Duquesne drops another single-digit game
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot desperately wanted to celebrate a big victory.
If given the opportunity, junior guard Tarin Smith might have partied with all 3,411 people at Palumbo Center on Saturday night. Trouble was, St. Bonaventure didn't cooperate.
In front of the largest crowd of the season that screamed louder with each made shot, block or rebound, Duquesne (15-9, 6-5 Atlantic 10) didn't have enough defensively and the Bonnies (16-6, 6-4) prevailed 84-81.
Duquesne missed a chance to gain its 16th victory of the season, which would have been second-best in the A-10.
Although Duquesne led throughout most of the second half — by eight points at one point — the decisive points went through the net off the productive fingertips of St. Bonaventure junior guard Jaylen Adams, who hit a long 3-pointer with five seconds left.
That was the norm for Adams on Saturday. Although he was averaging 17 points, he finished with 40, the second-highest total in Palumbo history and the most by a Duquesne opponent. He hit 14 of 22 shots, including 8 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc. Adams was one 3-pointer shy of tying the all-time Palumbo record set by Duquesne's Mark Stevenson against West Virginia in 1990.
He also added seven assists, a threat that might have allowed him to get open for the winner off a ball screen.
Dambrot admitted, “I feel bad for these guys,” indicating his players did all they could to win the game — at least offensively while shooting a season-high 55.6 percent from the field.
But he's not in the business of lauding an opponent when he'd prefer to praise his team.
“We only stopped them two of the last 10 times in the game, which really dictates whether you win or lose,” said Dambrot, who has made defense one of the cornerstones of his attempt to rejuvenate Duquesne's program.
“He's supposedly the best guard in the league,” Dambrot said of Adams. “He made pull-up jumpers. He made 3s, as well. He also made drives, and he was unselfish.”
St. Bonaventure shot nearly 50 percent from the field (31 of 64) and beyond the arc (11 of 23). But in Dambrot's mind, there was more to the loss than an opponent getting hot.
“When a guy gets 40 on you, you better think of a different way to guard him. That's for sure,” he said.
“That's not acceptable to me. I don't care how good a player a guy is. I don't care if LeBron is out there or Kobe Bryant.”
Smith led the Dukes with 24 points, the fourth time this season he's hit 20 without starting. Rene Castro-Caneddy added 21, but Mike Lewis and Eric Williams combined to miss nine of 11 3s, including a desperation shot by Williams that fell short at the buzzer.
Smith and 6-foot-8 center Chas Brown were close enough to Adams to make a difference on the last shot. Brown backed up out of respect for Adams' passing skills, leaving an open space for him to shoot.
“He's a great player,” Smith said of Adams, “but that shouldn't happen. I have too much pride for that. It was a simple ball screen. I didn't get back fast enough to contest the shot.”
Meanwhile, the game provided plenty of entertainment for the Palumbo crowd, built up a bit by a large section of St. Bonaventure fans.
Dambrot recognized that, even though he was having trouble dealing with his team's ninth loss. His Akron teams the past two years lost only nine the entire season.
“It's fun, isn't it?” he said. “It's not fun for me, but it's fun for (the fans).
“When we get that kind of crowd every night, we become relevant in college basketball. We started to gain some respect where Duquesne is not the stepchild of the league.
“I don't know how many teams want to play Duquesne at this point. I don't think it's a lot of fun. They know they're going to be in a grind-it-out affair.”
While Dambrot felt bad for his players, Smith felt bad for the fans. He said they brought an energy to Palumbo that hasn't been seen in a long time.
“I wish I could thank each one of them personally,” he said.