After a loss to Dayton in which Primo Spears admitted that the Duquesne Men’s Basketball team gave up following getting hit in the mouth, the Dukes dropped another Atlantic 10 contest, this time 64-56 to St. Bonaventure Friday night, but the effort was a lot more evident.
“I thought we played good in spurts,” he said. “We just have to be focused on playing a solid 40 minutes of basketball. Once we do that, I feel like we’ll be very good. I feel in a lot of our losses we’ve played in spurts.”
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot has been notoriously late to postgame press conferences this season, but after this setback seemed to have a little more bounce in his step, a sign that result aside, there was a lot he was pleased with.
“I thought we competed better and played more the right way than we did against Dayton,” said Dambrot. “We had five or six open threes in crunch time they we didn’t make that they made. We showed a little bit better fight, and we played a better brand.”
Duquesne played in front of 3,032 fans, its largest home crowd of the season, a figure which also included 630 students as part of a Red Out Night.
Though Dambrot has yet to look at film, in his heart of hearts he believes that Duquesne is not far away from being good but is not good yet.
He compared this year’s team to that of his first year with the Dukes, where pieces were in place. In that season, Dambrot inherited a team that was 8-22 overall and 3-15 in A-10 play. Duquesne would double its overall win total in Dambrot’s first season and move up to seven conference victories.
“People will say it is year five,” said Dambrot. “We were very close; we became very competitive and then we had to reboot. We’ve done it once. We became very competitive and not quite championship quality, or we really didn’t get a chance to see the year we were 21-9. Then we had to reload and sometimes it comes in year five. Everyone has to do it. I’m not making any excuses but what do we expect. We rebooted it and got a couple of injuries. If we play like that every night we’ll have a good team here, quicker than people think.”
By no means is Dambrot planning to wave a white flag this season, though he also knows that is will be hard-to-impossible to win a regular season and not just because Duquesne sits at 1-3 in conference play, but also because of the limited bodies the team has.
Now it is about teaching and establishing a championship culture for the players to believe in.
“We’re at the point where we drew a line in the sand and our guys know it,” Dambrot said. “That’s the way it is and that’s how you win championships. You can’t be so insecure that you don’t have any discipline in your program…. If we get the right guys at the right time, we’re going to win. I think we have some good pieces; we need more. We need to be a little bit bigger and need to keep learning how to play but we’re not far away. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re going to use this year to learn how to do it the right way.”
Duquesne faced a ton of challenges in the paint Friday with its limited options and Osun Osunniyi putting up season highs of 21 points and 17 rebounds, while also adding six blocks.
The Dukes had Tre Williams at center and Kevin Easley Jr slid to the four spot. Mounir Hima was given a couple of opportunities on the court but had two turnovers in three minutes.
Osunniyi was routinely in position to clean up his teammate’s missed shots and did not really have to make many post moves to earn his points.
“I felt like it was me helping too much on the ball,” Williams said. “I feel like I should’ve made the guards make tougher shots over our guards instead of coming over to block shots. We didn’t make a lot of chip downs tonight, so I take part in that.”
Dambrot was not as hard on Williams as he attributed it to guards getting beat on the perimeter. The help may have been too much which allows for Osunniyi to create for himself, which in this case was a routine putback dunk.
SPEARS CONTINUES TO GROW
When it comes to assessing Spears on a nightly basis, Dambrot looks at one stat. Assists.
Friday, Spears had six assists against one turnover, a noticeable improvement and a change Dambrot believes needs to be permanent if Duquesne is to win games.
“We knew it was a big game, especially coming off two losses,” Spears said. “We just needed to lock in and we shared the ball better than we had all season. My goal was to get five or six assists and get ball movement. We did that today.”
IS BEKELJA GETTING A MORE PROMINENT ROLE
After it appeared that Mike Bekelja was going to play sparingly if ever this season, he played 14 minutes Friday night.
Dambrot made this adjustment stating he was sick of seeing players get their brains beat in on the perimeter.
“I’m going to play him the rest of the year, I don’t care if the score is 4-2,” he said. “We’re never going to win in the long term until we can guard someone. I watched the tape from Dayton, and six out of the first seven possessions were layups or dunks. I can’t watch that shit. I don’t care what the end result is until we get that part and share the ball, we’re never going to be what we should be.”