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Inside the Dukes: Team Connected in Important Victory

Inside the Dukes: Team Connected in Important Victory

PITTSBURGH — As Duquesne men’s basketball guard Sincere Carry was reminded about his 19 points in Wednesday’s 93-82 victory over Marshall, he appeared to balk at the mention of it during a postgame press conference.

“I don’t care about points, I want to win,” he stated.

Carry did score the 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but he had seven assists to zero turnovers, recorded five steals, and held Marshall’s leading scorer Jon Elmore to 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting (one of those baskets was a fastbreak opportunity) all in 33 minutes.

“We got really good point guard play, he played well all around,” Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot said of Carry. “He guarded maybe one of the best point guards around, though you couldn’t tell tonight. When he plays like that, we have a legitimate chance.”

As for Elmore, it was clear he was frustrated and towards the end of the game, he was on the bench, though when Marshall was in a drought, the guard was brought back in.

“I was just trying to speed him up and make him play at my pace, because I watched a lot film on him the past couple of days with the coaches and he looked pretty good on tape,” said Carry. “I just wanted to make him uncomfortable.”

Duquesne came into this game in need of an offensive boost after the PPG Paints Arena hoops appeared to have a lid on them in a City Game loss to Pitt this past Friday and Marshall provided the perfect opportunity.

Marshall is coached by Dan D’Antoni and if the last name is not familiar to you, well, it should be, given that his brother Mike currently coaches the Houston Rockets and counts Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and James Harden among the players who have learned under his tutelage.

What does this have to do with Marshall?

Well the D’Antoni’s run a fast pro-style offense and Marshall may run it to perfection, especially when it is loose.

This fast-paced approach benefits Duquesne in terms of getting quick, quality offensive possessions once the ball crosses halfcourt.

Duquesne shot 57.9% from the field in this game, which represents a high-mark for a Dambrot coached team here on the Bluff.

“Getting into a game like that actually forces you to score the ball,” redshirt sophomore forward Michael Hughes said. “If you turn it over or miss a shot, you know they’ll come back and get theirs. In a game like that we shot a lot of shots. You have to get good looks and make sure those shots are falling.”

“He’s good”

For the second time in as many games, Michael Hughes scored 20 points, this time coming on 7-of-9 shooting, and the feat matches his career-high.

In fact in his last three games, Hughes is 24-for-30 from the field.

Michael Hughes (21) December 5, 2018 — David Hague/PSN

Dambrot cited that because of Hughes’s success, teams have to double team him in the post or else a basket is as close as it gets to automatically going in.

Pitt found this out when it decided to ease off doubling him when Duquesne’s guards starting knocking down shots and that was when they played Hughes straight up and to an extent, concede those points.

“He cares, you can tell he really cares about winning,” Dambrot said. “He plays probably with more enthusiasm than most of our guys and when he gets it around the rim, he’s a load. He’s worked hard at it. He makes mistakes when he gets tired, it’s evident. 27 minutes probably too many. Mike is about a 22 minute guy right now.”

Post play impresses

It was not just Hughes who saw success, but really all of Duquesne’s posts did positive things.

Marcus Weathers was back in the game after suffering from a flu which saw him limited against UMass Lowell and out completely against Pitt.

Weathers had an 11 point-7 rebound performance in 27 minutes, during which time he extended possessions, specifically late in the game and offered the exclamation point with 1:11 remaining in regulation, lobbing to Hughes who finished with a dunk to place Duquesne in the lead by nine points.

Marcus Weathers (5) December 5, 2018 — David Hague/PSN

Austin Rotroff ended up with the highest +/- ranking of all Duquesne’s players at +13 and this game appeared the most confident to date in a Duquesne uniform. He came up with 50-50 rebounds, catching them surely and refused to let the ball go. He also scored six points with one of his baskets coming on a dunk despite a foul.

Amari Kelly played 14 minutes, which represented a career high and scored five points while adding five rebounds, three assists and a big block.

Duquesne owned a 46-30 advantage in the paint Wednesday and these posts were a big reason as to why.

Lewis II channels Reggie Miller

It is no secret that Mike Lewis II has perhaps had the toughest season of anyone on Duquesne and this has been discussed more than how often Dambrot makes a LeBron James reference.

