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Duquesne Basketball

Duquesne Loses Once Again in the Atlantic 10 Tournament with Disappointing Defeat to No. 11 La Salle



NEW YORK — No. 6 Duquesne lost to No. 11 La Salle 81-70 in the Second Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Wednesday night.

The loss ends the Dukes season with a 20-12 record and they finish with another disappointing result in the A-10 Tournament. The Explorers (15-18) played incredibly efficient basketball in that second half, which the Dukes just could not replicate.

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Poor Play Continues in the Atlantic 10 Tournament

It’s no shocker that Duquesne has not had real success in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The last time Duquesne won the conference tournament came in 1977, their first year in the A-10 and last time they played in the NCAA Tournament.

Still, the Dukes have been horrendous in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, going 6-21 since the turn of the century. Three of those wins came in the 2009 edition, where the Dukes made it all the way to the Final, where they would lose to No. 4 Temple, 69-64. The 2009 conference tournament is the only time the Dukes have won multiple games since 2000, and they have only done so a total of four times in their 47 seasons as a member of the A-10.

There hasn’t been a real change in the postseason under head coach Keith Dambrot, as Duquesne has one win in six Atlantic 10 Tournament games in his six seasons at the helm.

Despite Duquesne not having real success in decades, Dambrot has made his squad a contender throughout his tenure. Fans see that success, but will obviously want to see it translate to March going forward.

Dambrot will have to find ways to get this program out of its failures in the postseason and to success if the Duquesne is to potentially make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The question is, can he?

Abysmal Second Half Shooting Leads to Downfall

The second half saw the Dukes shoot 31.4% from the field and 31.3% from 3-point range. Those numbers don’t look necessarily horrendous on first glance, but the Dukes spent a large portion of that second half missing a bunch of shots.

From the time both teams were level at 46-46 at the U12 media timeout in that second half to when La Salle built a 63-53 lead with five minutes remaining, Duquesne shot 1-for-10 from the floor and missed easy shots that they normally made throughout the regular season.

That poor shooting streak doomed the Dukes in their loss to the Explorers. They didn’t create any rhythm offensively and it showed on some of the inexplicable missed shots they usually converted in previous games.

Junior guard Dae Dae Grant led Duquesne early with 13 of their first 17 points. He did not score at all in that second half and said post game that the flow of the game offensively didn’t play into the hands of Duquesne the way it has in the past.

“I would say lack of rhythm and feel for the most part,” Grant said. “Then us just having to move the ball better on the offensive end.”

Brickus and Brantley Dominate Duquesne on both Sides of the Ball

The Explorers guard duo of junior Jhamir Brickus and sophomore Khaliel Brantley put in fantastic performances in the win against the Dukes, especially in the second half. Brickus scored 19 points, making 11 of his 12 shots from the foul line, while Brantley shot 4-for-6 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the free throw line, both in the second half, respectively.

They scored 34 of the La Salle’s 54 points in that second half and led their team to 64.0% shooting from the field and 82.6% from the foul line.

Brickus and Brantley spoke post game about just taking what the Duquesne gave them defensively. Brantley made two 3-pointers, but Brickus dominated with his ability to drive and score. Converting layups helped La Salle turn the game in their favor and eventually earn the victory.

“We’re really just taking what the defense gives us,” Brickus said. “A lot of teams been playing high so, we’ve just been opening up, driving lanes and creating for our teammates.”

Reece and Williams Non-Factors in Second Matchup against La Salle

Duquesne forwards in senior Joe Reece and junior Tre Williams did not have a great game against La Salle. Reece shot 3-for-11 from the floor and Williams scored zero points. Reece finished with 13 points, but seven of them came from the foul line.

Both players executed incredibly well offensively in the first matchup against the Explorers on Feb. 22. Reece had a great game, scoring 18 of his 26 career-high points in the second half, while also shooting 11-for-13 from the floor. Williams scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, created six assists, made seven rebounds and two steals.

The size that the Dukes used to defeat the Explorers two weeks prior did not translate into this game. The Explorers outscored the Dukes 36-20 in the paint, as their guards drove to the basket and made some great layups and close shots.

La Salle head coach Fran Dunphy made adjustments to deal with Reece and Williams inside, especially after they “torched” them the first time around. He gave credit to his guards, who played help defense on both of them, and made it hard for Duquesne to score points at all.

“I just thought everybody was on their assignments,” Dunphy said. “I thought we walled up well. We talked about doubling, we didn’t do it much tonight. We talked about it. We had a plan if they were hurting us like they did the first time. I just think our guards took care of a lot of it. They kept people in front of them, so it wasn’t a lot of drop offs to those guys. When they did post us, we had [Brantley and Brickus] having to front a guy like Reece, but I thought we had some good help from behind. I thought we did about as good we could do on the post up defense against those guys.”

Players Graduating Demonstrate Their Value to Duquesne Throughout Their Careers

This loss against La Salle will hurt most for the graduating players the most on Duquesne. Graduates in forwards Rodney “RJ Gunn Jr. and Austin Rotroff, guard Tevin Brewer and Reece are all players who contributed a great deal to Duquesne this season and will move on from playing collegiate basketball.

Dambrot spoke glowingly off all the players, but especially Rotroff, who battled through serious injuries and made comebacks throughout his Duquesne career.

“If I had the need to have another son, I’d take Rotroff with me,” Dambrot said. “Unbelievable human being. Great guy. Cares about other people. Cares about winning. It’s been an unbelievable pleasure to coach him. Through good, bad and ugly, he’s hung in there with us.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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