Heading into Saturday’s game, Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot was concerned with having such a deep rotation in January, though given the many challenges this season has brought he had little choice.
During Duquesne’s two non-conference games Dambrot went against his usual instinct of winning first and always in favor of winning while giving opportunities to the team’s many newcomers.
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A total of 12 Duquesne players saw the court, none of whom saw more than 28 minutes in a 75-63 victory over George Washington.
“I decided I’m going to try to build this long term, just because it’s such a screw a year anyway,” Dambrot said. “You know, I really wanted to play more than that, but I couldn’t do it.”
By having a longer bench, Duquesne not only was able to showcase its depth, but also made sure every player was fresh.
The results certainly support that as Duquesne’s bench had 43 points to GW’s six and Mike Hughes set a career high with five assists which was more than the Colonials had as a team.
Together, Duquesne had 17 assists against eight turnovers having played two games in the previous 300 days, none of which were in the last month.
“We did a good job of sharing the ball, said Dambrot. “I liked their competitiveness. I like the way they played together. I thought Mike Hughes really shared the ball offensively, which really helped us again, you know, we played inside out, but we also we got a good performance from Sincere Carry as well.”
Dambrot stated after the game that in a normal year this team is the best he’s had since coming to Duquesne.
With that being said, this season has been far from normal, so things have to be viewed differently.
“You don’t know what the hell could happen tomorrow, or within the next hour the next 15 minutes” Dambrot said. “It‘s a crazy, crazy crazy time. By far right now we’ve got the best guys that we’ve ever had here.”
While Dambrot is usually fairly composed on the sideline as Saturday’s game ended, he let out a small smile.
Afterall, his team was able to face adversity and respond, doing so together.
I DON’T THINK YOU’RE READY FOR THIS KELLY
As much as basketball has been an escape from thousands of student-athletes in present times, the game can certainly be unfair, something Amari Kelly understands.
Two seasons ago, Kelly had a wide smile across his face explaining how he was excited to be part of Duquesne’s family and that he was working hard to increase his role within the team.
Then it all stopped when Kelly suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Saint Louis.
Last year Kelly was progressing in his rehab but suffered a setback and already running out of time in terms of playing, it made the decision easier for Dambrot to go the redshirt route.
With Kelly having sat for nearly two years now, it would be understandable if he had the familiar anxiety and nerves return given he was eager to play but kept getting stopped by shutdowns due to COVID-19.
Kelly fought back Saturday with a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field while also burying his lone three-point shot.
Regardless of whether Kelly would normally be playing these minutes whether it is due to depth or to avoid overworking after so much inactivity, the fact of the matter is that Kelly took advantage.
“I‘m proud of him,” Dambrot said. “He’s been through a lot. I mean, there’s not one player in America that’s been through more than him and he’s really a nice young man. So I’m happy. I’m happy for him.”
STAT OF THE DAY
As Alan mentioned in his sidebar feature on Toby Okani, the freshman shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. The last Duquesne player to accomplish that was Tydus Verhoeven Feb. 28, 2018 against Saint Louis. Verhoeven, also a freshman at the time, was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and was also 7-for-8 at the free-throw line, good for 21 points.