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Inside the Dukes: Encouraging Start Has Team Excited

Inside the Dukes: Encouraging Start Has Team Excited

PITTSBURGH — Marcus Weathers and the rest of the Duquesne men’s basketball team had just done what seemed to be impossible, it had come back from 12 points in the final 3:12 of regulation and the entire A.J. Palumbo Center was in a frenzy, everyone that is except for coach Keith Dambrot.

Dambrot quickly gathered his team and took control of the huddle, during which time Weathers stated the directive was simple.

“The one thing coach Dambrot said is, ‘if you listen to me, we can win this game’,” he said. “We listened to him game plan and executed it.”

Duquesne indeed was able to fulfill Dambrot’s prediction locking down with one-on-one defense and playing together to come away with an 89-88 overtime victory over UIC.

Before the game went to overtime though, Dambrot admitted he was desperate. UIC was handling everything Duquesne threw and returned fire with a stronger amount of force.

Seeing that Dambrot went to a zone defense with seven minutes, with Duquesne down 13 points.

“We played it pretty well for two possessions,” he said. “We played three possessions in zone last year. We’ll play some zone this year and then we pressed. The lesson learned you have to play in a variety of ways. We man pressed in the first half and diamond pressed in the second half. The zone press helped us.”

In Saturday’s season-opening press conference, Dambrot mentioned that his team could assume a variety of identities and it is quite possible that given Monday’s effort, the 45 minutes of play may only have confused him more, given how many different directions the game went.

Honestly Sincere

When it comes to a recruiting process, Dambrot could not think of an easier one than that of Sincere Carry.

Solon was playing in the state semifinals and championships and seeing how Akron is about half an hour away, both Dambrot and assistant coach Terry Weigand attended purely out of “good will” and were amazed by what they were seeing.

Dambrot quickly called assistant coach Rick McFadden asking how a recruit in their pipeline had slipped through their cracks and the answer essentially involved injuries to both of his knees.

After a semifinal performance that impressed, Dambrot recalled a similar outcome in the championship game.

A day later, he got the call that Carry was asking to be released from his West Liberty scholarship and it was asked if Duquesne was interested. The answer was immediate.

The next day Carry visited and became a Duquesne Duke.

“Crazy how it works some times,” Dambrot remarked.

Monday, with Duquesne down 80-78 and 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation, the Dukes needed a basket and the play was drawn up for one person, Carry.

“It was one of our plays, in practice we worked on it,” he said. “It was a throwback to Mike Lew(is II). He said ‘make that as a decoy’ since last year he made a shot like that on the same play.”

The play was executed to perfection and Carry converted a layup. All UIC could do with the remaining time was get an inbounds pass off.

“Once I cut the corner, I blew past my man, easy layup,” said Carry.

By night’s end, Carry scored 32 points and had eight assists compared to one turnover in 38 minutes. In 67 minutes, Carry has 17 assists and one turnover, never showing panic at anytime.

“Obviously I’ve been around the game a long time but that performance today by that point guard was phenomenal,” said Dambrot. “I’m not just taking about his numbers but just his poise. I haven’t seen that out of a freshman, maybe ever except the freshman year in high school when I had LeBron.  I feel like this guy has a chip on his shoulder because he didn’t get a D-I scholarship. Just fathom that. That tells you how smart the people in our profession are.”

True to form, Carry did not have too much to say about his own personal accomplishments after the game, instead reflecting his remarks towards the team and its now 2-0 record.

“Throughout the game we just stayed together as a team,” Carry said. “We wanted to see what kind of fight we had and started playing free and together. I’m just trying to prove that I’m a winner.”

Towards the end of regulation, Duquesne men’s basketball freshman guard Sincere Carry rushed over to the Duquesne bench and sat on the court to change his shoes.

His beloved KD shoes had torn and he quickly had to change into the LeBron James sneakers.

It may have been the lone thing that did not go his way Monday night.

Hello Norman

Lamar Norman Jr. played no minutes, in Saturday night’s season opening contest by it certainly was hard to tell that just two short days later.

