BROOKLYN — Following Friday’s 92-86 Atlantic 10 Second Round setback to Saint Joseph’s, Duquesne basketball coach Keith Dambrot essentially stated that his team’s season was over as it would not accept a CBI berth and is not qualified for the CIT.
After the non-conference season, a primer was issued breaking down each game and now that piece will feature thoughts on each game, which provides a chance for the season to be viewed under a larger microscope, now that it has officially ended.
Nov. 10 vs. William & Mary
This was an interesting first game just because no one knew what to expect, perhaps not even William & Mary. UIC in fact watched the game because there was no scout on an almost entirely new Duquesne team.
Duquesne won the game by an 84-70 score.
Dambrot himself was quite honest in stating similar remarks and was concerned because William & Mary runs a similar style as the Richmond team which gave Duquesne fits a season ago.
“I thought it was a 50/50 game going in, just based on experience and newness,” said Dambrot. “We spent a lot of time preparing, just trying to guard that Princeton action. I thought it was a tough matchup. You look at how many points they scored last year and how many big games they’ve been in. I was scared if the game got close they were going to play through the big guy and that would bother. That stretch in the second half really turned the game around.”
The effort was one of Duquesne’s best in the non-conference season and it seemed for the first time in four decades, fans were excited to start basketball because there could be expectations.
As a postscript, William & Mary fired its coach Tony Shaver after the regular season, a move which appeared to blindside its fans.
Nov. 12 vs. UIC
This was perhaps the most important game of the season to date for Duquesne’s coaching staff as Dambrot went to his “desperation defense”.
UIC practiced at a high intensity an hour after the William & Mary game ended, now having a quick scout formulated based on what it had just witnessed.
Duquesne’s pressure got to UIC and forced overtime which the home team ultimately won.
Redshirt sophomore forward Marcus Weathers recalled the overtime huddle and the confidence Dambrot had in his team.
“The one thing coach Dambrot said is, ‘if you listen to me, we can win this game’,” he said. “We listened to him game plan and executed it.”
Duquesne trailed by 13 points with seven minutes left and this game started the trend of double-digit comebacks which fans became accustomed to.
In just his second career game, Sincere Carry had 32 points and eight assists compared to one turnover.
In terms of biggest wins of the season, this one is definitely up there because it allowed Duquesne to believe that it had enough firepower on both ends of the floor to find a way to win.
Nov. 17 vs. Radford
The victory in this game was a big one for much of the non-conference slate, but Radford has been inconsistent of late. Still, if Radford wins conference play, its victories over Notre Dame and Texas could help Duquesne if a potential postseason berth arises.
Perhaps the brightest light was that Duquesne overcame some shooting struggles with timely stops on defense. Eric Williams Jr opened 1-for-11 from the field. Williams would make timely shots at the end of the game and Duquesne just was more together as a team.
Given this game was played in Akron, Duquesne clearly wanted to win this for Dambrot and his staff, all of whom of course have a place in their hearts for the city.
“It was a different kind of trip,” sophomore guard Eric Williams Jr said. “Coach D has a lot of respect out here, so it is just an honor to be with him.”
A 3-0 start to the Gotham Classic was a very encouraging sign, especially when Duquesne probably would have lost all three of these games last season.
Really this could have been Duquesne’s best win of the season but Radford lost in its conference tournament championship game. Now, ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi does not have the Highlanders in his NCAA Tournament field.
Nov. 20 @ Notre Dame
Notre Dame has been hit by the injury bug a bit since this game but Duquesne simply put just did not shoot the basketball well.
Duquesne may have played its longest stretch of stingy defense, which needs to be a positive in Atlantic 10 play when the Dukes will be forced on the road.
The dry spell Duquesne hit on offense was surely disappointing and probably because it felt as though the better team did not win. A case certainly could be made for that, though this game’s competitive nature is not reflected on the final score.
Dambrot never believes in moral victories but there certainly had to be a nod of approval for the fight and that he is pressing the right buttons.
Throughout the season this Notre Dame team was bitten by the injury bug, which massively affected its season, still the opportunity for Duquesne to beat an ACC team was truly there for the taking.
