Inside the Dukes: Bringing It Back
Keith Dambrot admitted to the media that during halftime of a 72-58 triumph over Loyola Chicago Wednesday night at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse that he was worried.
Duquesne entered halftime trailing 40-31, shot 32.3% from the field and this after two losses where the offense was not nearly consistent enough to win.
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Dambrot had pulled out all of the stops at practice, the team went back to basics and brought in his secret weapon sports psychologist Dr. Joe Carr, who is affectionately known as “Doc Carr”.
Carr was around the team before, during and after the game and his job was to attack issues affecting the Dukes.
Even in practice, an emphasis was placed on not getting too high or too low, all while being reminded that each team has patches like this and has to find counters.
Duquesne’s first-half issues were finding ways to put the ball in the basket and find more consistent defensive counters.
“You’re a little tight, so I told them to relax and shoot it in,” Dambrot said. “You press and you don’t play very well. The key was the first few minutes of the second half, if it goes the other way, we lose.”
Loyola’s defensive pressure did not do the Dukes any favors either as it forced more stagnant play, even missing an open pass that loudly went off a sideline advertising board.
Tevin Brewer chimed in mentioning that if Duquesne was to be successful in the second half, it would come down to being confident in each other and then defensively register kills (three consecutive stops), stay locked in and communicate with each other.
All Duquesne did in the second half was hold Loyola scoreless for nearly seven minutes and go on a 10-0 run in the process.
It was an effort Austin Rotroff led with by example, as in his 23 minutes he set the tone with defensive aggression with rebounds and also walled up in the post making him difficult to score on. Often times, Rambler shots would be altered.
Even offensively, Rotroff successfully rolled off screens for easy baskets, and when double teamed, found R.J. Gunn in the corner for what would be a dagger three-point make.
When Rotroff departed the court, he had a +23 beside his name and the 1,964 in attendance gave him a loud ovation.
“It shows that we have a resilient group and we want to play the right way and fight with each other,” said Rotroff. “It’s not ideal to have to come back that many times, but it’s a testament to our collective mindset that we need each other as a group and can trust each other to get the job done.”
As Duquesne now takes to the road to face Massachusetts, it does so after winning the second half by a 41-18 count, and putting in a sound defensive performance.
Now the question is whether they can sustain it.
RETURN OF THE (BIG) MAC
In the early stages of the second half, what was a three-point game very much became a foot note when what appeared to be an Uber Eats delivery of McDonald’s was enough to make official Nathan Farrell blow his whistle.
The potential driver walked on the court and nearly collided with Loyola’s Philip Alston as Farrell stopped play and both teams huddled beside their benches.
Did a delivery guy just walk on the court? 🤔😅 pic.twitter.com/iBjTRXaw2X
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 26, 2023
Multiple Duquesne officials surrounded the individual and he was told to leave the premises. While this happened, a second official, Earl Walton, asked for an explanation from the media in regard to what had transpired and upon hearing the news offered a smile.
“I have seen a lot as an official, but that was definitely a first,” the official stated with a chuckle.
The clip went viral on social media and it made its way to the Duquesne locker room after Rotroff was texted since he was in the video.
“I didn’t see it at all,” he said. “I had people texting me on my phone because I was in the clip, but I didn’t notice after the game at all, so I would have to watch the footage to see what he could have done better.”
Brewer had not yet seen the clip, but when a media member showed him the clip, he could not help but laugh.
Dambrot also had not witnessed what transpired on the court, but said the guy had a job to do and did it well.
PSN spoke to a university official and while much of the above felt too good to be true, that was because the individual posed as an Uber Eats driver.
The individual in question had a hidden camera and also brought a friend who was standing above the main seats filming the entire thing, so both could go viral.
Regardless, with thankfully no one harmed, the team found humor in it following the game.
It is sure to be a moment that, though it may have overshadowed the game, is something that will not be forgotten for quite some time.