Joe Reece fell to the floor as he attempted an outlet pass in transition, with Tre Clark on the receiving end of what would be a three-point play as he was fouled.
While the latter embraced the play, Reece outstretched his arms in celebration and Kareem Rozier encouraged the 2,887 in attendance to get loud, something the largest home crowd of this season had no problem doing.
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The Duquesne Men’s Basketball Team had every reason to celebrate after earning a 72-61 victory over Rhode Island, giving it momentum heading into Wednesday evening’s contest against VCU.
“Kudos to teamwork and chemistry,” Reece remarked. “Throughout the season we’ve established a brotherhood and moments like that are just chemistry. I knew TC was open, he runs like a gazelle in transition so all I knew was I could throw it up to him and he’s going to go get it.”
The fans were vocal throughout the latter stages, with many staying for a postgame autograph signing. While certainly some were enticed by the $1 hot dog and $1 beer promotion, Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot explained to his team that in order to have growing crowds, winning a game such as Saturdays against Rhode Island is not an expectation, rather a requirement.
“It was a good crowd,” he said. “I guess we’re going to have to make it 50-cent hotdogs and 50-cent beers and maybe we can get a sellout. God Bless those Pittsburgh people they like to drink their beer and eat their hotdogs. It helped us, no question. You go to places where there are a lot of people it changes the game.”
All season long Duquesne has explained about how connected it has been, but even more so, this unquestionably has been Dambrot’s most mature team.
Even during Dambrot’s most successful seasons with Duquesne there were appearances of walking on eggshells at times.
A player may miss a half or may not connect with the rest of the roster, after all even when Duquesne won at the Atlantic 10 Championships, Dambrot expressed that a change in team culture was needed.
Several players departed and while last year is proving to be anomalistic, it did provide a reminder that this is Dambrot’s program, what his standards are and that his team can be both mature and win basketball games.
“We’ve got a lot of older and we’re taking it all in,” said Rozier. “I’m just glad and blessed that these older guys respect me and respect my words when I do come in and lead. They are really leading this group and they really don’t know that because they don’t talk as much, but they show us by the work, effort and all of the things that they teach us.”
Reece, one of those experienced players, formed a proud smile across his face as he could see that the future is in good hands, but also if Duquesne plays its cards right, that the future may be now.
“With experience and all we’ve learned through this; we can rub it off on them and know they won’t make the same mistakes that we made in the past,” he stated. “I think the puppies have done a wonderful job just soaking up that knowledge, especially the frontcourt, it has the potential to skyrocket, so it’s good to put the emphasis that they’re good and understand the potential they have that way when it comes time for them to shine, they will.”
In Duquesne’s game against Dayton, the Dukes were fully healthy for the first time all season.
Rozier remarked that even during the summer the team was not often practicing as a full unit and now that everyone is together it is raising the competition level come practice time.
It is an interesting time with Duquesne having to adjust to having its share of injuries during the non-conference slate only to come back to conference season and have to adjust to having a full deck of cards at its disposal.
Tre Williams does have a heel contusion he has battled through, but was worse in Saturday’s game, which limited his minutes.
With Duquesne’s post depth, R.J. Gunn earned his first start, but players such as Halil Barre and David Dixon are still trying to earn minutes and Dambrot is trying to find ways to get both on the court.
Dixon is still very raw and is still learning on the court, but has become more confident on catches, while stretching his shot past the paint.
Dambrot encouraged Dixon the first time he came off the court against Rhode Island with a simple “good job” and pat on the back.
Barre, was Duquesne’s most effective post at Dayton but since returning to the court has battled foul trouble since returning to the court.
It is very clear that Dambrot believes in both men but had some very high praise for Barre.
“He’s going to be maybe one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “I think he has a chance to be that good, is he there yet? He’s 19-years-old, Joe Reece is what, 23? That shows you how talented he is. My job is to make Chabi good on a daily basis. At some point he’s so good that he has to play.”
HE SAID IT
“It’s always special when you win, I know my wife’s happy because maybe we can go out to eat now. If we lose there are no holidays. She’s probably a happy young woman right now. This could be a special place. It’s been so dormant for so many years… the only time we won here, we didn’t have a gym. This could be a neat place.” – Dambrot