MCCANDLESS TOWNSHIP, PA — On the surface, Duquesne’s men’s basketball team did exactly what it was supposed to do, convincingly beat the two worst-performing teams, Fordham and Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 but it is for that reason why Saturday’s 67-50 triumph was worth celebrating.
Less than a week ago, Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot cautioned his team that each game would be decided by a few points and it would have to make everything count.
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Duquesne has had trouble with teams such as these in the past and arguably George Washington was at that level earlier this season and the second game between the teams was a loss for the Dukes.
Often Duquesne has had trouble creating enough separation and then closing the game out but this week things looked about as routine as they have been in quite some time.
“I think we’re finding our identity,” Duquesne forward Marcus Weathers said. “Defensively is the biggest thing we’re keying on just being one of the top defensive teams in this league and being gritty. With rebounding too.”
Once again whistles became a problem for Duquesne as Tavian Dunn-Martin and Mike Hughes each were assessed a technical foul.
Duquesne has had a penchant in recent games for such miscues.
Chad Baker was assessed a technical foul in two consecutive games (at St. Bonaventure, vs Rhode Island) and a flagrant one versus St. Bonaventure.
After no such issues at Fordham this past Wednesday, it appeared that Duquesne had turned a corner, though that did not end up being the case.
It was enough that Dambrot was telling his team to keep its mouth shut in the first half after Dunn-Martin had already been assessed a technical foul and the fourth-year coach again had to talk to Baker after he came off the floor.
With a minute left in regulation, Mike Hughes who earlier in the half slowly walked back to Duquesne’s bench during a timeout was exchanging words towards the Saint Joseph’s side but now the official had seen enough and another technical.
“We certainly have good competitive spirit, but maybe too much,” Dambrot said. “We have to mature. It’s not a great trade off if Mike Hughes gets a technical foul and it’s his fourth foul in the second half. We can’t afford to lose a guy like him. We’ll keep addressing it but we don’t want to take the enthusiasm or toughness away. We just have to be more professional and still not lose our edge. It’s better than having a soft team.”
Weathers dismissed some of the chirping as “a lot of basketball talk” stating it was part both of the game and young players learning the game of college basketball.
Even though these moments did not cost Duquesne, Dambrot provided words of caution.
“It’s going to cost us a game one of these times, so we have to do better,” said Dambrot.
YOUR TIME IS UP, MY TIME IS NOW
It is the end of an era as Duquesne bids adieu to the Kerr Fitness Center, where it went 7-1 over two seasons.
By no means did Duquesne play its best basketball in the building, but it knew enough about its quirks to create an advantage, even if the game was never truly a home game.
Now by no means was LaRoche a seedy hotel, but with Duquesne’s stay there now complete, a bit more transparency could be shared about the longer-than-temporary digs.
“It was honestly a big adjustment,” Weathers said. “Both of the rims are different so we’ve had a couple of practices where we got used to the rim. For it to be the last game is a bit of a relief and not having to travel so far for a home game.”
Saint Joseph’s as a team has an affinity for chucking up three-point shots. Adding the factor of LaRoche’s gym, it became darn near impossible for them.
Even though LaRoche was typically a 15-20 minute drive for Duquesne in the weirdest way the gym was a home and not just by force. Other teams came in and were unable to adjust to the gym, could not make shot and as a result would hit dry spells while Duquesne began to put several pieces to the puzzle together at the same time.
“Hell no one else could shoot it in here either,” said Dambrot. “I’m telling you, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s got to be something it, it can’t just be a coincidence. We’ll find out this week if we can take the next jump.”
Within five minutes of Saturday evening’s contest finishing, Duquesne administrators got to work tearing down their set up. With LaRoche unable to play any contest, Duquesne kept its cutouts in the stands, but now those will be moved to the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse which officially opens Tuesday with its nationally-televised contest against Dayton.
“We’re going into a new environment and I know a lot of our guys are excited to get in there,” Weathers said.