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Duquesne Basketball

Inside the Dukes: Dambrot Struggling to Find the Right Lineups

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In Sunday’s game against George Washington, 13 Duquesne players saw the floor, including four who played less than ten minutes. After the game, Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot mentioned how he is still struggling to find the right lineup combinations after a 2-2 start to the season. 

“That’s the other hard part about this team, is we’re a disjointed mess right now,” he said, adding, “Coach doesn’t know who to play. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, because I don’t know right now what our lineup is. We’ve got some good guys that haven’t really gotten opportunities, which is hard.”

Starting center Mike Hughes was one of those four players, fouling out after playing only seven minutes. Hughes, at 6-foot-8 240 pounds, gives the Dukes a much-needed size advantage inside which they missed greatly down the stretch after he fouled out.

“I’m sure Mike Hughes didn’t have much fun today,” he said. “Only playing seven minutes, like, we’re not going to win that many games if Mike Hughes only plays seven minutes, so I could be upset. But I’m a realist too. And I thought Rotroff played well which saved us a little bit. Yesterday, Okani played well, today Rotroff played well.”

MARCUS WEATHERS ‘LEAST OF OUR WORRIES’ DESPITE FREE-THROW STRUGGLES 

Through four games, one of the brightest spots for the Dukes has been the production of forward Marcus Weathers. Weathers, who made last year’s second-team all A-10, is averaging 15.8 points, seven rebounds, and 28.3 minutes per game. In Sunday’s close loss to George Washington, he dominated the paint, even though he is undersized for his position at 6-foot-5. Weathers dropped in 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, seven of them coming offensively, en route to his 12th career double-double. However, one thing he struggled with was free throws. He went 3 for 10 from the line and struggled mightily in the second half, going 3 for 9.

“The thing I liked about Marcus is that when he struggled, he tried to put us on his back,” Dambrot said postgame. “I give him a lot of credit for that. I think one of his biggest issues is his motor and he gets tired, which could have affected his free throw shooting as well on back-to-backs, you know. But his effort was good. The thing I liked was he really didn’t have it I think, but he rallied himself and really tried to win the game for us. So he’s the least of our worries.”

With five seconds remaining in the game, the Dukes had the ball and a chance to tie or win the game, trailing by two points. After the ensuing inbound pass, they quickly got the ball to Weathers. After the game, Dambrot confirmed that the play was designed for him. 

“We usually run a hand back on that play but we told him to keep it,” he said. “We thought that was our best option. He’s a load getting to the rim. You can’t get a much better shot than that under those circumstances.”

BACK TO BACK GAMES ‘HELPS US MORE THAN IT HURTS US’

After sitting out a month between games, the Dukes chose to play two back-to-back road games at George Washington in order to open up potential rescheduled game slots later in the season. So far, just over a month into the season, Duquesne has cancelled games against Winthrop, Southern Illinois, and Loyola (Chicago), and postponed conference matchups against Richmond as well as Saint Louis. 

“I mean, it was hard,” he added. “It’s hard under our circumstances, I’ll say that. And then you add Mike Hughes in foul trouble on top of it, and now our bench gets a little short up front. We had to play a little bit smaller than I would have liked. I don’t regret anything we do because in the long run playing is going to help us more than it hurts us. Obviously it hurts your record and it hurts your mindset. I just do what they tell me to do. I’m gonna play whenever they tell me to.”

The Dukes have 14 games remaining in the season and will look to improve on their conference record of 1-1 in the coming weeks. 

LATE MISTAKES PLAGUE THE DUKES

With 18 seconds remaining in the game, Duquesne had a one-point lead with possession underneath its own basket. Off the in-bound pass, Sincere Carry had the ball and was quickly trapped by Colonial defenders. Instead of calling a timeout, he scrambled for open space, traveling along the way. 

“When you have the ball up one with 15 seconds left you can’t turn the ball over,” Dambrot said. “I kind of felt like Sincere thought that he was going to get fouled. That’s why he held it and didnt call a timeout. So I understand that a little bit but you’ve gotta use a timeout if you’re not sure. But ultimately, again, part of that is we don’t get to spend as much time on special situations as we normally would have.” 

After the travel, George Washington then came down and drained a three, taking a two-point lead that Duquesne could not overcome. 

NO TRUE HOME GAMES ‘A DIFFICULT GRIND’

In early December, Duquesne announced that it will be hosting home games for this basketball season at the nearby La Roche University’s Kerr Fitness Center. This announcement came after the University’s renovations for the new UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, which will be the home court of Duquesne basketball, were delayed due to COVID-19. On Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Dukes will take on Davidson, for their first “home” game of the season. However, because they will be playing at La Roche without a stadium full of fans, it will not feel much like a home game at all. 

“I think that’s the hardest thing for us,” Dambrot said. “I think for these guys they really get revved up when there’s a lot of people in the stands. Now, everybody’s going through it. But now, we haven’t had a real home game in a year and a half, and that’s a lot to ask. Again, no excuses. We’ve done a hell of a job with it, but it’s not healthy. It’s kind of like staying up all night, trying to play a game the next day. Eventually, it wears on you. So It’s not a good deal for us, but it will be in the long run because we’re going to get a new arena out of it, so it’s been hard. It’s a difficult grind. Especially with all the stuff that’s going on right now. But we’ve just got to. That’s what this is. Everybody thinks this is a grind, grind, grind, grind, grind till you get what you want. That’s really what it is. So you have to try to view it as fun.”

Davidson, on Tuesday, will be coming off a recent in-conference loss to Richmond. The Wildcats currently stand at 5-4 and 1-1 in A-10 play. Through nine games, they have been led offensively by a big-three of Hyunjung Lee, Kellan Grady, and Carter Collins. That game will tip-off at 7 p.m. and it will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.  

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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