PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Duquesne won ten straight home games earlier this season, and yet that seems like a distant memory with its recent struggles.
The Dukes have been stuck on 12 home victories for more than a month now, and any chance of matching the school record of 14 for a season vanquished Saturday afternoon.
Davidson handed the Dukes their fourth straight home loss and sixth overall, rallying from an early hole to prevail, 71-60, at the AJ Palumbo Center
Duquesne falls to 15-14 on the season and 6-10 in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes slipped to 1-8 in their last nine games.
“It is what it is: we’re just not quite good enough to win yet,” head coach Keith Dambrot said afterwards. “We’re close, we play pretty good for awhile, and then we just can’t win…ultimately, we just have to keep attacking and keep working, and just get better.”
Today’s game followed an all too familiar script. With the score close late and momentum teetering, the Dukes failed to make plays on offense.
Tydus Verhoeven’s basket inside pulled the Dukes within one at 50-49 with 10:40 left, but KiShawn Pritchett’s three on the other end sparked a 9-0 Wildcat run.
HIGHLIGHTS: Davidson Tops Dukes in Chuck Cooper Classic game, 71-60 pic.twitter.com/q1VSiar7wb
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) February 24, 2018
During that stretch, the Dukes missed four straight shots and turned the ball over twice. Eric Williams Jr. finally snapped a five-minute scoring drought with a long three at the 5:50 mark to make it 59-52.
Duquesne then produced three straight stops on the defensive end but fired off quick shots to kill any chance of a comeback. Davidson hit all six of its free throws in the final minute to preserve the victory. The Wildcats were 18-22 from the stripe overall.
With the game hanging in the balance, the Dukes’ shot selection went in the tank, similar to what happened against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and St. Joseph’s a week ago.
“Down the stretch, I think our shot selection as a team was terrible,” Mike Lewis II said. “We kind of start trying to do our own thing instead of playing together. That’s what killed us down the stretch.”
“I didn’t think we shared the ball as well as we should,” Dambrot added. “I think that’s what losing teams do. At some point if they don’t think they’re going to win, they start thinking to themselves, ‘Why shouldn’t I get mine?’ which is a bad way to think. I didn’t like our shot selection.”
Following Williams Jr.’s made three, Duquesne missed seven of its next eight shots before Lewis II canned a pair of threes in the final minute.
The Dukes experienced a similar stretch of fortitude on offense in the first half. After building a 25-14 lead, they went the next seven-plus minutes without a field goal. Davidson surged ahead, outscoring the home team 19-6 over the final 8:36 of the frame to take a two-point lead into the break. Kellan Grady knifed through the defense in the closing seconds to score, giving the Wildcats a 33-31 cushion. Duquesne missed 10 of its final 11 shots in the opening period.
The Dukes went ahead in the second half, 39-38, on a pair of threes from Chas Brown and Williams Jr., but Grady answered with a triple of his own to re-grab the lead for Davidson. The Wildcats never trailed again.
Grady caught fire midway through the first half, scoring 18 points in the opening 20 minutes. He added 12 more after the break to match his career-high of 30 set against Akron of all teams—the same school where Dambrot spent the last 14 years coaching.
.@CoachDambrot on the scandal surrounding basketball…
“I’ve got so many problems with my own team, I can’t really comment on other people’s teams or how they do things. I’ve coached a long time. Nothing is surprising.”
— Scott Elliott (@MiddlenameScott) February 24, 2018
Davidson, who is outscoring conference opponents by 19 points a game, shot 47 percent from the field and was 9-20 from long-range. The Wildcats outrebounded Duquesne by one and held the Dukes to 39 percent shooting while playing a 2-3 zone a majority of the game.
In honor of Senior Day, Dambrot started a lineup of Eric James, Jordan Robinson, Rene Castro-Caneddy, Williams Jr., and Brown. That unit was responsible for the 10-0 start to the contest. Dambrot said at Akron he didn’t generally start all seniors on Senior Day because the games carried more significance.
Lewis II missed his first attempt from deep but then connected for his next three. He finished with 15 points and could have had more, but several shots rimmed in and out. Williams Jr. was the only other Duke in double-figures, scoring 12.
Despite six straight losses, Castro-Caneddy believes the Dukes can turn it around starting Wednesday against Saint Louis.
“We’re a little bit down, but we’ve still got two games winnable games,” Castro-Caneddy said. “Just try to win these two and get hot for conference [tourney]. It only takes a couple games.”