Nov. 25 vs. UMass Lowell
This was the perfect game at the right time. No it was still not a complete 40 minute effort and the let up again occurred right before halftime, but Duquesne needed a win going into the City Game and it had to be a convincing one, which to an extent it was.
The most notable thing from this game was Dambrot decided to give his younger players all some playing time and accept any hit that came with it.
“I was playing those young big kids,” he said. “I don’t care what happens. If we take a hit or two along the way, I’m playing them, I don’t care. For the good of the program, down the line, those guys are going to be good players and we have to take our hit until they are ready to play really. That’s how I see it.”
Despite this depth there still was a general disappointment that Duquesne appeared to still be tired.
Nov. 30 vs. Pitt
With a large crowd watching from PPG Paints Arena, Duquesne laid an absolute egg.
This was the game where outsiders believed served as Duquesne’s last chance to get a win for a while due to recruiting and Pitt coach Jeff Capel becoming acclimated to the team.
Duquesne had way too many unforced errors and it was not just a scoreless streak but there was just a lack of discipline in decision making which certainly did not help an already thin margin of error.
“The pressure bothered us and then we got a little jittery,” Dambrot said. “We made some dumb unforced ones really, at some crucial times.”
Michael Hughes was the lone bright spot, shooting at a high percentage and earning Capel’s praise following the game.
Dec. 5 vs. Marshall
Carry’s defense on Marshall leading scorer Jon Elmore played a large role in this 11-point victory and he also recorded 19 points, seven assists and zero turnovers.
“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,” freshman guard Sincere Carry said. “I just wanted to make him uncomfortable.”
Dambrot’s familiarity with Marshall served his team well and it was ready for the fast-paced offense. Duquesne shot 57.9% from the field in a game it was forced to score.
“If you turn it over or miss a shot, you know they’ll come back and get theirs,” Michael Hughes said. “In a game like that we shot a lot of shots. You have to get good looks and make sure those shots are falling.”
Dec. 9 vs. Longwood
This was the least challenging portion of Duquesne’s schedule but Michael Hughes’s injury put a wrinkle into that.
Duquesne struggled and trailed by as many as 18 points, but this win proved that the Dukes played until the very end and achieved the desired outcome.
There seemed to be a sense of panic last season when trailing at halftime as evidenced by one win in such fashion but this was the most notable of the four comeback wins this season.
Dec. 13 vs. Maryland Eastern Shore
This game was an easy one, essentially players filled the floor but really it resembled more of a sleepwalking effort.
Duquesne knew it was the better team but Eastern Shore took an early lead after both started slowly.
Lamar Norman Jr was able to string consecutive strong games together and cited a need to play harder as what helped him.
This was a classic exam week game where Duquesne just was the more talented team but really there is not much else to say about this one.
“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.”
Dec. 16 vs. Maine
Duquesne was physically the more dominant team and Maine just did not appear developed which showed by the visitors hunching over on free throws. Maine’s coaches also did not do much standing rather sitting which Duquesne saw and continued to push.
“I tend to notice it more, so when I see a player show they are tired, it is a weakness,” Carry said. “I never want to show weakness. I push it up a notch.”
Dec. 19 vs. Penn State
We never will know how this game ended but it appeared Duquesne had the momentum had the game ended as it did.
Dambrot stood up for his team after the game and he was not punished by neither the conference nor Duquesne itself, though there was no statement made regarding the official’s conduct during the closing seconds.
Both Carry and Michael Hughes played big rolls, even though the former took a finger to the eye.
“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.”
Duquesne had a long lull again offensively but did some good things defensively and did lead at halftime. Still the loss did sting because of what could have been.
Its diamond press paid off in the first half but in the second half Duquesne stuck with it and Penn State found ways to break out past half court, setting up a short court for transition. When Penn State missed in the second half, it was able to win most of the 50-50 rebounding battles.
Dec. 22 vs. Eastern Kentucky
After the finish to that Penn State game, it was always going to be interesting how Duquesne responded and the start was on the slower side and again a halftime comeback was in the cards.
