ShareThis Page
Duquesne

Scoring depth, defense hamper Duquesne men as they prepare for A-10 stretch run

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 6:33 p.m.
Duquesne's Tarin Smith (right) is part of a quartet of guards who have accounted for most of the Dukes' points.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Duquesne's Tarin Smith (right) is part of a quartet of guards who have accounted for most of the Dukes' points.

Trying to figure out what went wrong at Duquesne is not difficult.

Start with a first-year coach who didn't inherit a deep roster. No need to look much further.

That's probably the chief reason the Dukes have lost seven of their past nine games going into their rematch Wednesday night against St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y.

“I don't think there's any scientific explanation,” coach Keith Dambrot said. “We hit a streak where we played really good (starting 13-5), and some of the rest of the league wasn't playing very good. And then we came back to the mean, and so we haven't been able to win.

“Simple as that. We just have to figure out ways to win.”

The major hurdle might be the unequal distribution of scoring ability.

Duquesne's four guards are among the best in the A-10. Mike Lewis, Eric Williams, Rene Castro-Caneddy and Tarin Smith have scored 76.1 percent of the team's points. If opponents stop them, most of the time, they stop the Dukes.

Dambrot didn't mind that the four guards took 60 of Duquesne's 71 shots Saturday at Saint Joseph's in an 82-75 loss. They missed 39 of them — Lewis was 0 for 11 — but Dambrot didn't think they shot too much.

“With the dynamics of our team, who else is going to shoot?” he said. “We only have four guys who can shoot it. Usually, when your best guys shoot it a lot, that's what you want.

“If there is anybody else who thinks they can shoot it, I don't know who that is because we haven't shown it yet.”

Those remarks might sound harsh, but Dambrot said he likes his players and the way they have worked for him. He pushed them hard in practice Tuesday, even running among them during fast-break drills.

To an outsider, Dambrot might have looked and sounded mad, but Castro-Caneddy knew better.

“I think more just intense,” he said. “Just making sure we're on top of everything, paying attention to details and playing hard. He repeats that every day.”

Before the start of the season, the Dukes were picked to finish last in the 14-team conference by a vote of conference coaches and reporters. They head into the game with St. Bonaventure tied for eighth.

“We're better (than 14th) in some areas,” Dambrot said. “When we have trouble guarding, we're not better than 14th.”

Defense has been an issue for the Dukes, who have held opponents under 70 points only once in the past 11 games. And that was on the road against 18th-ranked Rhode Island (21-4, 13-1), projected as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

Funny thing: The Dukes (15-12, 6-8) probably played their best against Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure (20-6, 10-4) — the first- and second-place teams in the A-10 — but lost both by three points on buzzer-beaters.

“Our guards are working so hard to create opportunities on offense that by the time the game is at crunch time, we're a little dead on our feet,” he said.

Dambrot is not satisfied with 15 victories, even though it's five more than the Dukes claimed last season. But they're 0 for 4 in February.

“You never want to limit yourself, but in this job, you have to be realistic or you'll drive yourself crazy,” he said. “Is 15 wins good? Pretty good for where we were, but it's not where I want to be. I can't accept that.”

When Rhode Island's Danny Hurley and St. Bonaventure's Mark Schmidt were first-year coaches at those schools, they won eight games each.

“The only way people win 18 or 20 or win championships in their first year is if they inherit a championship-quality team,” Dambrot said. “We didn't. You can't make them something they're not.

“I can brow-beat them and beat them down, but all I care about is whether they get after it every day. They're good people, and they try hard every day.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me