into 21 turnovers. The Dukes just couldn’t hit any shots, going 4 of 26 from 3-point range while shooting 33 percent overall.
Eric Evans and Sean Johnson had 13 points each to lead Duquesne.
Mayes scored eight points during a key run in the second half of a season-opening win over Valparaiso and started to heat up again, dropping in a runner and a 3-pointer to help put the Wildcats up four after Arizona trailed by two at halftime.
Duquesne kept it close despite missing one shot after another, then Mayes finally put the game away.
The sophomore hit a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound by Angelo Chol, then made two free throws after being fouled on another 3 to put Arizona up six with 5 minutes left.
Mayes really got the crowd into it the next trip down, dropping in his fourth 3-pointer on a drive-and-kick that made it 57-48. He finished 4 of 7 from behind the arc.
The Wildcats protected their cushion from there, hitting just enough shots and free throws to keep the Dukes from making a run.
Arizona has been a work in progress in its first season in three years without star forward Derrick Williams.
A mix of young players and ones expected to fill bigger roles, the Wildcats were awful in losing to Seattle-Pacific in their first exhibition game, got a little better in a preseason win over Humboldt State and still better in beating Valparaiso on Monday.
Arizona certainly needed to continue the get-better-by-the-game trend against Duquesne.
The Dukes are small compared to the Wildcats, who aren’t exactly giants, but they sure are quick.
Coach Ron Everhart has turned up the speed in his six seasons at Duquesne, creating a frenetic pace with full-court pressure that starts with the opening tip and doesn’t stop until the final horn.
The Dukes are young in the frontcourt and have players off the bench adjusting to expanded roles, but they are a tough matchup for teams not used to playing at their pace.
Arizona handled the pressure early, but Duquesne kept coming and the Wildcats helped with some questionable decisions, leading to 11 first-half turnovers.
The Wildcats shot well when they got the ball into position, going 8 of 16 in the first half. Duquesne was just 8 for 27 from the field, yet led 30-28 at halftime thanks to 11-of-12 shooting on free throws.
The Dukes just couldn’t keep it up in the second half, clanging more shots from the field and from the free throw line while the Wildcats pulled away behind Mayes.