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Duquesne Basketball

Inside the Dukes: Building Momentum Towards March



Coming into this season, coaches and various media members made their thoughts on the Duquesne Men’s Basketball Team very clear. Last place.

Indeed, a lot of predictions going into this season were predicated on how the previous season went and by all means Duquesne was not up to snuff.

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Following Duquesne’s 56-54 victory in front of a UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse crowd of 3,333, the most in building history, the Dukes find themselves fifth in the Atlantic 10 and knocking on the door towards a double bye.

“It shows that we are actually a good team,” freshman guard Kareem Rozier said after the win. “Tell all of those people sleeping on us before the season to keep sleeping. We’re just going to keep working, busting our butts in practice and bringing it on gamedays. We did it today and we’ve got to keep bringing it.”

The list of accomplishments Duquesne achieved with this win almost read like the opening credits to a Star Wars movie: first time since 2001-02 that the Dukes open February with three consecutive wins, snapped a six-game losing streak to the Bonnies, first home win over Bona since 2016 and the team’s 15 steals were a Keith Dambrot-era high.

In many ways the closing two seconds of this game showcased the rollercoaster this season has resembled at times.

Duquesne made the smart play to foul up three points and avoid a potentially game-tying triple, do not rebound the miss, allow a shot to go up, but be assisted by the buzzer to secure the win.

“It was crazy for sure,” recalled Rozier. “We stuck together and rallied ourselves. We knew they were going to punch back. They’re a great team, but the team we have, how we stuck together and the connectivity there was no beating us.”

This winning streak has clearly energized Duquesne and while St. Bonaventure always has plenty of fans traveling out, there were plenty of Dukes fans as well and it was the home team’s crowd which had more to cheer for Saturday.

Even still, as the buzzer sounded, there was the familiar echo containing Joe Reece’s voice after Duquesne’s season-opening win against Montana.

“They had us last,” the voice said.

It is safe to say that Duquesne is not going to have a repeat performance from a season ago, though Dambrot knows the path his team needs to take to continue its success.

“We might be like the ugly duckling,” he said. “We’ve got to do it the hard way and I think that’s what this team has really embraced now.”


Duquesne Associate Head Coach Dru Joyce III admitted that he has look at the tape of the team’s first-half performance at St. Bonaventure in which the Dukes took hit after hit at the hands of their opponent.

It was a long film session that next day and an important one.

Dambrot has long been considered a defensive coach and Joyce has been tasking with helping this defense become of the best in the A-10.

“If you look at the numbers, we’ve become a good defensive team, there’s no ifs, ands or buts,” said Dambrot. “I feel like we’ve improved on just playing together better.”

There is an unquestionable belief from Dambrot that Duquesne loses this game earlier in the season because neither side of the ball was sound enough, but the team has moved on together.

Joyce has had to balance the sting that first half of the previous matchup brought versus just moving on.

The final line from this game is a bit uneven because St. Bonaventure shot 50% from the field but were turned over 25 times and the Dukes recorded 15 steals.

“After every game we don’t want to settle, we want to continue raising the bar,” said Joyce. “A good defensive performance this afternoon but we have to be ready again on Wednesday, so that effort means nothing. We have to duplicate it and be better.”

Dambrot believes that Tre Williams guarding the post has been a difference. Chad Venning scored 12 points for St. Bonaventure making all six of his shots from the field in the first half, but in the second 20 minutes, it took nine minutes to put up a shot and he was largely a non-factor.

Reece also has found a home on the perimeter, passing the challenge Duquesne’s staff has place upon him.

The Dukes also have been able to improve their ball screening defense with some subtle tweaks.

Perhaps the biggest change though, comes down to the heartbeat itself, the players themselves. Sometimes defense can be a viewed as a necessary evil to get to the offensive side of the ball. It is not often the top thing on a highlight reel, but there is a clear understanding now that if this team wants to win, it needs to be connected on both ends of the ball.

“We’re starting to actually have fun playing defense, a few guys said it in the locker room the other day,” Rozier offered. “That’s what wins games, so if we continue to do that and talk, we’ll be in a good position to win any game we play.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

I hope the guys that can come back, do. There is something good developing here.

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