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Duquesne Basketball

Inside The Dukes: More Questions Than Answers

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Keith Dambrot certainly faced his fair share of questions following a second consecutive loss, this one a 63-59 setback to Weber State that certainly was a winnable contest.

A lot of the answers to those questions started with the same three words.

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“I don’t know.”

Three games, in Dambrot has continued trying to find answers to a puzzle he considers his toughest in quite some time and perhaps Monday’s game did not help much in that regard.

“All of it’s on me, I’ve got to teach them,” he said. “We have to figure out how to win those games. Shame of it is we allowed 63 points and didn’t win the game. That’s remarkable.”

Duquesne appeared to get its defense largely locked in against a team which likes to score the basketball, but offensively fell into several lulls, becoming stagnant and too perimeter oriented for Dambrot’s liking.

“You let a team hang around and then we made no plays when it mattered,” said Dambrot. “We don’t really know who to go to. We just didn’t deliver but ultimately that is on me because I have to determine who the go-to guy is. For three years we knew who those guys were and right now we don’t quite. That’s a hard thing.”

Though it is game three and far from a make-or-break situation, it certainly can be cause for concern, that Dambrot let the offense have some freedom and when it mattered, Duquesne appeared jittery on that end of the ball.

In the first half alone, Duquesne botched a fast break in which three close-range, point-blank shots were missed and several post touches were not firmly handled.

What’s most concerning is that Dambrot is unsure of what to run in crunch time at the moment and believes seeing it in real-time game action is the only opportunity to make that determination.

Duquesne is still trying to figure things out and Dambrot conceded that is more on him, but as is he did state that already the Dukes let two wins slip away.

So now it is on Dambrot to decide what direction this team will go and he appeared to struggle as he outlined each possibility.

With Johnson scoring a career-high 27, the possibility may be there for him and Primo Spears to provide an electrifying backcourt, but the duo are both freshmen and can be expected to take their fair shame of lumps and road blocks along the way, but the potential is there for this season and certainly future ones.

Of course there are steady players such as Tyson Acuff and Mike Bekelja who can provide an impact, but Dambrot has to decide exactly how long that is.

Then you have players who have had uneven performances and Dambrot has to ultimately evaluate each one when determining a role, so everyone can get into habits of understanding when they may be expected to enter a game and contribute.

With Dambrot trying to find the right pieces, he admits that this team can’t be really good until there are more answers, which does provide more of a sense of urgency.

All told, it is an unenviable challenge as January draws closer.

“It’s a hell of a challenge,” said Dambrot. “We basically rebooted, which we didn’t anticipate but this is what I do. I’ve been in harder things than this in my life. I don’t like it, I don’t like where we’re at, but I’m going to coach them hard and they’re going to get better. If we can get through this year reasonably well, we should be really good next year, right? That’s kind of how I look at it. With that said, don’t take that the wrong way, I want to be really good this year but it’s going to take us some time.”

MENTAL MISTAKES

As good as Johnson was with his 27 points Monday night, he also made the decision to call a timeout in the closing seconds of regulation, when facing a double team. The problem of course was that Duquesne was out of timeouts, a fact Dambrot stated the coaching staff told him multiple times.

That was the most glaring unforced error, but there were many more which saw Duquesne get in its own way.

Fouls were another significant factor in that Duquesne committed 16 in the second half and many of those led to a frustrated Dambrot.

Weber State was licking its chops as it was in the bonus less than eight minutes into the second half.

“I don’t know if it’s mental or just stupid,” Dambrot said. “You just have to have discipline and that’s coaching too. These statistics are outrageous. We get 17 offensive rebounds and made 20 turnovers, which I don’t even know how we made them. They weren’t really pressuring us, we just made mistakes. That cost us. A lot of it is mental toughness. In fairness when you come to a new system and ours is more then some, you can’t play until you free your brain up.”

As Duquesne heads to the Virgin Islands for three games, starting Friday against Northeastern, the team will look to solve the errors and be more emotionally engaged, to try and secure a positive result.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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