Pittsburgh, PA— The Duquesne men’s basketball team was up 46 points but Eric Williams Jr still wanted a double-double and ran at full speed driving past the media members in the progress, all the while with a smile on his face.
Williams Jr was stuck on nine rebounds and knew he was set to be subbed out but his fifth double-double of the season will have to wait another day.
“I always try to go for rebounds,” Williams Jr said. “I knew I was at nine and wanted to get one more but it didn’t matter as long as we got the win.”
It was that kind of intensity that held true for nearly the full 40 minutes in a convincing 97-48 win Saturday afternoon against Delaware State.
“We played better defensively and now we have numbers now to compete,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “This is a tough game to judge. We can play hard enough to impose ourselves, but we are nowhere near where we want to be but we are doing much better.”
Here are five takeaways from the win.
1. It is good to see Duquesne have the bodies to be able to press teams on inbounds plays following scores. This is similar to what Dambrot was able to successfully implement in Akron.
This is a sign that the team is just that little bit closer to the goal. Of course it also means Duquesne is finally starting to get healthy which is showing more by the game.
“All I am trying to do is get them to realize how hard they have to play to win championships,” Dambrot said. “There are four parts to it. You get the best players you can get, play as hard as how can, play well together and lastly play smart. Then we play as hard as we can play. Once that is ingrained in you, then the rest will come.”
2. Duquesne set a school record with 18 3-point baskets made in this game. This is more of a tidbit but still it is a great accomplishment for a team that has struggled for much of the season to put the ball in the basket.
Mike Lewis II and Williams Jr set personal records with seven and five respectively. These shots would not have been there without its 25 assists, which came on 33 baskets.
“We went from five assists to 25 so that shows that we are understanding and trusting each other a little better and we see the ball go in which is a relief,” Lewis II said.
Walk-on Zach Snyder hit the record breaking triple with 1:12 remaining in regulation.
3. This win, especially the margin is very encouraging for Duquesne. Last year Duquesne would have been fighting until the end for this game and perhaps lose it.
According to KenPom’s 2018 rankings, Delaware State entered the game 350 of 351 (it is now 351). Delaware State’s 48 points in this game were the lowest Dec. 8, 2016 against North Texas.
“It shows that we’re maturing at a very fast rate,” Lewis II said. “Last year we struggled with teams like this, we’d find ourselves in a dog fight in the second half. This team we came out and guarded for most of the game. We went on to make some shots and finished the game out.”
Duquesne needs to hope this string continues because it faces Mississippi Valley State Wednesday and it is ranked 350 in KenPom’s rankings.
4. Eric James had a much needed 13 points in as many minutes for Duquesne Saturday. It has been a tough year for James with injuries in addition to some performances he surely would like to have back.
Dambrot is looking for production from the four position and efforts such as this could go a long way towards James becoming someone to fill that void.
“He’s a guy where if he feels good about himself he plays better,” Dambrot said. “He hasn’t felt very good about himself mentally and physically. He’s had a rough time of it but he’s a great young man that works very hard. I wouldn’t bet against great man that works hard at it. I never quit on anybody, I might ride him but I don’t quit on him. I even thought about starting him but I didn’t want to take Tydus’s confidence but I think Eric James could have a good year.”
5. This is an odds and ends final point.
Eric Williams Jr did not need a box score to recall he went 1-6 from the foul line against Stetson earlier this week. The two days between games, Williams Jr shot 100 free throws to try and better his result Saturday which is exactly what happened with a 7-8 mark. “I think I was shooting it in and out, I improved it today and hope to keep going,” he said… Marko Krivacevic (broken hand) saw his first action of the season playing six minutes. It is likely his minutes will be monitored though eventually he could be called upon to help fill that four-spot void.
WBB a winner as well
It would be easy to look at the close nature of Duquesne women’s basketball’s 66-60 win Saturday afternoon against Akron, but Conor Richardson would rather focus on the positives.
“It only helps our confidence knowing we can shoot 7% and still come out with a W,” she said. “If that doesn’t help our confidence, I don’t know what will.”
The win gives Duquesne (9-2) a season best seven in a row.
“This was certainly not what we wanted, but there was a little bit of an expectation of this” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “It’s a tough game to prepare for because they (Akron) run so many different things. We have one hour a day to practice during finals week. My kids aren’t in easy majors. Organic chemistry majors are taking finals and missed shootaround today. I believe we were mentally tired and physically exhausted at the end with the big four (Chassidy Omogrosso, Julijana, Vojinovic, Conor Richardson and Kadri-Ann Lass) . I don’t think we were great defensively but we found a way to win. When May comes around and we look back the season, it’s a W.”