Dambrot realized Duquesne needed more of its ballhandling guards against EKU’s pressure and the decision paid off.
It took overtime to pull off this win but this and Williams played 44 of the 45 total minutes and started cramping in the game’s closing minutes.
“I didn’t think we could win if I didn’t play him 44 out of 45 minutes, simple as that,” Dambrot said. “I don’t think anyone else at his spot played that well. He practiced well. Is that ideal? No, but I felt that he was our best player and we needed to play him.”
Dambrot trusted Williams with the ball and he drained what ended up being the game-winning basket.
“This is a fragile game,” said Dambrot. “If you don’t win close games, that closer in the ninth inning doesn’t close. We’ve all seen it. Chuck Knoblauch couldn’t throw to first base. The more wins you have the more credibility and less fragility you have.”
Williams shared Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors with Richmond’s Grant Golden for this effort and Carry won A-10 Rookie of the Week, both earning these nods for the first time this season.
Dec. 31 vs. NJIT
This was probably the worst loss Duquesne had in non-conference play.
Duquesne was incredibly inconsistent in this game and both teams were chirping at each other with NJIT standing tall.
This was a game Duquesne was expected to win but got in its own way. Really of all non-conference opponents, NJIT likely looked the best purely from an execution standpoint.
“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.”
Following the game there was a longer wait for the postgame press conference and it was clear the loss left a collective bad taste in Duquesne’s mouth.
This was Duquesne’s first game without Mike Lewis II who transferred shortly after the Eastern Kentucky win.
Jan. 5 @ Davidson
This game showed how capable Duquesne was in the Atlantic 10, but also showed how small of a margin for error Duquesne truly had.
Duquesne lost the game by a 65-61 score in which it was held scoreless for the last 2:09 of what was a tie game at the time. It was able to take a formidable Davidson team which just got Kellan Grady back and was playing its first conference championship game since winning an A-10 title a season ago.
Though Duquesne certainly does not accept moral victories, the flight home had to be both a frustrating one for not finishing the game but also a satisfying one knowing that it took one of the conference’s top teams to the limit.
Jan. 9 vs Fordham
This result was far from clinical, but Duquesne evened its conference record with a 66-61 victory over Fordham.
“They just won a game and you can’t tell if they won or lost,” Dambrot said. “When you win, you should be happy, I guess I have to learn that as well. You have to have some kind of emotion. That’s something we really have to work on.”
The victory as close as it was, proved that Duquesne was not going to underplay against lesser competition, something which certainly not the case last season when the Dukes had its most embarrassing effort of the year against Fordham.
“(We just had to) take care of the ball and be smart,” said Williams. “There are only so many possessions at the end of the game, you have to be wise. I think we got a lot better even though we have younger players. We are more used to it in some cases.”
Towards the end of the game, Williams Jr was able to step in and Duquesne was able to provide have somewhat of a closer’s mentality.
Freshman forward Amari Kelly posted a career-high 11 points in the victory.
Jan. 12 vs Saint Joseph’s
This game will be unfortunately remembered for the 20-minute delay from Pierfrancesco Oliva’s serious injury, but the 85-84 Duquesne victory required another double-digit comeback, but the effort came with a simplistic approach.
“I feel like we played the right way for one of the few times this year,” Dambrot said. “We finally figured out in the last 10 minutes if we throw the ball to Mike (Hughes), we could shoot open shots and not have to play the hard way. I felt we played the most simplistic we’ve played all year. Marcus (Weathers) made a couple of open threes they couldn’t double off as easily and we passed in better spots. When we play like that we are much better than when we have to generate everything through the ball screens.”
The win was against a Hawks team which was winless in conference play at the time, which provided an extra danger in the desperation a squad such as that has.
Jan. 16 @ Richmond
This was an important win for Duquesne, not just because the team earned some redemption for a loss against these Spiders at A-10’s but because the Dukes won in Richmond for the first time since 1993, a streak which had reached 10 games.
Frankie Hughes tied a career high with five made three-point shots and Carry scored 21 points.
