Duquesne runs record to 5-2 with victory against Marshall
Duquesne has too many leaks on offense, cracks on defense and mental lapses on and off the court for coach Keith Dambrot’s taste.
Still, Dambrot tried not to sound arrogant Wednesday night after the 93-82 victory against Marshall when he said, “I would have been disappointed if we didn’t beat them.”
His feeling was based largely on expecting to win more often than not at Palumbo Center. But the fact he sensed victory against Marshall, which returned four starters from a team that upset No. 4 seed Wichita State in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, is an indication how far the Dukes have come in Dambrot’s 39 games (21-18) as coach.
“I like our team,” Dambrot said after the Dukes improved to 5-2 in nonconference play. “My young kids, in a lot of ways, are doing a lot of good things. The biggest thing for us is maturing as people. We have about half the room where we want them. The other half is not quite understanding of what it takes to get to a championship level.”
Getting everyone on board will take time — evidenced by the Dukes’ 19 turnovers — but there was enough talent playing at an acceptable level Wednesday to build a 16-point lead with 6 minutes, 21 seconds to play. That advantage dwindled to seven, but Marshall got no closer as the Dukes won without too many tense moments at the end.
Duquesne was led by sophomore center Michael Hughes, a transfer who followed Dambrot from Akron. Hughes is in the midst of a incredible shooting streak in which he has hit 24 of 30 shots (80 percent) in the past three games. He scored 20 points for the second game in a row, helping the Dukes to a season-high point total and the best shooting percentage (58) in Dambrot’s two seasons.
“He cares,” Dambrot said. “You can tell he cares about winning. He plays with more enthusiasm than most of our guys.”
Then, there’s the physical part of his game. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, “When he gets it around the rim, he’s a load,” Dambrot said.
“He presents problems for people because he demands double teams. Pretty much, if he catches it down there, he’s going to score.”
Dambrot said the Dukes’ added punch under the basket is the biggest difference from last year’s team.
Yet, Hughes didn’t fill up the stat sheet like freshman point guard Sincere Carry, who scored 19 to reach double digits for the first time since recording 32 on Nov. 12. Carry did a little of everything in 33 minutes, with seven assists, zero turnovers, five rebounds and five steals while guarding Marshall star point guard Jon Elmore.
Elmore is the third-leading scorer in Conference USA history with 2,040 points, but he scored only 12 — 9.4 below his average this season — with two baskets on 11 attempts.
“(Carry) guarded maybe one of the best point guards around, which you couldn’t tell,” Dambrot said.
“I was trying to speed him up and make him not play at his own pace,” Carry said. “I was just trying to make him uncomfortable.”
Did it work?
“I could tell as I kept pressuring him he was passing the ball up,” he said. “He was kind of scared to bring it up.”
Junior guard Mike Lewis II added 15, scoring 11 in a 2:14 stretch in the first half. Forward Marcus Weathers, who was sick last week and didn’t play in the 21-point loss to Pitt, added 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Lewis and Eric Williams Jr. are the Dukes’ only returning players until Kellen Taylor is ready to go now that football season is over. Williams, the team’s leading scorer (14.2), didn’t start and scored only nine points in 17 minutes while being disciplined by Dambrot.
“Obviously, something happened,” Dambrot said. “That’s confidential between me and him.”
At first, Dambrot didn’t want to discuss the situation, but he still had a message to send.
“The key to all this is having great discipline.” he said, “and having discipline in your program and understanding what’s important and building this for the long term.
“I’m not going to let guys do whatever they want, period. I’m going to discipline my team like they should be disciplined, just like I discipline my son and daughter when I don’t like what they do.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.