Pittsburgh, PA — Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot understands the task his team has in front of it in playing #24/23 Rhode Island.
“They’ve got the best players in the league, they’ve won the most games in the last two years,” he said. “What we have to do is we have to make it a teeth-pulling contest. We have to frustrate them and make them play through possessions and play at a slower pace. If the game goes fast, we have no chance.”
Duquesne will be facing this Rhode Island team in a sold out Ryan Center, an arena which holds 7,657 fans.
Rhode Island is coming off a season in which it won its first Atlantic 10 Championship since 1999 and have started conference play with an 8-0 record with no losses since a Dec. 6 68-64 road setback to Alabama.
Currently, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Rhode Island as a 7 seed in the West region of his NCAA Tournament Bracketology. The Rams are the only Atlantic 10 team he has in the field.
“It’s a challenge we are preparing ourselves all year,” junior guard Tarin Smith said. “It’s a good test for us to keep getting better. So we’re definitely looking forward to going there. It’s going to be a very good environment and the fan base is great so it will be a fun game.”
This season, Dambrot has challenged his players to see what they will do when they get punched in the mouth.
The latest challenge to this occurred with a 77-73 overtime setback against Richmond. This was Duquesne’s first home defeat since Nov. 27.
Duquesne has not lost consecutive games since Nov. 1 and Dec. 1 to Cornell and Pitt, meaning thus far it has been able to bounce back well.
Dambrot is used to dealing with in-season adversity.
In his 2010-11 season, Akron lost at Ohio University 80-55 and then four days later fell 79-68 to Kent State. Eight days after that, Akron won the conference tournament 66-65 over the same Kent State team
“The one thing I’ve learned as a coach is that each game is a mutually exclusive event,” said Dambrot. “What I mean by that is you can play poorly one game and it may have no effect on the next and you can be really good and it may have no effect on the next.”
Pace is key
Duquesne remembers its Jan. 9 road setback to VCU very well, especially its second half where it felt the game was not finished.
“Going back to the VCU game, defense let us down in the second half,” Smith said. “I think if we please really strong defense and focus on that end, the offense will work itself out.”
VCU played a trap defense which in the second half saw Duquesne play at a noticeably faster offensive pace than it was accustomed to as the game slipped away in a hostile environment.
Though the defensive style is a bit different, it can be just as chaotic as Duquesne prepares to play its fourth true road game of the year, this one coming in a hostile environment.
“Should we shoot them, should we not shoot them,” Dambrot said of the quick shots. “The answer generally is it depends on how the game is looking. Once you miss one or two and the game starts to go a little fast, then you need to leave it go. Those are what I call time and tempo decisions that inexperienced teams fall into traps. Rhode Island is a hard-pressure team but not a trap-pressure team. If our turnovers are down and our shot selection is good, then we will be in the game. If our turnovers are up and our shot selection is bad, then we won’t be in the game.”
Duquesne will try its best to play the long game, using its offense to take time off the clock and frustrate Rhode Island on the other end.
Dambrot is looking for the team to keep the game close with 10 minutes remaining, get it down to the four minute mark and see what Duquesne can do.
Five questions with Bill Koch
In order to get a Rhode Island perspective, I asked Rams beat reporter Bill Koch five questions. Bill has traveled home and road covering Rhode Island for the Providence Journal and was kind enough to spend some of his Friday afternoon answering these questions.
Q: Rhode Island has exceptional in defending the three, why do you think that is?
He said it
“At this point of the season everyone is tired and the overtimes don’t help, but fatigue is not an excuse for us, we’re going to battle through it. It is mentally draining but Coach Dambrot has prepared us to be a mentally tough team. A lot of challenges, a lot of tests, but that’s par for the course.” – Tarin Smith on the exhaustion from these overtime games