PITTSBURGH — Duquesne certainly made the national headlines it was looking for although the reaction has been mixed, the team itself has not wavered.
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Unfortunately a double-technical foul made the rounds, and had the entire country talking whether it was ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt talking about the six free throws from said events going over the points spread or Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot’s most famous former player LeBron James making fun of a sideways tie.
Many will look at Dambrot’s actions as costing Duquesne in a 73-67 setback to Penn State, but his players defended him, clearly appreciating the gesture, even though a couple of players had their faces hidden with towels during the six free throws.
“It just shows his loyalty to his team,” Duquesne sophomore center Michael Hughes said. “He’s not going to let us be taken advantage of, he’s going to go out of his way for us. He is always there for his team.”
In regards to the officiating crew of the game, two of the officials were from Philadelphia and offered half hugs to the Penn State players from that area and its coach Pat Chambers. As a quick reminder, Duquesne was the home team in this game.
On the foul in question, which was called on Hughes, it appeared that Penn State player Lamar Stevens pushed off before the foul was called, which certainly did not help Dambrot’s mindset.
The official that assessed the two technical fouls was head referee Brian Dorsey who was a part of the official crew in Duquesne’s Nov. 25 contest against UMass Lowell.
That game saw both Amari Kelly and Eric Williams Jr both receive technical fouls for disagreeing with officials after foul calls. Williams Jr was at least warned, Dambrot told reporters after the game that he was not.
Just moments after Dambrot apologized to his team in the locker room, Hughes took to the podium and in his last reply offered a detour from what was said following the game.
“We can’t put ourselves in a predicament to have the other three guys on the court make a decision,” said Hughes. “We have to make that decision ourselves. We can’t let them have control of the game because we know how it’s going to go whenever it comes to a high-major game.”
SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND
Contrary to the above, there was much more to this game than the final 5.4 seconds, although the latter was certainly fresh in everyone’s minds.
There was plenty to like from this game, even if the end result was not what the team wanted.
Duquesne came into this game and a few minutes in made a concession, that Penn State was the more athletic and taller team.
In order to wear Penn State out and force mistakes, Duquesne opted to go with a diamond press that was highly successful in the first half.
“They went to the diamond press and they were man-to-man only,” Chambers said. “We just played it (against NC State), they did a lot of thing which is why I was shocked we were throwing the ball all over the rim. We started to fill the floor and it starred to loosen things up.”
It was clear that the press kept Duquesne engaged and Penn State had 17 turnovers, which is seven above its average, a clear sign that what the Dukes did was working.
At the half, Penn State got Stevens back from some foul trouble and his sure hands helps on inbounds passes as the Nittany Lions were able to get quick passes after the initial pass which had Duquesne scrambling.
As Penn State figured it out, Duquesne may have stayed in the press too long which created some tired legs. Eventually Duquesne did get out of it, though that adjustment occurred during a media timeout.
“They had all kinds of issues with it in the first half,” said Dambrot. “I knew it was a weak area for them, but we got a little tired. They made some adjustments which made it harder to trap.”
Duquesne may consider keeping this press on a more full-time basis, especially if the Dukes cannot shorten its depth options, which could help, especially when Dambrot has mentioned the team loses its juice. Duquesne played 11 players in this game and nine were on the floor for 10 minutes or more.
It is clear Duquesne is athletic and a press or even token pressure could force a team into a mistake which could lead to a short court.
THE NOT SO GREAT
Though Duquesne had some high points, a lot of the second half was a good old fashioned rock fight.
Duquesne made four baskets in the second half and were without a field goal for 7:26 in the second half, while Penn State continued to extend possessions posting a +12 rebounding differential in the second half.
“We got beat on second shots really and offensively we killed ourselves,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said.
Penn State was also a +10 on the offensive rebounding end with each rebound a dagger after good defensive sets in the first 30 seconds.
Duquesne also did not help its cause with two assists on those four made field goals and nine turnovers to go with an 0-for-7 mark from three.
There was some positive as Duquesne still drew fouls and was 20-21 from the free throw line, which sent an aggressive message, still it was clear Penn State was the better team in the second half.
It to an extent is still puzzling that Duquesne played so tired in parts of that second half and perhaps that also draws back to the physical advantage Penn State had, it appeared almost as apparent as the one Duquesne had over Maine.
Duquesne had the diamond press counter, but once Penn State answered that question, it appeared that the Dukes were searching and just did not find enough answers.
WHAT DOES THIS GAME MEAN?
Duquesne still has not completely answered the question of what team it is yet, but it seems clear that when Sincere Carry and/or Mike Hughes are not on the floor, that there has been a drop off in play.
Now of course this can change, but 11 games is a decent sample size.
Carry was poked in the eye by a Penn State finger nail pursuing a rebound in the first half and returned rather quickly not missing a beat, even though the affected eye appeared swollen.
This was the same Carry that when Duquesne led entering the first media timeout, he loudly shouted “let’s go” in an effort to fire up both teammates and fans alike.
When Duquesne was struggling in the second half, Carry almost seemed to be playing all five Penn State players on the floor by himself, getting to the line and sprinting back to intercept outlet passes.
Hughes played 15 minutes, which is probably the maximum Duquesne was looking for considering he was coming back from a knee contusion.
There was a scary moment in the second half where Hughes landed hard on the knee and slowly got up, grimmacing in the process. He quietly scored 10 points in this game as eight of them were at the foul line.
It is clear that in limited time that he earned Penn State’s respect.
“I think Hughes is terrific, and he is a big-time challenge for us,” Chambers said. “He’s got all of the pieces to be really good this year. The A-10 better look out.”
Perhaps the knee injury played a role in Hughes’s positioning on that final foul call or he could have been tired. Dambrot did guesstimate after the team’s win against Maine that it would take Hughes two weeks to return to the form which struck fear earlier in the season.
When these two are on and get meaningful contributions from the team’s depth, that is when it is a dangerous out.
ODDS AND ENDS
Penn State had a homecoming of sorts as well as former Duquesne coach Jim Ferry returned to PPG Paints Arena. There were clear early signs with how much he wanted to win this game and he was frequently up during the first half shouting defensive instructions and objected to one official’s foul call early on. There were “Ferry sucks” chants from the students that showed up to the contest during a few Penn State and a few others joined in, but otherwise, everything in that regard was respectful.
In the postgame handshake line, Ferry offered an extra pat on the back for Caleb Davis, Mike Lewis II, Zach Snyder, Kellon Taylor and Associate AD of Sports Medicine and Performance John Henderson, all of whom were on the team when he was present.
The Nittany Lions had a very tough non-conference schedule and the slate does not get any easier, so some desperation was certainly present in trying to win Wednesday night’s game.
Duquesne now has two non-conference games remaining before Atlantic 10 play begins.