It was already clear that this was a different Duquesne team with these comebacks, but this result was an important one. Not only did this give Duquesne three consecutive conference wins after a loss to Davidson which could have crushed the team, but rather, it was the opposite.
Jan. 20 @ George Washington
It would have been understandable if this game was a loss to, given Duquesne’s historical struggles in Foggy Bottom, but instead, the team grinded out a 91-85 overtime victory.
Duquesne led by 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation but surrendered the advantage, trailing by five points with 1:07 to play.
GW was unable to convert enough free throws and committed a key turnover, while Carry’s free throws and two Mike Hughes layups, which included one with five seconds remaining, sent the game into overtime.
Duquesne’s defense held GW to 3-of-14 shooting in the overtime period while that transitioned to the other side of the ball where the Dukes opened up an eight-point advantage with just over two minutes remaining in the overtime period.
Most expected Duquesne to split this two-game road set, but the excitement among the fan base was evident on social media following this victory and also the increased fan presence at the team’s next home game against Saint Louis.
A day later, Carry earned his second A-10 Rookie of the Week honor, this time sharing it with Saint Joseph’s Jared Bynum.
Jan. 23 vs Saint Louis
This was an important effort given the increased amount of fan support and the team had to be engaged given it was a -23 on the rebounding side of things.
Saint Louis played more zone than expected, which essentially was a challenge to Duquesne. Perhaps the fact that the Billikens stayed in the zone for so long was the biggest miss in this game.
The 77-73 Duquesne victory was not as close as the final score displayed as the Dukes missed free throws late.
Still, the result was an important one and it was clear that the better team won this game.
“We get better every day and we’re starting to trust each other,” said Carry. “We used to cry about minutes, but now if you get called out, you go out because you trust the next person. It makes the game much easier. We made great progress and it may even have surprised Coach Dambrot.”
This win showed Duquesne fans how far this team has come and how much belief is truly there.
“We just come out every day and practice hard,” redshirt sophomore forward Marcus Weathers said. “We let everyone in the league know we are serious. We’re trying to surprise a lot of people and playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
Jan. 26 vs VCU
Duquesne was without Sincere Carry in this game, who warmed up, but determined his knee was not good for the game. Carry’s knee became very touch and go for the remainder of the season.
VCU did win this game by an 80-74 score which came by winning the second half by eight points.
Duquesne started the contest down 10-2, but battled back using a 16-0 run which included eight points from freshman forward Gavin Bizeau. Freshman guard Tavian Dunn-Martin added 21 points in this effort, but appeared to be tired as the second half continued.
Really the loss came down to VCU being physical and Duquesne losing some steam. Still VCU won the regular season championship and Duquesne gave them a good challenge.
Jan. 30 vs Rhode Island
Duquesne was down 19 points to Rhode Island at halftime, but the Rams challenged late-NFL coach Dennis Green and let the Dukes off the hook.
Rhode Island may have played its best half of the season but Duquesne was able to recover and won a 75-72 game.
At halftime, an unexpected voice challenged the team in assistant to the head coach Carl Thomas.
“Carl Thomas just challenged their competitiveness and I’ve never seen him raise his voice,” Dambrot said. “He went nuts. He lost his mind. The guys went from bad to good, like chameleons.”
Dambrot was just happy it was not him yelling at his players and the response was a 53-point second half.
Carry meanwhile shook of the disappointment he felt in letting his teammates down scoring 16 points, totaling seven assists and making key free throws at the end of the game.
“It just shows how much fight we have in us,” said Carry. “At halftime the coaches said this basically was a test for us to see how much heart we had and how much grit we had to come back. We showed them, everyone played their hearts and we got a good outcome.”
“Big Shot” Frankie Hughes made five second-half three-point shots, scoring all 20 of his points in the second half, a key reason for the comeback.
Feb. 2 @ Dayton
Duquesne had the sold-out UD Arena very quiet in the first half and when Mike Hughes buried a three-point basket, his first of the season, to open the second half, the Dukes led by 11 points.
While Duquesne led by as many as 14 points in this game, some cold shooting while Dayton got back into the game was enough to earn a 68-64 loss to Dayton.