Despite battling illness, Julijana Vojinovic scored a game-high 22 points and added seven rebounds. Chassidy Omogrosso added 16 points and Conor Richardson contributed 14 points and six rebounds.
In the game Duquesne’s bench was outscored 26-1 with the point coming on the second of two Eniko Kuttor free throws which came with 48 seconds remaining in the first half.
“In these situations your big dogs, they’ve got to find a way,” said Burt. “If we’re going to be a great basketball team you have to dig deep inside ourselves. I don’t think any of us were good, players or staff.”
Still this now seven-game winning streak has showed that Duquesne is capable of winning in many different ways. This method in particular, while certainly not a preferred circumstance is often the norm once conference play arrives and teams already had scouting reports on each other.
“We started off slow, finished tough and through adversity,” Richardson said. “Come conference time we’re going to know how to handle those situations and we handled it really well today.”
Kuttor a force on the glass
Eniko Kuttor has earned the nickname “Dennis Rodman” for her propensity to get nasty and find ways to rebound the basketball and this is a moniker which pleases her.
“It happens that he’s my favorite basketball player, so it feels really good,” she said.
It is rare that an individual scores one point and shoots 0-4 from the field and is asked to participate in a postgame press conference, but there was a lot more that defined Eniko Kuttor’s Saturday afternoon.
Put simply, Kuttor had 16 rebounds in 23 minutes with eight coming on each side of the ball. Kuttor had more offensive rebounds than Akron did as a team and not even two Zips players combined for 16 rebounds.
“Since I’ve been playing basketball rebounding was always my thing,” said Kuttor. “I love to do it and I feel like I am good at it. I am trying to put it out there and help the team with that because even when shots aren’t falling getting the rebounds can help me a lot.”
Prior to the season, Burt named Kuttor the most athletic on the team “when she wants to be” and having her playing mid-20’s in terms of minutes helps minimize errors and silly fouls, though the redshirt sophomore still had four in this game.
Kuttor knows her rebounding is a way to help contribute to her team’s on-court performance and she ranks fourth in the Atlantic 10 with 9.3 rebounds per game.
7.1% shooting tax
Burt certainly will not be putting Saturday’s second quarter on his LinkedIn page, far from it in fact.
“I said ‘that’s the worst quarter I’ve been associated with since I’ve been at Duquesne’,” he said. “We ran our stuff well, the ball just didn’t go in the basket. We didn’t get to the free throw line and settled for slightly contested jumpers instead of creating contact.”
Duquesne shot 7.1% from the field yet its deficit was 30-26 at halftime.
“We missed almost every lay-up and we were 4-of-14 from point blank range, it doesn’t get worse than that.” said Richardson. “There was only one way to go and that was up.”
One the third quarter began, Duquesne needed 1:05 to tie the game up and held a 47-45 lead after three quarters of play.
Duquesne appeared to pull away in the fourth quarter but a couple of missed free throws down the stretch were returned with a three-point basket and four-point play on Akron’s end, cutting the Dukes’ lead back down to two points.
Even though this forced Duquesne to take a timeout, Vojinovic had no doubt her team would win.
“I knew they were going to foul and we were going to make them. I was never stressed, I just said ‘calm down’,” she explained. “We ran (a play) to get the ball in, they fouled and we made the shots.”
Explanation for technicals
With 2:39 remaining in the first quarter, a whistle stopped play as the game’s officials huddled together before head referee Ed Sidlasky brought Burt and Akron coach Jodi Kest to halfcourt of the sidelines.
The referees issued a double technical foul, one to Vojinovic and another one to Akron’s Shauney Edmonds. This word was echoed to the table and play continued.
At the end of the quarter Sidlasky explained “this was a preventative measure to not make it anything bigger. They might have said something about each other’s mamas.”
Both coaches appeared furious with the decision and the 1,213 in attendance also were not pleased with the final ruling.
If it affected Vojinovic, she did not display any emotion as she made a two-point shot six seconds later.
Burt revealed to reporters after the win that Angela Staffileno will be redshirting this season. This was a decision Staffileno made. Staffileno has been dealing with injuries and this decision will allows her to play two full seasons at what is hoped to be 100%.
Duquesne does not play again until Dec. 17 in a home contest against Central Michigan that is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m tip. The Chippewas are 8-1 and winners of their last eight games after dropping its season opener to Purdue.