Tre Clark has not had the start to the season he would have desired as his aggressive defense saw him pick up fouls, which reduced both minutes and rhythm, but none of that was visible Saturday afternoon against Ball State, when he twice beat the buzzer in a 78-77 victory over Ball State.
First, Clark caught a Kareem Rozier pass in rhythm and on his follow through, started jogging towards the locker room as the halftime buzzer sounded.
“Once that came off my hand, I knew it was green,” he said. “That’s why I went straight into the locker room so we could get ready for the next half.”
At the BUZZER! pic.twitter.com/QcVYsn3iS0
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) December 3, 2022
Then Duquesne found itself down in the closing seconds and Clark was stuck, so with Jarron Coleman tightly guarding him, he found a look which hit nothing but net as the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse went absolutely crazy.
“We had a gameplan coming in off the timeout, so we tried to stick to the play, but as you saw the play didn’t work,” recalled Clark. “Once I saw that I tried to make a quick pass, but there were three seconds and I had to get a clean look off.”
This was part of a team-leading 16-point performance which also included a season-high four assists.
In the first half, Clark made a defensive mistake then forced a three-point shot, after which Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot called a timeout.
It would have been easy to take Clark out of the game, but this was not what Dambrot decided to do.
“You’ve got to ride with your stallions sometimes,” he stated. “You have to talk to them, communicate to them and explain it to them and that’s what I did.”
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) December 3, 2022
What helped change things for Clark was a change in practice mindset. During that time the coaching staff gives him four fouls and it is about balancing his defensive aggression with finding the right time to gamble.
This clearly paid off and he played a season-high 34 minutes
“It was an emphasis of playing solid defense, hard-nosed full court without swiping down,” Clark explained. “My coaches were telling me just to wear them out and once you see the opportunity, then go for it. That was something different I was thinking about going into today’s game.”
WEATHERING THE STORM
Duquesne had a sluggish start to the game. It was not seeing the ball go in the basket and even worse, it was scoreboard watching as the deficit only grew.
Leading scorer Dae Dae Grant also had to sit the last 10:03 in the first half with his two fouls, only complicating the situation.
Instead of panicking, Duquesne battled and found a way to win those 10 minutes by eight points.
“We were running a lot of sets just focused on ball movement and trying to share and swing it side to side so we could get easy looks for guys,” Duquesne’s Austin Rotroff broke down. “Dae Dae is a tough-shot maker, so when you don’t have that on the floor, you have to make up for that will ball movement, sharing it and having all five guys touch it each possession.”
As the game reached its conclusion, the lead traded hands on 11 different occasions as both teams tried to secure a victory.
Duquesne associate coach Dru Joyce III believes the difference came down to connection, and his Dukes had the edge there.
“Early in that game we got disjointed but we kept reminding them play by play to stick together and keep going,” said Joyce. “When you get down to crunch time there is a lot of mental that goes to it. Your body is tired, and you might want to take the easy way out, so you have to be as detailed and focused as possible as a whole totality.”
Duquesne had its answer for how to guard Payton Sparks, which was to provide double teams in the post which made him frustrated all afternoon.
While Sparks fought to earn 10 points, those were hard-earned to the point that frustration became part of the equation.
“I thought that was the best thing we did defensively,” Dambrot said. “I didn’t think we were very good defensively, but we did a good job of doubling him and getting out of the double team. If he has a normal night, then we lose. They didn’t score when we doubled, they scored on dribble drives, bad containment, bad shrinking of the floor.
In other news, it appears that Joe Reece will be returning sooner rather than later. Reece suffered an ankle sprain and appeared both in pregame drills and the team’s warmup line, though he never saw game action because of the team’s desire to getting him back fully healthy.
“I’m excited for Joe to get back out there and do what he enjoys doing,” said Joyce. “For him he is in a stage of getting healthy. We want to put him back on the court at his strongest. He’s been great in practice, good in his workouts and in the warm-up, line impressed some people with his dunks. We hope to have Joe back as soon as possible.”