PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Hosting its second annual “Steel City Tribute” game, the Duquesne basketball team put on a performance Saturday that hardly reflects anything a town accustomed to winning has come to expect.
The Dukes were flat from the opening tip against Fordham and suffered their worst defeat of the season, 80-57. It was the fewest points scored by Duquesne this season and the third straight contest it surrendered 80 or more points—all losses.
The loss dropped the Dukes to 15-11 overall and below .500 in the A-10 for the first time all season at 6-7.
Duquesne wore black and gold uniforms in recognition of Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams, and more than 30 former Dukes were honored at halftime in what was supposed to be joyous occasion. It was anything but celebratory.
“That was a very poor performance, which ultimately falls on me,” head coach Keith Dambrot said. “We can play any better than that, then I’ve got to take the hit for it. I knew it was a trap game. I knew it would be difficult because of the way they play…we just didn’t have it and that falls on me.”
Reeling after back-to-back losses, the Dukes plunged even further Saturday afternoon. Duquesne won the first meeting by 23 points, but Fordham, behind a patient and calculated offense, orchestrated a 46-point swing. The Rams’ Ivan Raut led the charge, pouring in a game-high 25 points. He was 8-11 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line.
The Dukes had no answers for Fordham’s in-game strategy. The Rams were deliberate in killing time, frequently waiting until the 15-second mark of the shot clock to engage on offense, and forcing the Dukes to play at a much slower pace than preferred. Fordham’s efficiency on offense was remarkable. The visitors assisted on 16 of their 25 made field goals and shot a blistering 60 percent from the field. They withstood any second-half charges from Duquesne by going 22-26 from the free throw line.
“You could tell we didn’t quite have it,” Dambrot said. “And you could tell for probably about a week, eight, 10 days in practice that we didn’t quite have it. I’ve cut way back so I guess I better not cut back anymore.”
“We’ve just got to go back to the beginning, it’s simple as that. We just have to go back to the beginning and play with a clear head and play better. Not worry so much when we play poorly, and just get on to the next one.”
Fordham hit nine of its first 13 shots to open the game while building a double-digit lead. It was a discouraging start after the Dukes allowed Dayton to connect on its first 10 shots of the second half during Wednesday’s 15-point loss. Jordan Robinson’s three-point play with 33 seconds left in the half snapped a six-minute scoring draught from the field by either team and trimmed the deficit to seven at 30-23. The Rams’ Cavit Havsa scored inside on the ensuing possession, and the visitors took a 32-23 lead into the break.
Fordham broke the game wide open early in the second half. The Rams nailed consecutive threes to start the frame and scored on its first three possessions to push the advantage to 15. They would hit 10 of their first 11 shots in the second stanza as the deficit grew to 26 in front of a stunned arena. The Dukes never really threatened to mount a serious comeback, getting no closer than 16 the rest of the way.
“I feel bad for them because they’ve had a good year and laid a lemon,” Dambrot said of his players. “And then people all the sudden think, ‘Ah, they stink.’ Every team goes through it, we just picked a bad time to do it.”
Duquesne shot a season-low 32 percent and was only 4-24 from long range. The Dukes were outrebounded by seven and allowed 16 fastbreak points.
Mike Lewis II was scoreless in the first half and didn’t crack the scoring column until the 14:43 mark of the second half. He eventually finished with 10 points and was the only starter in double-figures. Fordham committed to face guarding and denying the Dukes’ guards and sagging off the bigs.
“So they’re taking our strengths away—they always have two guys on our best players which is a problem,” Dambrot said. “So that’s an issue where I can’t run any play sets. It’s pretty much ball screen, play together or play on your own. They pretty much take the coaching out of the game at that point. You can get them prepared but we’ve got to make plays.”
Dambrot made a change to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 1, inserting junior forward Makro Krivacevic into the rotation in favor of freshman Tydus Verhoeven. Krivacevic played just four minutes and committed a pair of turnovers. The only effective big man was Robinson, who scored nine points in the first half. Forward Kellon Taylor scored a team-high 13 points off the bench.
Dambrot skipped his post-game radio interview and didn’t emerge from the locker room until nearly 25 minutes after the final horn had sounded. He preached the Dukes will have to get back to basics in the next coming days. They’ll have the week off before traveling to St. Joseph’s next Saturday.