MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Coming into the Dukes’ 83-80 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon, they were 8-0 when forward Mike Hughes records four or more blocked shots. Hughes denied six shots against the Bonnies. Duquesne was 13-1 when point guard Sincere Carry dishes out five or more assists. Carry had eight dimes and zero turnovers in the loss. Last but not least, the Dukes were 6-1 this season when Tavian Dunn-Martin made three or more from beyond the arc. He tied a career-high, with seven 3-pointers against St. Bonaventure.
None of those trends helped Duquesne in its fourth conference loss of the season.
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Mainly because the Bonnies bested them at a style of play, that Dukes head coach Keith Dambrot teams aren’t used to winning in.
“In my career, I haven’t won many 83-80 games,” Dambrot said. “That’s not really how I coach, or what I believe in. When the score is high, I’m going to lose most of the time. We didn’t guard the ball well; we didn’t close out and guard well. But they put pressure on us because they made the jump shot.”
Duquesne made 14 3-pointers and shot nearly 44 percent from the floor in the loss. St. Bonaventure made ten 3s but were 49.2% shooting the ball. Duquesne also just got 20 points from the paint compared to the Bonnies’ 32 points from that area.
The Dukes shot 34 3-pointers in the game. That wasn’t the game plan, but rather them just taking what the defense was giving them.
“We just moved the ball and got open shots,” Carry said.
That turned out to hurt Duquesne down the stretch. Those same deep shots that kept them close stopped falling, which wasn’t the case for the Bonnies.
St. Bonaventure came into this game averaging 68.1 points per contest, which ranks just 11th best in the A-10. But they found something against the Dukes, and the train didn’t stop rolling until the final buzzer sounded.
“They just beat us to the ball,” Dambrot said. “We’ve had more trouble with teams like this, than the big strong teams. We’ve had trouble with the quicker teams that beat us off the dribble, and then put us in odd number situations. But we have to play better defensively. You would have thought I’ve never coached a game defensively watching that.”
But a lot of the struggles were more credited to mental errors.
“I don’t think (the defensive struggles were) from effort,” Dambrot said. “I mean, I thought we were a little undisciplined, maybe a half step slow. But they made shots.”
The Dukes will see the Bonnies once more during the regular season on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at St. Bonaventure. It will be interesting to see the different approaches that both teams will put out on the floor when the second matchup rolls around. Because even though the Bonnies haven’t shown this offensive firepower all season long, it was impressive to see how they worked as a cohesive unit and couldn’t be stopped for 40-straight minutes.
“I think St. Bonaventure is one of the best teams in the league, from what I’ve seen,” Dambrot said. “They’ve got a lot of pop. They’ve got a lot of really good pieces. You’re talking about a center (Osun Osunniyi), that changes the game defensively. You’ve got a topflight point guard (Kyle Lofton), he’s as good as any point guard in the league.”
Despite the exceptional offensive efforts from the Dukes guards, Carry (17 points), and Dunn-Martin (25), Saturday shows that their success runs through their guys down low.
Out of the 83 points that Duquesne put on the scoreboard, only seven came from its leading scorer, Marcus Weathers (14.7 ppg). All of Weathers’ seven points were from the free-throw line.
“Normally if (Weathers) is 0-for-6, we’re going to struggle,” Dambrot said. “But we got good performances from some other people.
A ton of the Dukes’ and Weathers’ problems arose because of the play of St. Bonaventure’s Osunniyi, who is one of the top rim protectors in the country. It also didn’t help that they started the game doubling Weathers and Hughes on every post touch that Duquesne had.
“I felt like he didn’t really have it from the get-go,” Dambrot added on Weathers’ performance. “I tried being nice early, then I tried crushing him, and he just couldn’t get it going. It wasn’t just at one end; it was at both ends. He struggled defensively too. He looked like he was sore, stiff. But I’m not mad at Marcus; he’s carried us all year long. But we’re going to struggle if he doesn’t play better than that.”
With Weathers’ off-night, the Dukes’ rebounding also took a hit.
St. Bonaventure outrebounded Duquesne 41-27. In conference play, Duquesne has a plus 2.2 rebounding margin, even after Saturday’s performance.
Dambrot said that a lot of the struggles have to do with the small backcourt, and when Hughes goes up for block attempts and then the guy he’s defending is standing on the weakside with no one blocking him out.
But Dunn-Martin thinks the reason for the struggles are simple:
“We just don’t box out. Everyone just goes in and tries to get (the ball). I know I missed a couple of boxouts.”
“The little guy played really good,” Dambrot said.
That ‘little guy’ would be 5-foot-8 155-pound guard Tavian Dunn-Martin. He tied his own career-high of seven made 3-pointers. Four of which were drilled in the first half and solely kept the Dukes within striking distance. But more impressive than the numbers were the way that Dunn-Martin hit those shots. At least five out of the seven makes were from nearly 25-feet out, on the move, with defenders fighting to get in his face.
“Shooting wise, that was probably the best that I’ve felt,” Dunn-Martin said. “But shout out to my teammates for getting me the ball.”
Dunn-Martin credited his point guard Carry on his stellar night distributing the ball, with his eight assists.
But it seemed as if every time the Bonnies advanced their lead to 8-10 points, Dunn-Martin came through clutch. When ‘the little guy’ was on the court, the Dukes were plus-7. The only other player that had a positive plus/minus was Baylee Steele (5).
“(Dunn-Martin) missed a couple at the end (his final four 3s),” Dambrot said. “But he kept us in it in the first half. He bombed them in. You got to give him a lot of credit.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
The UPMC Events Center (Robert Morris University) was rockin’ for nearly the entirety of a back and forth A-10 matchup between two programs that have seen a ton of each other. This game was the 123rd meeting between the two teams (most appearances vs. an opponent for a Duquesne team). The Bonnies are known for their well-traveled fan base, which brought a rowdy bunch on Saturday.
But the Duquesne fans showed out, themselves.
“I thought (the crowd) was good, overall,” Dambrot said. “Our fan base did a good job coming out 35-40 minutes (away from the city). I think if we play at Palumbo, we score five or six more points. That’s part of the hard thing we are going through.”
Even though it is a unique situation for the Dukes, they have found some success. The loss to St. Bonaventure was just their second ‘home’ loss this season.
Duquesne will be back in action on Sunday, Feb. 16, at Fordham. They return to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 19, to host George Washington at PPG Paints Arena.