Washington, DC — For much of the Duquesne men’s basketball season, defense has been considered this team’s bread and butter but Thursday night, and by extension, the past month, this was not the case.
Richmond shot 57.4% from the field and defeated Duquesne in second round Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship play by an 81-68 score.
“I just think we didn’t focus on our habits,” senior guard Rene Castro-Caneddy said. “I think at the end of the day, we always play like in spurts, and I think our habits really got us. Whether we built it in practice or stuff, it was just some of our habits. Like our whole team just not really focusing on details, on scouting reports. I think we kind of just did that the last month and it kind of bit us.”
Dambrot has had difficulty all season dealing with losing at the rate he has experienced at Duquesne coming from an Akron program with which he experienced a great deal of success.
“I’m not an architect, but that’s pretty much what I am right now,” he said. “I have to build this program for the future, and we made some baby steps this year. We laid a little bit of the foundation, and then we kind of died on the vine. I’m not used to sitting in this chair and being knocked out in the first round (we played). So we didn’t play one of our better games. Our deficiencies really showed tonight, which, you know, is disappointing.”
Duquesne director of athletics David Harper has confirmed that the team will not explore postseason opportunities, meaning this loss puts the Dukes at 16-16 as its season comes to an end.
Assessing the loss, Duquesne sophomore Mike Lewis II was matter of fact.
“It sums up the last five to six weeks,” Lewis II said. “It was a bad day to have a bad day.”
As far as the cumulative season from a defensive standpoint, freshman forward Tydus Verhoeven offered the following.
“Some games we would be great defensively and that’s something you have to take,” said Verhoeven. “Down the stretch, you can say whatever you want to say. It was pretty rough for us, but we had moments where we played great defense.”
This loss ends the Duquesne playing careers of Castro-Caneddy, Chas Brown, Eric James and Jordan Robinson.
Playing catch up
This game was one of many runs but Richmond’s 11-3 run to open the game quickly had Duquesne on the ropes.
When any team shoots at a high percentage it takes a certain amount of defensive energy to try and stop the attack and then generally feel the need to press on offense or at the very least try to keep up with the opponent.
Duquesne fell into that trap on Thursday.
“It’s especially hard, especially when you let a team like that get going,” sophomore guard Mike Lewis II said. “They are a great offensive team and we let them get comfortable early. That’s hard to come back from for anybody. We dug ourselves a hole.”
As Duquesne to play catch up with another Richmond run, it was dealt a significant blow as freshman guard Eric Williams Jr picked up his fourth foul and had to be subbed out with 12:20 to play in regulation.
Williams Jr provides the opportunity for rebounds and extended possessions, even when his shots do not fall, but with him on the bench, Richmond extended its lead to 17 points and four minutes later, Dambrot did not have much choice and subbed his freshman back in.
Even though Williams did not have anywhere near his best game, it was clear how much his teammates missed his presence.
“When Eric Williams has struggled this year, we haven’t been very good,” said Dambrot.
During the Jan. 24 meeting between these two teams, Duquesne had 24 offensive rebounds, Thursday, it had six, in fact, Duquesne’s 23 rebounds matched a season low.
“To win the rebounding battle with a team that’s a very good rebounding team was probably the key,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “We definitely emphasized it and we knew how important it would be.”
A learning experience
Dambrot understands and accepts that coaching Duquesne is what he signed for and through the ups and downs, there certainly were takeaways that he will use moving forward.
“I learned the league a little bit,” he said. “You know, in the MAC when you’ve been there as long as I have, three different times, I pretty much knew what coach was going to do what, when and how they were going to play every single play we ran. Whereas this year, I really didn’t know anything. I sat at the wrong bench at Rhode Island. I was on the wrong side of the floor. So like this is all new for me. Even at 60 years old, you feel like you’re a first-timer at times. I have a really good feel for what the league is now. The interesting thing about the league is it’s diverse. So different people play different ways, but most of it is on the perimeter. So that’s one thing I know for sure.”
Looking at next season, Duquesne will have 10 new players, a fact which had a media member in the press conference quietly repeating this fact with clear bewilderment.
“This season went way too fast if you ask me,” said Lewis II. We’ll move on and it’ll be time to play ball.”
Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt was suspended one postseason game for comments directed towards officials following his team’s 71-65 Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal loss to Saint Louis. This was news broken by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Sarah K. Spencer and has been confirmed.
The Atlantic 10 did not offer a statement and Duquesne University has yet to publicly issue a release though Burt stated he respected the conference’s decision.