Inside the Dukes: Moving Forward
By all accounts, Duquesne Men’s Basketball’s 71-67 setback Sunday afternoon against Davidson was a definite step back.
For a good portion of the game, Davidson came into the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse and dictated play with their off ball cutting and mixing up coverage coming off screens.
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“It felt like we were a step slow for the most part and playing catch up,” Duquesne’s Austin Rotroff offered. “We rallied a little bit too late, but it wasn’t a fault of our effort, it is a good learning game. It’s another learning experience.”
Duquesne was consistently late on passes during this lengthy stretch, were not setting its bodies for shots and were struggling from three-point range going 1-for-11 in the opening half.
Even coming off a stoppage, RJ Gunn chucked up a three-point shot which connected with the side of the backboard and into Tre Williams’s hands. Gunn then smartly cut to the basket, for what would have been an easy score, except that Williams never saw him and instead it was an empty possession.
Admittedly Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot stated that his team did not change much, just that it tried harder, and that was darn near enough.
Duquesne was a point away in the closing minute, after trailing by 16 points, with a win matching its largest deficit overcome this season.
The Dukes were 8-for-13 from deep in the concluding half as the hosts sped their opponent up and made quite the game of it to where everyone was on the edge of their seats.
“You don’t see too many teams getting down and just being able to get back into the game,” guard Dae Dae Grant stated. “Our fight is there, that’s what I can say about our team.”
Still the adjustment took too long to figure out and will serve as a learning lesson as that energy transitions to Massachusetts Wednesday.
As the team broke a halfcourt huddle, there was an understanding of how proud Dambrot was of their fight and a directive to move on as soon as each player left the gym.
“We looked a little dead on our feet,” said Dambrot. “They run you around in that motion and they take your legs away. We just really didn’t have enough to get over the hump. We knew we had to turn them over, they only had one in the first half and that’s a bad recipe. You don’t see a lot of it, and you make some mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes.”
There is a really good case to be made that Foster Loyer should not have won Davidson that game and likely should have been watching on the bench as his Davidson team surrendered what was a 16-point lead.
In the terms of Mister Rogers, this is not the land of make believe.
When Bill Covington Jr had his fist in the shape of a zero, Grant Huffman had already started to plead the case to assess the foul to him and the former did his best Batista impression when he gave Triple H the thumbs down and reversed his decision.
“I’m going to be mad if it is,” Dambrot said of the quick reversal. “He hesitated; the referee hesitated. I get it. We try to keep the better players in the game.”
The fact that Loyer was about to foul out was huge, the 3,111 in attendance knew it and a collective excitement filled the arena, until it no longer did.
Huffman being assessed the foul set the stage for Loyer to dominate the stages of this game, thanks to some help from Duquesne’s defense.
From there Loyer hit two three-point baskets with the crowd noise at an all-time high, trying to will the team to victory, while all Dambrot could do was watch.
“He popped us off twice which is inexcusable really,” said Dambrot. “We at least have to make him drive it left. He kind of shoved Tevin (Brewer) off a little bit, but we’ve got to be sturdier on that play. Then Tre came out and had his hand down. He’s one of the best three-point shooters this league has seen. You can’t come out there with your hand down, you’ve got to make him drive left, if he beats you left you can live with the result. Those are backbreakers.”
Prior to Sunday’s game, Duquesne honored Gunn, Rotroff, Tevin Brewer, Jake Harper and Joe Reece in addition to head student manager Colin Bucenec and Noah Belak.
Each was recognized in front of the crowd with teammates close by cheering in approval, after which a group huddle shifted the energy back to the game.
“It was a great day,” Rotroff said. “Kind of surreal that it came up on me so fast, it feels like I just got on campus yesterday. I just love the support that we got today. It was a great turnout and there was great energy in the building. This year has been full of ups and downs but full of lot of the best memories playing basketball in my life. Aside from the loss it was great to feel the energy and the spirit of this building as it has been all year.”