As the Duquesne Men’s Basketball Team took to the court for its warmups, junior forward Tre Williams searched for a song to get in the right mindset, and ultimately settled on Lil Baby’s California Breeze.
With Williams doing leg raises under the watchful eyes of Associate Athletic Director of Sports Medicine and Performance John Henderson, the lyrics were audible enough to hear and certainly related to his team’s current situation.
Made it out the trenches, this type of life I can get used to.
As one of Duquesne’s returning players from a season ago, it was a test to see how the team would respond with so many new faces and even more so now with both R.J. Gunn and Joe Reece both out due to injuries and Kevin Easley suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
All Duquesne did was win an 83-82 game Monday night against North Florida in which it had 22 assists and just six turnovers, despite not playing its best basketball.
“I feel like with the injuries, we’ve been fighting a lot of adversity,” graduate student guard Tevin Brewer said. “To see guys step up with people injured is really a big confidence booster for us.”
Despite all of the injuries and the fact that North Florida was playing zone the Dukes found a way.
When Dambrot saw North Florida on film, he saw a team which played zone all of six possessions.
No way they would run zone the entire game, but that was proven incorrect.
“(Dambrot) was enforcing we should use ball fakes through the zone,” Duquesne guard Dae Dae Grant stated. “That seemed to be pretty effective.”
As far as the assist piece is concerned, Dambrot challenged this team following the Kentucky loss to move the ball around better and when faced with the zone, Duquesne did just that.
Dambrot expressed concern that Duquesne had to play young at times but when Dave Dixon has his best game in a Dukes uniform, Matus Hronsky gives the team juice late in the first half and Quincy McGriff strings crucial timely plays together, it minimizes that worry.
If anything, Dambrot was proud of the win. While it was far from pretty, he was pleased that some of the youth who had to play point guard earlier in the season could also transition into the post with the injuries this team is facing.
With Halil Barre, R.J. Gunn and Joe Reece both facing unknown return timetables and Kevin Easley indefinitely suspended to the point that Dambrot carefully chose his words in his postgame presser, this will be the clear expectation moving forward.
Duquesne was on the proverbial ropes multiple times in this game and displayed tired bodies through this one, but it certainly bent but never broke.
“Those are the kind of games you have to win in a season to have a good season, said Dambrot. “You have to win some games when you’re not great. We should’ve lost the game really but hung in there enough to win.”
BREWER GAINING CONFIDENCE IN RETURN
By all accounts, Duquesne was planning to call a timeout when North Florida missed the second of two free throws, but when Dambrot saw Grant quickly moving the ball up the floor and knew the right pass would be made, he let them play.
Ultimately, it was Williams finding Brewer who dissected the defense and made a mid-range floater that Dambrot believes was a high-percentage shot for him.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) November 22, 2022
“I had been missing the shot all game long and I was getting frustrated, so I knew I had to make it up to my teammates,” Brewer said of the basket.
Ever since Brewer had come back, Dambrot has done everything he can to get him the needed on-court reps to get back to 100% as fast as possible.
It is clear that a healthy Brewer makes this Duquesne team better, but as he gets back to full strength, there has been so much comradery that it has made his job simpler.
To date, the teamwork Duquesne has displayed has been off the charts and Brewer noted the team’s selflessness which has been contagious across the roster.
“The team helped me out a lot, said Brewer. “I’ve been down on myself trying to get back into rhythm from the surgery, so just being around them and bonding with them it got me back along and in the next couple of games I should be back to full strength.”