13 of Lewis II’s 15 points came in the first half, but 11 of those came in a row including a three-point shot that went in as the referee whistled a foul on Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey. That basket brought out the biggest smile Lewis II has displayed all season long.

After Lewis II nailed the free throw, Duquesne enjoyed its largest lead of the evening.

“It just shows that hard work pays off,” Lewis II said of his night. “I haven’t been playing very well and I understood that more than anybody. Of course it’s good to see the ball go in at a high rate, now I just have to keep it up.”

Mike Lewis II (1) December 5, 2018 — David Hague/PSN

As Dambrot was asked about Lewis II’s night, a smile formed on his face, one both of happiness and perhaps in a sense, relief as well, as he had been asked the question several times throughout the season.

“I like Mike Lewis and he deserves to have success,” said Dambrot. “It makes me feel a bit better, I wish he played a little more. That was a little defense driven early in the second half and there were some plays I didn’t like down the stretch. He can put the ball in the basket. I want to play him, I really do. He will get better because he puts the time in.”

The 11 points which came over two minutes of play, prompted the question as to whether Lewis II had ever been on such a streak before.

Lewis II had in fact scored 15 points over a similar time period during his AAU days, which Hughes poked fun at perfectly mimicking the tale.

“Those were pup days,” Lewis II stated. “Ancient.”

That may be true, but both Lewis II and his team hope that performance continues.

Room for growth

This win is one of several meaningful ones as Duquesne has defeated a Radford team which has bested both Notre Dame and Texas in addition to experienced William & Mary and UIC squads.

In an interview with Pittsburgh Sports Now, Dambrot admitted there were several questions he hoped to have answered before the team’s Atlantic 10 opener Jan. 7 at Davidson.

“I want to practice better, that is the biggest thing,” he said. “I want to be simpler and make less mistakes with the ball. We’ve improved a little bit defensively, I think we’re 150 defensively in KenPom and we need to be below 100 for sure to really be a good team. We need to shoot the ball better and part of that is simplifying. There are a lot of questions personnel wise, we have some of them answered but we have a long way to go.”

Duquesne did have 19 turnovers in this game, which some were self-inflicted, but others came from this game. Defensively, is a similar situation as Marshall is not a good barometer of where a program is defensively.

Still, Marshall was held under its average point total and scored three less points than when Dambrot last played the Thundering Herd as Akron’s coach.

Duquesne as a whole, was still not pleased with its performance on the defensive end, with Lewis II saying the Dukes were fortunate Marshall did not take advantage of the unforced errors.

“If we’re playing all of those big guys, we need to rebound the ball. We still have to do better than that. When you get the ball closer to the rim it gives you more offensive rebounding advantages. We still have a long way to go. Even playing as many guys as we are right now, we’re not always there physically. We have to improve at that but that is typical of a young team as well.”

One thing Duquesne was able to do was get to the foul line more than the opponent, something else which had been an issue. The Dukes took 29 free throws and were a +4 in the statistic, ultimately shooting at a 69% clip.

Duquesne’s schedule now takes a shift with three consecutive games coming against teams ranked higher than 300 in the KenPom ratings in Longwood, Maryland Eastern Shore and Maine, which provides ample opportunity to try to ameliorate some of the above questions.

Change in the lineup

Before the game, it was revealed that Eric Williams Jr would not start, which served as only the second time in his career. The first came last year against, St. Francis Brooklyn Nov. 11, 2017, his first collegiate game.

Upon entering for open media availability Tuesday, Williams Jr was present for the team’s practice, but did not participate.

Eric Williams Jr. (50) December 5, 2018 — David Hague/PSN

Frankie Hughes started for Williams Jr and although nothing specifically was said about what caused the suspension, Dambrot’s remarks made it seem more of a disciplinary action.

“Obviously something happened,” Dambrot said. “That’s confidential between me and him but I decided to go with Frankie. The key to this is having discipline in your program and understanding what’s important. I’m building this for the long term so I am not going to let guys do whatever they want. Period.”

Williams Jr first appeared with 9:25 remaining in the first half and scored nine points in 17 minutes.

He said it

“It’s just trusting in your teammates. We came into this game knowing we had to win the rebound battle to have a chance to win this game. We have to stick together and win these games.” – Michael Hughes

“We have half the room totally where we want them and the other half does not understand what it takes to be championship level and I am not talking about my young kids.” – Dambrot

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