“We played really hard in the first half and took the crowd out of it,” redshirt sophomore center Michael Hughes said. “In the second half, we tried to do the same, but had some lapses that got them back into it. It’s basically the same trend every game with us. We just need to grind harder.”
In an issue which reared its head at times for the rest of the season, Duquesne’s bench totaled two points and in a second half full of empty possessions, those missed opportunities became critical.
Duquesne did play with a chip on its shoulder as Dambrot stated his team is a bunch of guys Dayton did not recruit and they are trying to show they are good players.
“I don’t care about respect, I just care about winning championships,” said Dambrot. “Look, I’m 60 years old, if they don’t respect me now, they won’t respect. All I care about Duquesne fans see the opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament before they’re 120.”
Feb. 6 vs St. Bonaventure
This may have been Duquesne’s best defensive effort all season, but because it did not make shots, which ultimately proved to be enough in a 51-49 setback to St. Bonaventure.
“He’s (St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt) going to church shooting 28% and winning the game,” Dambrot remarked.
When St. Bonaventure shooting 28.6% from the field and 11.8% on its three-point shots, this game really should have been a win, but Duquesne just had no juice to it all night.
“We tried, but we just didn’t play well together,” said Dambrot. “We tried to do too much ourselves. We did a good enough job defensively, but we really didn’t rebound well. When you hold someone to 20-for-70 and 2-17, you should probably win the game. We kind of got what we deserved.”
Feb. 9 @ Fordham
A heavy dosage of road games began here with another large Duquesne comeback, this time to the tune of a 74-66 win at Rose Hill Gym.
Duquesne outscored Fordham 50-26 in the second half and did so using a team effort as the Dukes swept the season series.
Feb. 13 @ La Salle
This loss was one which clearly hurt Duquesne as with the team up by one point late, Mike Hughes missed two free throws and La Salle’s Pookie Powell beat the buzzer to escape with a one-point win.
Duquesne again had to rally, this time from 10 points down with less than seven minutes to play, but fell short at the end of the game.
Feb. 16 vs George Washington
Duquesne swept another season series when it defeated GW 85-69 and at the same time secured its ninth winning season since joining the Atlantic 10 in the 1976-77 season.
“Last time we got up big early and that was our mindset but this time not to let up,” Frankie Hughes said. “We always had to be in attack mode and not let up on the gas.”
Coming into this game, Hughes had not been consistent of late with his three-point shots, but in this contest set a new career-high with seven made three-point shots.
“I told Sin (Carry) before I made them, ‘I can’t pray for one to go in for me right now’,” said Hughes. “The next one went in, so I guess god heard me.”
The victory put got Duquesne out of its recent funk, though it was not a clinical 40 minutes.
“Tonight when it mattered, we played well,” Dambrot said.
Feb. 23 @ George Mason
This was another crucial victory in which Duquesne had to once again be the comeback kids and left Fairfax as 79-78 victors.
Duquesne trailed by 19 midway through the first half, but cut that deficit to eight points at halftime.
Six second-half three-point shots allowed Duquesne to remain in the game including one from Frankie Hughes with 1:33 remaining in regulation which tied the contest with 1:33 left in regulation.
Inside of a minute, Mike Hughes split free throws to put Duquesne up one and that was enough in this game as Mason’s Otis Livingston II, Justin Kier and Jarred Rueter all missed shots inside of a minute, and the Dukes made key defensive stands.
Feb. 27 @ St. Bonaventure
Duquesne led for all of 30 seconds and there was no double-digit comeback in a 68-47 loss to St. Bonaventure, in fact the Dukes were held without a basket for the final 5:14 of the game.
Freshman guard Lamar Norman was the lone bright spot scoring a career-high 20 points as Duquesne shot a season-low 28.3% from the field.
Duquesne was in the game early trailing St. Bonaventure 19-14 before a 12-0 run created enough separation for the Bonnies to close the contest out.
Mar. 2 vs Massachusetts
Tavian-Dunn Martin scored a career-high 30 points while his six assists matched a personal best as Duquesne again came back from a double-digit deficit to best UMass 80-73.
