PITTSBURGH — Maine came into the Palumbo Center Sunday afternoon thinking it was prepared for a battle against the Duquesne men’s basketball team, but by halftime it was clear that the outcome had long been decided.
Duquesne basketball on Pittsburgh Sports Now is sponsored by The Summit Academy: setting young men on the path to a better future.
Coach Richard Barron and the rest of his staff all were sitting on the visiting bench, unsure of how it could best help those on the floor, who were struggling themselves.
Maine’s players frequently had hands on knees during any free throw attempt and forward Vilgot Larsson was so exhausted he had a wide open three-point shot, quickly passing inside to a fellow post player.
Duquesne’s 72-46 victory included 25 Maine turnovers, which represented the most mistakes the Dukes have forced an opposing team during this Keith Dambrot era.
“I tend to notice it more, so when I see a player show they are tired, it is a weakness,” freshman guard Sincere Carry said. “I never want to show weakness. I push it up a notch.”
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) December 16, 2018
Williams Jr gets back to form
It is no secret that Eric Williams Jr has been out of the starting lineup, the past handful of games and that has been by design.
Duquesne Coach Keith Dambrot has said as much following the Marshall game but since then he has had some ups and downs, with some body language at times faltering.
It is clear how much Williams Jr wants to start and after playing a career-low four minutes against Maryland Eastern Shore, he played 20 on Sunday scoring 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
“I like the way he was tonight and I like the way he was the last two days of practice,” Dambrot said.
Dambrot has juggled starting lineups throughout this nonconference so perhaps this is a sign that Williams Jr can return to the starting lineup, and the next chance for that happening is Wednesday at Penn State.
“I’m building this program to win championships and so no one’s exempt,” said Dambrot. “I’m not exempt, he’s not exempt, coach (Terry) Weigand’s not exempt, none of us are exempt from being championship quality. If we’re not championship quality, then I’m going to have discipline in the program, simple as that. We have to have discipline to be championship quality. I’m never going to sacrifice discipline because I know, I know that wins championships. Every good team in America wins with discipline.”
Redshirt sophomore center Michael Hughes missed his third consecutive game with a knee contusion and his absence has had both positive and negative effects.
Missing Hughes has allowed for the younger post players, namely Austin Rotroff and Amari Kelly to play significant minutes, not to force things to work, but because they were earned.
Still, Duquesne found out how much it missed Hughes’s inside game and how far other posts have to climb in order to make up for his lost production.
“We have not been able to progress as much as we would like because we haven’t had him,” Dambrot said. “Austin and Amari aren’t ready to be consistent receivers on the low block. They are good enough to be complimentary guys but haven’t shown yet they are as good as Mike around the rim. Not that kind of a center yet. These three games have hurt us in that sense but they have been able to gain experience. We have become perimeter oriented again which is not really what we want to be.”
A bright spot for Duquesne in the post these past couple of games has been the play of sophomore forward Marcus Weathers.
Dambrot has challenged him to be better and Weathers had a double-double against Maryland Eastern Shore and then added 13 points and a +26 performance Sunday afternoon.
“He wants to play the game the right way,” said Dambrot. “I like him so much that I am hard on him because I think he can be better.”
Dambrot did not fully commit to Hughes’s availability for Wednesday calling him 50-50, but it is clear that any means he plays will be valued.
“We’re just trying get through these games and get him healthy because he is key for us,” Dambrot said. “We can survive some other things, but he’s a hard survival for us.”
Taylor makes an impact
For the first time this season, Duquesne junior forward Kellon Taylor had a chance to see extended court time, playing 13 minutes and finishing as a +4 in the game.
“Kellon Taylor is going to help us as well,” Dambrot said. “He has that kind of personality, just has to learn. He’s not scared of the moment, knows what he is, just not in good shape yet. We need him, there’s no doubt. We need someone with firm footing that know what they are and how much they will play.”
Taylor was able to grab seven rebounds in 13 minutes, though he did have three fouls, the third of which he was clearly frustrated as he was not able to get in position.
Last season, Taylor was an important piece to Duquesne’s puzzle when he returned to the team following football season.
His physicality was needed and often set the tone, but most importantly he was not afraid to stand up for his teammates.
Dambrot also appreciates Taylor’s defensive ability which could go a long way off the bench in continuing to provide an intensity built towards playing a complete 40-minute game.
Taylor’s comeback is well timed with Michael Hughes’s return being unknown as is his timetable for the minutes he received before his knee contusion and the freshman posts not having the results Dambrot was looking for.
He said it
“He is an advanced player. We put him on the other team’s best player every game. For a guy just learning our system, if he was around a very experienced team, he would be really good. At times he has to do so much where he may struggle because he is tired. It is so obvious we struggle when he doesn’t do well.” – Dambrot on Sincere Carry
“I think it was very important but not something I was worrying about. I was staying in the moment, staying ready and helping my team as best as I can.” – Marcus Weathers on his last couple of games