In a season full of bad breaks and shutdowns, with the latest coming with an empty trip to St. Louis following a positive COVID-19 test, it appeared that the Duquesne men’s basketball team would get lucky when its return charter flight to Pittsburgh was moved up, but a different problem arose.
Security was not present, so the familiar waiting game again began and Duquesne did not arrive back in town until 2 a.m.
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“It’s just one of those years, New England’s not in the playoffs, Kentucky is 1-100 and we’re just having a hard time of it,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said on Friday with a knowing smile.
Indeed, Duquesne has had a rough go of it this year with the multiple shutdowns and were prepared for its contest against the Billikens though for both it and the women’s team it was not to be.
As Dambrot offered a joke, it was very reminiscent of a sequence straight from ABC’s Bachelor franchise, though in reality it describes Duquesne’s season in a nutshell.
“It’s kind of like the first time we got on the bus we asked a lady to marry us and she said no,” he said. “We got off the bus and then we flew all the way to the wedding site the next time to St. Louis. We were on the altar and she ran off the altar. One more rejection could be it for us I think.”
With the stoppages and layoffs, Dambrot has stated that Duquesne has played two games in 300 days, which is not much basketball at all. He is realistic when describing what to expect with his team, as frankly he does not know.
“I just think we’ve got to be patient and view it more like the preseason than the regular season,” said Dambrot. “Everybody is going to react differently to this. Fordham did not react well if you saw their game (against George Washington) they struggled. That doesn’t mean we’re going to struggle, everyone is different.”
• The uncertainty from Dambrot continued when he was asked how many players will make up Duquesne’s rotation Saturday and Sunday.
He admitted that these were uncharted waters and that once again this will be a balancing act.
“I do know this, with some of my teams in the past when I played a short bench early in the year, it’s cost us games at the end,” he said. “The teams that are freshest at the end of the game with the best players generally win. My job is to make sure we get to the last four minutes with a chance to win the game and that we are fresh enough to win the game when it matters.”
When pressed for how many players will have significant minutes, the answer remained the same.
“Normally I would tell you how many right now and on Jan. 1, I would know, but I really don’t know,” said Dambrot. “I’d say 10-13 which usually isn’t a very healthy answer to win games. That’s too many.”
• Duquesne was 1-1 last season against George Washington with both teams getting wins on the road. In fact, Duquesne has won the last three meetings at the Charles E Smith Center.
Given that these are conference games, Dambrot stated that not much surprised them from a scouting standpoint.
“They’re going to [be a] ball-screen variation team,” Dambrot said. “People are all over the place and they make you rotate to their shooters. Their lineup has changed because guys (Maceo Jack and Jameer Nelson Jr) have left. The new state of college basketball is people leave in January. We expect them to ice ball screens, double post people, double when Marcus drives it. maybe a 1-3-1 or 2-3 zone. They’ve shown it, they’ve also pressed.”
Freshman guard Mike Bekelja remains Duquesne’s lone scratch with a stress fracture. Duquesne did another round of COVID-19 testing Friday and all tests came back negative.
HE SAID IT
“I talked to LeBron yesterday about his crazy stat he just broke 1,000 games in a row of 10 points or more. that’s a crazy number and he had a birthday so he’s an old man now. I knew him when he was 13 and now he’s 36, so how do you think that makes me feel? 36? My god. Still going strong though.” – Dambrot on his recent conversation with LeBron James