MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Duquesne men’s basketball team missed 14 foul shots, allowed 17 offensive rebounds and gave up 26 second-chance points against George Mason on Saturday, and still won the game.
The Dukes are used to winning in unorthodox ways this season, and Saturday was just another to add to that list. They led for more than 17 minutes of the game but found themselves in a dogfight down the stretch, before pulling out a three-point victory.
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“I’ve never seen a team play so much to its competition,” head coach Keith Dambrot said after the game. “We had the game in pretty good hand, and then we went stale and got down one. Then we came roaring back again and then we try to give it back again.”
Many of the stretches where the Dukes went on runs were a result of full-court pressure. They haven’t been a team that’s shown that a ton this season because of trying to keep guys fresh and out of foul trouble.
“This wise man told me that I’m playing with house money, so I might as well be aggressive,” Dambrot said about the press. “We’re good at it. … But the problem is, we get pretty tired. If I go down, I’d rather go down super aggressive, than passive. That’s just my personality. But it helped us. Even at the end of the game (George Mason) turned it over.”
Duquesne forced 20 Patriot turnovers in the 81-78 win and said that he wanted to stay in the “diamond” press even longer in hopes to ‘muck’ the game up.
The Dukes key guy in the press is point guard Sincere Carry, who after the talked about how he had been getting on Dambrot about letting them press more often.
“We just wanted to press, so coach finally let us.” Carry said. “We were trying to prove him right, to show that we can play that kind of defense. We’ve shown in the past that we can turn teams over. But we aren’t consistent enough and we can’t go back to back enough.”
But they made enough shots to win, as they shot 56% from the field. Lamar Norman Jr., Maceo Austin, Tavian Dunn-Martin and Carry all made enough outside shots to win the game but their coach doesn’t really worry about how the offense looks, if they are giving the right effort on the defensive end.
“I’d rather see us play great defense because I know eventually if we play good defense, we are going to win. I can live with bad offense, as long as we’re sharing the ball. Until we play great defense every night, we won’t win a championship. But if you look at my career numbers, my record of my teams when we hold teams under 70, is really high, like very few losses. But when they score over 70 and we don’t score 70, my record is not very good. That’s what kind of coach I am.”
Dambrot — now in his third season with the Dukes — and his teams have gone 36-3 when being the first team to reach 70 points
This season, Duquesne is holding teams to just 65.8 points per game. That number is the lowest opponent average in 58 years.
The records keep adding up for Dambrot and his squad.
With the win against George Mason, this Duquesne team won its 20th win of the season. It is the first time since 2009 that Duquesne has reached the 20-win mark. The win also tied the school record for A-10 wins (10), which has been accomplished four times prior to this season (1981, 1991, 2011 and 2019). Duquense also has snatched back-to-back winning seasons in A-10 play for only the second time in school history. And lastly, they secured their seventh winning A-10 season ever.
“I love the fact that our guys are resilient and tough,” Dambrot said. “What is it? Three times in 48 years? That’s a pretty good accomplishment, I would say. Duquesne couldn’t have had 45 bad coaches, or whatever, nine bad coaches. It was systemic. It was a combination of a lot of things. If it (the system) hadn’t changed, I wouldn’t be sitting here. So, when I took the job, I felt like the risk was way less than the reward.”
“So, am I happy with 20 (wins)? Yeah, but remember I told you, I didn’t come to Duquense to finish in the middle of the pack,” Dambrot added. “But I don’t want to sound arrogant, because it’s hard to get to the top. Like I’ve never worked so hard in my life.”
“I think they’re not scared of the moment, we’ve shown that,” Dambrot said. “We have played in some tough environments and played pretty good, in stretches. … We’ve got a pretty good rim protector, he does a really good job around the rim. We can score a little bit inside with Marcus and Mike, we’ve got a really good point guard, that’s good at both ends and we’ve got some good pieces who can put the ball in the basket. So, are we all the way there yet? I don’t think so. But good enough to scare people — and good enough to scare ourselves.”
CARRY ME HOME
Speaking of that point guard, Dukes sophomore Sincere Carry has been playing his best basketball in this final stretch of the regular season.
In Carry’s last ten games, he’s averaged 15.5 points per game.
“I’m always confident,” Carry said. “I’m just trying to pick and choose my spots. I did a bad job of getting my teammates involved tonight, I’m still trying to get them more involved than I’m trying to get my (own) shot.”
The point guard is more worried about his passing abilities for a good reason. Duquesne is 15-4 when Carry (who’s averaging 5.2 assists per game) dishes out five or more assists in a game.
Carry led the game on Saturday against the Patriots in the scoring column with 23 points, while adding four assists. In the Dukes previous win at St. Bonaventure, Carry had a career-high 11 assists and made crucial shots down the stretch.