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Close losses take toll on Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, 2:39 p.m.
Duquesne's Jordan Robinson (left) defends against Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews on Saturday, Jan 27, 2018, in Kingston, R.I.
Duquesne's Jordan Robinson (left) defends against Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews on Saturday, Jan 27, 2018, in Kingston, R.I.

Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said he expects close games almost every time his team plays.

His reasoning is simple. With the exception of No. 20 Rhode Island, most Atlantic 10 teams are the same: good, not great, but dangerous.

Dambrot's problem is he can't wrap his brain around losing nine games before Valentine's Day. At Akron, he won between 19 and 27 every season for 13 years.

“I'm really not used to losing,” he said. “I'm not happy about it, but we're doing the best we can. I give my guys a lot of credit.”

The losses are so hard to endure because they are so close to being victories. Duquesne has lost three of its past four by a total of 10 points. Didn't matter if the Dukes were playing the best of the A-10 (Rhode Island) or the team with the second-most victories (St. Bonaventure). Both foes needed a 3-pointer at or near the buzzer to win.

Duquesne needs to improve the intensity and decision-making of its defense when it plays at Dayton on Wednesday and Fordham on Saturday at Palumbo Center.

Offense seems OK. Shooting 55.6 percent Saturday was actually impressive because St. Bonaventure had the best field-goal percentage defense in the league (41.5) entering the game.

“I've never had a team shoot 56 percent and lose,” he said. “I'm not too happy about that.”

Dambrot's best quality is he knows how far he can push his players. None other than LeBron James will tell you that. Dambrot led James' St. Vincent-St. Mary teams to two high school state championships in Ohio at the outset of this decade.

“He was hard on me, almost ruthless,” James once said of his former coach. “He believed perfection was attainable and would not tolerate mistakes.

“I figured at the time he just hated me, thought I was some ghetto-kid hot dog who would never be a team player. But I now realize what he was doing, and I'm lucky he was doing it.”

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

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