Not only did Norman score 11 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field, but each of his 15 minutes mattered, defending to the very end of the game.

“He played well which saved us,” Dambrot said. “Lamar every day gives great effort with great attitude and you are talking about the best athlete on our team and he shoots the ball.”

It was Norman Jr. who made the first three-point basket to start the run towards the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, and when he made another triple with 1:47 left in regulation it ignited the bench and helped give the defense the necessary effort it took to complete the comeback.

In the overtime period, with Duquesne down one, Norman Jr. struck again making a three to put Duquesne up for good. Normally Dambrot instructs his team to get back on defense, but even he clapped his hands together in approval after the basket, understanding its potential enormity.

All of this from a freshman who never was promised playing time and had arguably the most effective September and October of anyone on the team.

“I’ve just been sitting back and learning on film to see what I can do to help this team win,” said Norman Jr. “I have stayed hard at it every day in practice and tried not to let my team down. This is the best feeling I’ve had in a while. I feel like this team is really special.”

Defense, Anyone, Defense?

What may be lost in this game was how ineffective Duquesne’s defense may have been and how that combined with some rushed shots nearly drove Duquesne completely out of this game.

The first 10 minutes UIC was locked in nailing nearly every three-point basket and effortlessly rotating the ball to set up several open looks. On the other end, UIC had Duquesne’s offense well scouted, and seemed to have every answer. Perhaps, this is an additional reason why Dambrot brought Norman Jr., Gavin Bizeau and Austin Rotroff, all of whom saw their first action of the season.

Still, for a while it did not matter just because UIC thwarted every stop Duquesne had until the end of the game and the Dukes defense just did not get the job done.

“We were poor defensively,” Dambrot said. “Each team gives you different challenges. The last game we had to be sound in our technical approach covering their actions and this was a game where the kept their head down and drove it and did ball screens. They made shots. I thought they were phenomenal the first 10 minutes and we had a hard time keeping them in front almost the whole night.”

With Duquesne down double digits late in the game, some fans did file out of the Palumbo Center early and that was when Duquesne was switching to its diamond press.

Though the stats may not have shown it as much, UIC was less effective and had slightly fewer open looks in the second half and Weathers attributed this to a challenge Duquesne had to answer.

“They were more physical in the first half and we had to up our physicality and effort as well,” he said.

A head scratcher

After Weathers split free throws in the closing seconds, UIC needed three points to tie and had six seconds to get them, plenty of time.

UIC did not use one of its two remaining timeouts and instead tried pushing the ball and junior guard Godwin Boahen drove to the basket and shot a layup.

It is quite possible that Boahen was hoping to draw a foul as Norman Jr. was tightly guarding him for the entire length of the court but it has become an unwritten rule of sorts for referees to swallow their whistles and let the players play unless there is an egregious foul. Further, UIC shot 53.8% on its three-point shots, making it a rather high-percentage shot.

When Boahen made the shot, the buzzer sounded and the basket counted. Even if time had been put back on the clock, UIC may not have had enough time to foul and a timeout could not really advance the ball on a missed free throw.

As Mike Lewis II and Eric Williams Jr. saw Boahen drive into the paint, the big smiles could not escape their faces.

Lewis II Stays Engaged

Mike Lewis II’s name has not been said much this season and for a player with as much pride as he has, the easy thing to do would be pack it in. The 24 minutes he played were not due to foul trouble but his presence was very much felt as he made a big three-point shot with just under a minute in regulation which brought Duquesne’s deficit to two points.

Lewis II stayed engaged and was active on the bench when not in this game.

Family advice

Following the win, Keith Wade was trying to be a supportive towards freshman guard Brandon Wade played 10 minutes on the floor.

College sports can always be tricky for families and coaches alike because there frequently is the tug-of-war as to whether a son or daughter is receiving enough playing time and this can be an endless battle at times.

It is clear that the younger Wade fully understood the decision, even mirroring Dambrot’s postgame remarks about how it was nothing he did but just riding the hot hand.

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