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Duquesne Basketball

Duquesne Notebook: Dukes Try And Rebound From Tough Loss To Fordham

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After Duquesne squandered what was a 13-point lead in a loss at Fordham, the postgame cameras picked up Primo Spears who had a choice word of frustration as he headed towards the locker room.

With no fans present, the expletive could be heard by everyone watching and it was another closer setback for Duquesne.

This was the fifth defeat that was by eight points or less this season and this latest setback came with Duquesne up by a point in the closing seconds and on the free throw line.

“I mean what do you expect, we’re 6-8 and we could easily be 11-3,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said of the frustration. “You make plays at the end of the game, but you pretty much lose because of free throws. I would hope they were pissed off after the game. Yeah, they’re frustrated, it’s a tough way to lose.”

As is, a young Duquesne team, evidenced by being ranked 354th in game experience, has lost more close games than Dambrot ever has in his time as a head coach, doing so in different fashion each time.

Of course, getting older and gaining experience is one solution, but does not address the current situation at hand.

Despite Wednesday’s loss, Dambrot liked that his team battled back from several lulls and made crucial offensive plays and even though he feels that defense is the biggest deficiency at hand, there were multiple blocks in the closing minutes, with free throw proving to be the undoing.

What makes the loss all the more frustrating is that Antonio Daye Jr, the Fordham player who hit the game winner, announced he was leaving the team the very next day in a press release issued by the university.

“It’s one of those years for Dambrot right now,” said Dambrot. “Sick, hit the COVID, my dad dies, lose close games and then the guy that hits the game winner quits the next day. I’ve never seen a guy quit the next day after hitting the game winner.”

Despite all of the above, Dambrot did have some optimism with his team, has time and again shown fight, something he is looking for as Duquesne looks to rebound Saturday against Dayton.

Dambrot believes the Dayton game will be a harder one because they have changed playing styles to pressing and playing more zone.

Duquesne has not seen any full-court pressure nor zone all season and given the team’s return Thursday, there has been one day to prepare for both of these factors. He did not want either to be used as an excuse, but also admitted that it makes preparation harder.

Assessing the current squad, Dambrot believes his squad has what it takes to pull off a win in the nationally televised contest.

“We certainly aren’t great, but we are competitive, we’re capable of playing with anybody,” he said. “We’re certainly no pushover.”

GUNN TO REDSHIRT

After hinting at heading in this direction, Dambrot officially stated that Duquesne will hold on R.J. Gunn, a clear sign that he will redshirt and will be part of next year’s team, with the hope he can be healthier next season.

Dambrot believes the move is a win for Gunn and the team as a whole. There just had been too much unknown whether he can play every day as his injury is a “bad” injury.

In addition to this, Duquesne’s post troubles also extend to Austin Rotroff who suffered from a stress fracture in his foot.

Rotroff has often been playing on a minutes count, but no Dambrot said Duquesne is on “thin ice” with him having to play more minutes.

“His output for 40 minutes has been really good, and you have to proud of him because it hasn’t been easy here for him,” said Dambrot. “He’s a bunch of stuff go wrong. (Mounir Hima) can’t play that many minutes which forces us to play him more minutes, which hurts us too. The injuries at those two spots have hurt us but we have survived it.”

GUARD PLAY

After facing a crossroads during non-conference play in regard to which guards to play and what direction the team should go, Dambrot opted to go with allowing his young guards in Spears and Jackie Johnson III to grow on the court.

So far there has certainly been a lot of promise and optimism that these two guards can lead the way for Duquesne for years to come if they so choose.

“It’s not easy, even with the good ones it’s hard,” Dambrot said of the pair. “Ask Kentucky some years and those guys are the top-20 guys in the country. Our two young guards have done well, they’ve done a good job, not perfect yet, but playing well.”

With this decision, came the decision to reduce Mike Bekelja’s minutes.

His most recent game was against UC Irvine, the last before the pause and he played two minutes. He last played double-digit minutes in the Nov. 15 loss to Weber State.

“He tries hard every single day and most of his issues are circumstantial, they have nothing to do with him,” said Dambrot. “He was built a little bit better for last year’s team, than this year’s team, which has affected his playing time, or I’m just stupid for not playing him which could be true too. He’s the competitor, a tough kid and a great teammate. He’s a good player, we just need a little more creativity at those spots and scoring from those spots which hurts him.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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