“I think I was feeling it early, after I made my first two, they did a good job of finding me and getting me open,” he said. “A lot of the assists came when I was driving and Eric (Williams) was cutting backdoor. We work on that a lot in practice and there were a lot of open looks, so that is what got me the assists.”
Dunn-Martin followed Dambrot to Akron and the embrace the pair shared is one of the most vivid memories of the season.
“His whole life he has battled for respect,” said Dambrot. “He made some unbelievable plays tonight. We made 100 plays for him in a row for him and he made some bombs, some tough shots. I like him, he’s a nice kid.”
The game was tough in terms of establishing a flow as there were 51 total fouls called
It’s really hard because you don’t know which way it’s going to go,” Mike Hughes said. “You have to figure that out.”
The victory was an important one but Dambrot did note his team appeared tired, something which appeared more consistently as the season ended.
Mar. 6 @ Saint Louis
Duquesne had an early nine-point lead but fell 85-75 to Saint Louis.
As tough as the loss was, a bigger setback was Amari Kelly’s knee injury which removed him from the game early on as he was coming down with a rebound.
Kelly’s injury was significant that he was not at practice a couple of days later and Dambrot referred to the setback as season ending.
Eric Williams scored 40 points which was not just a personal best, but the highest single-game total in Chaifetz Arena history.
Duquesne owned a rebounding advantage at halftime against Saint Louis but lost that advantage 36-16 in the second half and in the process the game began to slip away.
Sincere Carry returned from his knee injury in this game and scored 13 points in 33 minutes as Duquesne tried to prepare him for the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Mar. 9 vs Dayton
Once again Duquesne had to be comeback kids and nearly were successful cutting its deficit to four but Dayton was just too much when it mattered which allowed the Flyers to win a 78-67 contest.
“We played against a big, strong team and under our circumstances, if we’re not perfect, we’re not winning,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “We just didn’t play a perfect game and we’re just so depleted inside I feel like we are a high school team at times.”
When Duquesne was able to string possessions together, Dayton was able to rotate the ball in ease and find Ryan Mikesell in the corner for a three-point basket.
“We’re playing too many guys for too many minutes and too long,” said Dambrot. “We are making mistakes because we’re tired pretty much. Mikesell hurt us. Every time we cut it close, we gave up a three which is an issue.”
Duquesne finished conference play tied for sixth place with Saint Louis but lost the tiebreaker earning the seventh seed for the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Mar. 14 vs Saint Joseph’s
Duquesne led by 10 points early on in the first half, but defensively could not stop Saint Joseph’s team which was knocking down three-point shots and getting to the free throw line at will.
The final score was 92-86.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Dambrot said. “They have been playing better. They are healthier. They are difficult to guard because they can spread out, and you know, we just had a hard time, every time we got close, we made a defensive mistake which hurt us.”
Duquesne’s lack of depth showed with a shortage of post options and when Mike Hughes picked up his third foul in the first half, Saint Joseph’s had 4:12 to gain momentum and change the course of this game, which is exactly what it did.
“Every time we made a run we messed up a switch, they made shots,” said Dambrot. “They are a dangerous offensive team because they can spread out and drive you, and they have got good individual players, and you know, now that they are all healthy, you know, they become difficult. We didn’t do enough to win.”
Duquesne surrendering 92 points in regulation may have been the biggest surprise since Dambrot demands perfection on the defensive end, something which certainly was not present in this game.
“Until we’re one of the top two or three defensive teams in this league, we’re not going to win the Championship, and certainly, we were one of the two or three worst defensive teams tonight,” Dambrot said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be more mature. We’ve got to be more even-keeled. I know exactly what we have to do. We have to continue to hold them to high standards and hold them accountable, but we made progress, but not fast enough for me.”
Was this season a successful one? That is a tough question to answer.
Technically Duquesne was picked 11th in the preseason poll and used this as motivation to finish tied for sixth.
Normally for a season to be successful it comes with a team fighting to the very end and a team is playing its best basketball. You could argue that Duquesne peaked very early on at the Gotham Classic and even in later wins its depth which was supposed to guide it to victory appeared exhausted at times.
