Under Keith Dambrot, the Duquesne men’s basketball team has come back 15 times now from being down by double-digits, and that includes Thursday afternoon’s 67-62 triumph over Richmond.
Duquesne trailed by 11 points with 13:14 in regulation, and frankly the team admitted shots were not falling and defensively the team was not in a good rhythm.
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Further, Duquesne easily could have had its way on the glass against a Richmond team that consistently had a rebounding problem, this being before its premier-post Grant Golden could not be boxing or really being physical in any way, because of a fracture left middle finger, which requires surgery.
In the past couple of weeks, Dambrot stated that the biggest question with his team would be its commitment, especially when facing adversity, and in the second half it delivered.
“I give our guys credit, and I told them during one of the timeouts not to let the offense get into the defense,” he said. “As poorly as we played, we still had a chance to live. We just had to get our heads out of the clouds.”
It is that togetherness that now allows for Duquesne to have a date with top-seeded St. Bonaventure, a team it knows very well.
“We were happy about winning the game but we have another game at 11,” senior center Mike Hughes said. “We’ve got to keep it moving. The games are only going to get tougher. As soon as we win, the hotel it is clocking in for another game. It is a quick turnaround and we have to be prepared.”
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) March 4, 2021
DEFENSE STEPS UP
Sure the defense had some disappointments in the opening 30 minutes, but ultimately all the mattered was the last 10.
Richmond found itself up by six points with 9:26 remaining in regulation and then it hit a brick wall. All of a sudden it was throwing the ball all over the gym, struggled to chase down loose balls and did not convert a field goal.
“We really locked in on the last three weeks of being able to take people out of what they’re good at,” Hughes said. “We’re a defensive-minded team. It shows each and every game that when our intensity is there, teams are frazzled by the way we play defense. That kept them off their rhythm a little bit.”
Duquesne’s defensive success then became contagious on the offensive end, where it made its last seven shot attempts from the field, concluding the game on a high note and sending Richmond, the preseason conference favorite on the short bus ride back to campus.
On Richmond’s end it was splitting free throws and still had trouble finding good looks, shooting 27.3% from the field.
It was clearly a point of frustration and perhaps never more evident then when down six, Isaiah Wilson had three shots at the free-throw line after he was fouled and did not make any of them.
Richmond was injured, tired and nothing could go right.
“We’ve faced more adversity than people think,” said Hughes. “We have a good tough group of guys. We’re going to take the hit, going to like it and give you a couple more on the way out.”
While Richmond’s Tyler Burton made a shot with two seconds left in regulation, the damage had long been done. Richmond knew as much, because it did not even make an effort to foul Duquesne on the inbounds pass.
“I just don’t think we were moving well,” Burton said. “They played pretty good defense and we couldn’t find shots. We weren’t making shots also and we were stagnant. Happens sometimes.”
Duquesne took the lead heading into the final media timeout and Richmond coach Chris Mooney decided to bench the injured Golden to preserve him for the closing stretch, a move which backfired with his two turnovers and a foul.
In the closing seconds, Golden was clearly frustrated, partially with Mooney or even the foul assessed to him, but it was clear Duquesne’s defense affected him as well. He went 1-for-4 from the field in the second half.
As Richmond’s heralded senior guard Jacob Gilyard had his head down on the dais during the postgame press conference, it was easy to see him processing what just occurred.
“We didn’t match Duquesne’s intensity,” he said.
GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
If one thing is clear, it is the belief Duquesne has in each other.
A couple of games ago, Tavian Dunn-Martin was searching for his game, which he not only found, but also made the two biggest shots of the game.
His stepback three-point shot in transition placed Duquesne within one point and clearly provided a huge shot in the arm.
Dunn-Martin also made the crucial layup, floating a shot high off the glass over Golden’s outstretched arm.
— Sydney Bauer (@SydneyDBauer) March 4, 2021
“He made some big plays and he’s been in a lot of big games in his career,”Dambrot said. “He’s had a relatively rough go of it for him. I’m just proud of him for hanging in there and fought through the adversity. He shouldn’t be able to do what he does at his size, but he does. When he plays well, we have a chance to beat most people.”
Tyson Acuff scored nine points for Duquesne and served his role as one of the first guards off the bench. He made crucial baskets late and had showed some range from deep in addition to displaying his floater.
Dambrot has stayed loyal to Hughes all year and even when he was 0-for-5 from the field, missing an uncontested hook shot and on multiple occasions failed to clean up misses after grabbing an offensive rebound, again he did not waver.
Hughes rewarded Dambrot’s faith with nine points and seven rebounds in the second half and his one-handed reverse dunk certainly was a highlight of the game he made look effortless.
“He’s been reliable all year,” said Dambrot. “If I was going to go down, I was going to go down with someone that’s been a good player for us.”