PITTSBURGH -– If the Duquesne men’s basketball team considered Thursday night’s home contest against Maryland Eastern Shore a final exam, the 72-57 may be graded as incomplete.
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Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot had his shortest press conference of the season. Despite the less than impressive win, the second-year Duquesne coach seemed to understand the reason why.
“It’s a long week, it’s exam week,” he said. “We played like it was exam week to me. We’re just trying to win and get a letter bit better. I don’t think we got that much better tonight. As long as we win and figure things out.”
Still despite the win, which is the seventh straight at the Palumbo Center this season and 12th non-conference victory in a row at the friendly confines, there still is work to be done.
“The biggest thing is putting two halves together,” said Dambrot. “We haven’t put 40 minutes together all season.”
Dambrot did not offer an opening statement after Thursday’s game and whether that was to truly “throw us (the media) off” or so he could have a sip of the water he requested, is anyone’s guess, but that game truly spoke for itself.
Duquesne held Eastern Shore to a 3-for-17 performance from the field at the beginning of this contest, but to an extent limped into halftime and had more stumbling blocks to start the second half.
“We just have to grind out wins until we get better, that’s the bottomline,” Dambrot said. “We’re not going to win any A-10 championships right now because we have to set our mentality, mindset and team so we can finish at the top of the league. Our job is to make sure they win and set that mentality.”
Despite the 15-point margin of victory against a one-win team, this game was never truly close. Really, Dambrot was able to substitute with a fair amount of frequency.
Some of this could have led to the uneven play, even if Duquesne appeared gassed in some stretches.
The $64,000 question though is whether Duquesne is closer to where it wants to be and Dambrot offered a very definitive answer.
“I wouldn’t say close, being honest,” he said. “At times we looked good.”
Norman earns starting spot
Following Duquesne’s comeback win Sunday against Longwood, Lamar Norman, Jr.’s father offered a tweet showing love for his son but what followed in the characters after showed a lot of character.
While the elder Norman told his son to transfer, the reaction was not “OK, dad” but rather “I just have to work harder”.
Norman responded for a second consecutive game, this time with a season-high 16 points and nine rebound performance. With Duquesne’s defense limiting Eastern Shore early, Norman recorded five rebounds in the game.
“My dad had his decision but he didn’t know what was going on out here, I did,” Norman said. “Only thing I had to do was player harder and I am. That is paying off.”
Dambrot was glowing when discussing his freshman guard, who has now started in consecutive contests.
“He’s a sweetheart,” said Dambrot. “He is learning everyday. He doesn’t know a lot, he’s playing on instinct and athleticism. He’s one of the few guys making shots, say what you want but look at the numbers. He’s the only one really consistently making shots, so he has to play. He deserves it, he’s kept his mouth shut, didn’t complain and works hard every day. I’m happy for him.”
It was noteworthy that both Tavian Dunn-Martin and Eric Williams, Jr. did not appear in the first half. A source told Pittsburgh Sports Now that Dunn-Martin’s lack of game action was for disciplinary reasons.
Given Dambrot’s remarks after the Marshall game about Williams, in which he spoke longer than needed regarding a player not starting and Williams also missing the same amount of time, it could be similar circumstances.
Dambrot’s answer may in fact have come with his praise of Norman Jr. In that answer, Dambrot mentioned that Norman Jr kept his mouth shut and did not complain and perhaps that was more of a hint in regards to these two guards and what was holding them off the court.
It should be noted that when both came onto the court, the effort was more disjointed than normal. There was some watching going on and the fact that Dunn-Martin played six minutes and Williams Jr four, may be just as telling for a player used to starting and another used to being the first guard off the bench.
Dambrot is big on the plus-minus statistic and it did not help that Dunn-Martin was a -12 on the court in just six minutes and Williams Jr a -10 in four.
Additionally, Duquesne was without Michael Hughes for a second consecutive game, again with a knee contusion. Assuming Dambrot gets the green light, Hughes is expected to play Sunday against Maine.
Maine is 2-9 on the season so there are two schools of thought. Duquesne could easily decide not to risk Hughes in a game which on the surface does not present much consequence or with Penn State coming up Wednesday, it could play the redshirt sophomore center some needed minutes so he gets the rust off before that important contest.
With 26 seconds remaining in regulation, Dambrot brought in his two walkons, in junior guard Caleb Davis and senior forward Zach Snyder for the first time.
Williams Jr raised both hands in the air to get the fans to applaud and the bench gave a loud ovation to two players who clearly mean a lot to the team.
The outcome of this game was already determined, but the two got to run the court for one possession, which was used to run out the clock. After the final buzzer sounded, Williams Jr approached Davis and gave him grief for not shooting the ball at halfcourt before both smiled, patted each other on the back and went into the postgame handshake line.
The sequence brought a smile onto redshirt sophomore guard Marcus Weathers’s face and his response provded some good-natured grief as well.
“They’ve been big on the scouting team and they’re just young bodies,” he said. “It’s tough trying to play against 40-50 year-old coaches still trying to move. They’ve been big and just to see them out there getting playing time makes everyone happy.”
HE SAID IT
“Honestly it is one of the hardest things to do just because you start to get in your head about what you’re not doing and what you can do to contribute to the team. If you can focus on being a good team player, minutes don’t matter, it’s about doing what you can when you’re out of there.” – Marcus Weathers on playing time.