PITTSBURGH — The disappointment about the latest Duquesne men’s basketball defeat was evident on both redshirt sophomore guard Tavian Dunn-Martin and redshirt sophomore center Michael Hughes faces.
Just moments earlier, all five NJIT players celebrated openly after a loud dunk from San Antonio Brinson put the Highlanders up 16 points. Both NJIT and Duquesne consistently were chirping at each other and this dunk was the coup de grace.
What would your reaction be,” Hughes asked to a understated reply. “There’s your answer.”
Duquesne’s 78-67 loss Monday afternoon to NJIT dropped its overall record to 9-4 on the season.
“It kind of was a microcosm of what we’ve been dealing with,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “We did a lot of bad things to get us in trouble and a lot of good things to come back. We couldn’t come back together. Our bench probably played better and with more urgency than our starters other than Sincere.”
Duquesne appeared to have an issue adjusting with eight days between games while NJIT played just two days prior against 19th ranked Houston and played a competitive half before falling 80-59.
It was clear that NJIT had an advantage both in reps as well as playing legitimate competition, not to mention five of its seven December contests on the road, including this Duquesne game.
Hughes believed his team brought it in practice but it was evident that it did not translate into 40 minutes Monday.
“It was a little bit of a trap game with that break,” he said. “We have to play better as a team. I will put this game on myself, no way I should be shooting 40% and missing defensive assignments. No one wants to lose like that.”
The bottomline was that Duquesne did not control the ebbs and flows in this game, which led to a loss, which of the four may be the most disappointing because of shooting which was lifeless at times, several missed assignments and all of the starting five having a negative plus/minus, among other factors.
“They had a good system, we knew if we weren’t on it would be a tough game for us,” said Dambrot.
At the beginning of December, Dambrot understood that his team was very much a work in progress and Monday’s game certainly showed that there is plenty of work still to be done.
“To this point we don’t appear to be championship quality. A lot can change. If that’s the case, when you fix things for the long term you fix things for the short term so that is what we have to figure out.”
Dambrot has a choice to make and that is if he wants to win as many games as possible or take a few hits but develop the team.
He cited Gavin Bizeau as an example to illustrate his point.
“Gavin Bizeau is the highest rated recruit out of all of them and he hasn’t sniffed yet really,” he said. “Have to make the determination what to do with him. Win as many as we can or develop him so we can get pop at that spot. Short term results indicate he is not quite ready but you don’t know unless you play them. The thing is neither him or (Brandon) Wade have complained.”
Duquesne continues to toy with its depth but for some reason, the team still has appeared tired in several games and of late, shots have failed to fall for longer stretches.
“When Eric (Williams) goes 4-18, we’ve got issues,” said Dambrot. “They’re (NJIT) good defensively but we haven’t shot the ball good from the three line all year really. Part of it is our spacing, we’ve worked hard on it, just can’t figure it out.”
Right now, Duquesne is 9-4 but in some senses is still looking for a complete game.
William & Mary and Maine may be the closest efforts towards that goal, but both had the visitors shoot efficiently from the field in the second half and Duquesne showed signs of let up.
With Mike Lewis II’s transfer earlier in the week, Frankie Hughes started a second consecutive game but there is still a lot to figure out when it comes to guard implementation, let alone a rotation.
“I do know that Sincere Carry is going to play a lot of minutes, he has proven he can perform on a high level,” Dambrot said. “I think Williams when he plays to his ability he can play at this level. Frankie didn’t have a good game but has been better in practice. Lamar shows everytime we put him out there and our back is against the wall, he shows well. Maybe not yet at the highest level but the more he gets out there the more he does good things. He tries very hard. Tavian has good ability but he has been up and down emotionally which affects his performance until he gets over that he’s going to be up and down.”
While Duquesne still does not know what it is as a team, Hughes spoke for all of the players when he stated he wanted Dambrot to get on the team more, citing the young collective unit and that plenty is left to be learned.
Dambrot has never been afraid to push his players to improve, regardless of score and will not apologize for it. He believes this works and the players stating as much only supports this school of thought.
“The greatest players want to be coached and want feedback on how they can get better,” said Dambrot.
A NEW FACE
There was no grand announcement about it, but a face familiar to many Pittsburgh basketball fans graced the Duquesne sideline as former Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs wore a Duquesne polo and sat at the end of the bench.
“We’re just feeling Ashton out,” Dambrot said. “He asked me if he could come around. He wants to get into coaching and I’m for helping young people. It’s a non-factor. He’s not allowed to coach, but he’s been through a lot, he’s a good player. My first take is that I like him but there is no effect to this point.”