Close losses 'emotionally draining' for Duquesne men's basketball
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said playing close games one after another can wear on a team.
But he also knows keeping his players fresh might be as important as deciding what defense to play or when to substitute.
The Dukes (15-9, 6-5 Atlantic 10) will visit Dayton (10-12, 4-6) Wednesday night at UD Arena, hoping to reverse a slide in which they've lost five of eight games. Seven have been decided by seven or fewer points.
“You play a lot of close games, man, that's emotionally draining,” Dambrot said. “The good thing about this one, there are going to be 13,000 people. If you played in front of 800 people, you're in danger land. It's hard to self-motivate after you've been in a couple of big games.
“We won't have any trouble motivating them.”
The Dukes have played in front of big crowds of 10,118 against Pitt at PPG Paints Arena and 7,000-plus at VCU and Rhode Island, losing all three. Dambrot admitted his players were “a little jittery” at the beginning of last Saturday's loss to St. Bonaventure at Palumbo where a season-high 3,411 made noise all night.
Winning a few of those games in tough environments — starting Wednesday — would help Dambrot's quest to make the program nationally relevant.
“I'm caught in a quagmire,” he said. “I have really super-high expectations, but I also have to be realistic with my guys.”
In other words, it's not all bad to lose close games to the best teams in the league.
“I think the one thing you have to do, you have to celebrate the small victories when you're first building something,” Dambrot said. “Otherwise, you let the enjoyment of the moment disappear and pretty soon it becomes drudgery for the guys and that's not good.
“It's not acceptable not to win, but it's better than what it used to be.”
Duquesne defeated Dayton, 70-62, at Palumbo on Dec. 30, but he wants to see improvement over that performance Wednesday.
“I went back and looked at the tape,” he said. “I didn't think we played all that great. We played good enough to win, and we played good at crunch. But we didn't play great in between.
“The biggest thing for us is we have to hold them completely accountable at the defensive end. We have to sub defensive mistakes, so they understand that's how we have to win.”