Duquesne braces for toughest test at A-10 leader Rhode Island
When Duquesne visits Atlantic 10 leader Rhode Island on Saturday, coach Keith Dambrot can use the game as a gauge of how far the Dukes have progressed through 22 games.
Win or lose, he will be just as interested — if not more so — in how his team reacts next week when its quest for A-10 relevance continues.
Duquesne (14-7, 5-3) lost to Richmond on Wednesday, but a victory in the noisy Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., would be stunning and uplifting. In the event of a loss to 24th-ranked Rhode Island (16-3, 8-0), it's Dambrot's job to make sure the effect isn't devastating.
“We haven't got popped, bang-bang-bang, in the mouth,” he said, referring to his team's conference record. “We've only been hit, bang.
“What's their belief structure when it really matters? Do we get despondent? Do we get depressed? What's their fragility level? It's hard to know.”
Even a victory requires the coach to keep a handle on his players.
“Do we get prosperity drunk?” he said.
Dambrot doesn't want one game, win or lose, to affect the next one negatively.
He recalls the 2011 season when Ohio beat his Akron team 80-55 on March 1, and Kent State followed up with a 79-68 victory.
Akron won the next four games, including the MAC Tournament championship game against Kent State in overtime 66-65.
Duquesne junior guard Tarin Smith doesn't believe what has happened over the past four games, three of which went into overtime, will affect the team.
“It's a little mentally draining, but Coach Dambrot prepared us to be a mentally tough team,” he said.
When Dambrot takes off his psychologist hat and starts to study his game plan for Rhode Island, he knows it's best to slow the pace against a talented team that has won 11 in a row.
“If the game goes fast, we have no chance,” he said. “We have to take our time on offense and make sure we play at a very slow pace so there's fewer possessions in the game.
“Which means, if we can score at the end of the (shot) clock, now we have a chance to frustrate them, keep the game close to the 10-minute mark, get down to the 4-minute mark and see what we can do in the last 4 minutes.”
But those carefully selected shots must go in the basket. Duquesne, an 18-point underdog, can't have another collective 4-for-28 shooting effort from guards Mike Lewis II and Rene Castro-Caneddy, which is what happened in the Richmond game.
“But they've been pretty consistent all year,” Dambrot said. “Those guys put time in the gym. When people put time in the gym, you really can't get upset with them.”