A lot of this is do to a lot of new faces who either were freshmen or were sitting the previous season out and just understanding what it is to play through a full basketball season.
Duquesne did not play many complete 40-minute efforts but were smart enough to know when it needed to push harder to earn victories.
Were there any bad losses? You could argue that the Pitt loss was because that was a vulnerable team and a cold string of offense ended a chance of victory.
The loss to Penn State may sting the most because of that technical foul at the end of the game, but Duquesne had too many cold streaks before the game and did not get out of the diamond press quickly enough.
That lopsided loss to St. Bonaventure looks bad on paper, but Sincere Carry was not in uniform and it was just one of those games where players were not making shots.
Duquesne was able to win games it never would have won last season. Looking at the schedule and last year’s team in my opinion maybe wins 13 games, that is how much improved this Duquesne team truly was.
Of the conference losses, Duquesne certainly wants the La Salle one back. That game should have been a win, as should the home game against St. Bonaventure and the road loss to Dayton hurt from a pride standpoint because Duquesne certainly felt that contest slipped away.
That being said there were so many comeback wins that it almost evens out. The Fordham, George Mason and Rhode Island comebacks certainly immediately come to mind.
This season has been a difficult one for Dambrot in dealing with a lot of egos. There was so much concern over playing time, who would start with plenty of outside noise. To an extent, it reared its head to the very end, but the players constantly played hard and by in large listened to their coaches.
Dambrot is used to playing a specific style of basketball, but had to adapt to the so-called “comeback kids”, which probably drove him nuts, but his team certainly exceeded many expectations and brought life back into the program.
Next season, Duquesne will gain James Ellis and Dylan Swingle, two post options coming off redshirt seasons, who will be needed especially with Amari Kelly and Austin Rotroff’s statuses not exactly known.
Incoming freshman Maceo Austin could play into the rotation early and has excited throughout this high school season, but how that translates to Duquesne is anyone’s guess has to be determined.
There always is the potential for someone to transfer and if that happens, it gives Dambrot another chance to strike gold as he did with Eric Williams and Sincere Carry.
Duquesne was literally in almost every game in conference play and that is saying something about how close this team truly is.
Coming into the season, I had Duquesne as the sixth-best team in the conference behind Saint Louis, George Mason, Davidson, Saint Joseph’s and Rhode Island and since it finished tied for sixth, I will take that.
What is the ceiling for this Duquesne team?
If the summer goes right and the injury bug is limited to nonexistent, this is a top-four team that could make a run for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Really anyone between VCU, Dayton, Davidson, Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure could win the conference and the margin will be extremely slim.
This year the Atlantic 10 was certainly down and really, the conference is going to be lucky to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament, but bringing it back to a three-bid league next year is extremely likely if next season’s projections hold true.
Dambrot needs to make this the hardest summer Duquesne basketball has had in the longest time. The players know what to expect and have gelled well but by no means does that guarantee wins next season.
Right now, Dambrot needs to go in with an open mind this summer. No starting spot should be safe and his players need to fight for everything. The way it ended its season on defense left a lot to be desired and that end needs to be shored up or as Dambrot correctly stated, his team will not win championships.
The non-conference schedule also needs to be much more challenging. It will already be demanding in that Duquesne has to make this run without a true home gym. Yes the team will use PPG Paints Arena next year, but it will have to bring its own belief and energy in each other.
Next season could present even more challenges and the lessons learned from this season could help Duquesne get through some challenges.
Who starts, who sits and how they handle sitting will be very important. Duquesne cannot waste its time dealing with fragile egos bummed about sitting. Winning programs do not worry about who starts but rather find ways to help the team either in practice, on the bench or making an impact when on the court.
The fans now have an expectation as does an athletic department which clearly possesses belief which has shown through funding. No longer is Duquesne at the bottom in terms of money budgeted for basketball, it is in the upper-middle of the pack which shows that the department is spending the money for it to succeed.
Duquesne clearly has its coach and staff in place and are making the necessary steps towards building Duquesne’s brand, now the results need to reflect that.