Injured Duquesne closes regular season with 78-67 loss to Dayton
With his young Duquesne team beaten down by injuries and facing adversity at the most crucial time of the year, Keith Dambrot is looking for answers.
“I guess I better go to church more often or something,” he said.
Duquesne concluded the regular season Saturday night, losing 78-67 to Dayton (21-10, 13-5) before a crowd of 4,057 at Palumbo Center. The loss was the third in the past four games for the Dukes (19-12, 10-8).
They will enter the Atlantic 10 Tournament on Thursday night as the No. 7 seed and will meet No. 10 Saint Joseph’s at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Tipoff is 6 p.m.
Bad luck in the form of three knee injuries to three key players hit the team at different times this season, the latest to 6-foot-9 freshman forward Amari Kelly, who was injured Wednesday in Saint Louis. He joined 6-10 freshman Austin Rotroff, who has been out since Jan. 23. Meanwhile, freshman point guard Sincere Carry played 37 minutes only 11 days after arthroscopic knee surgery.
“We played against a big, strong team, and under our current circumstances, if we’re not perfect, we’re not winning,” Dambrot said. “We just didn’t play a perfect game.”
Dayton, the third-place team in the A-10, led for nearly 37 of 40 minutes. Duquesne rallied occasionally, once cutting the lead to four in the second half, but Dayton responded every time.
The biggest problem was allowing open shots — Dayton shot 52.7 percent for the game — and too many rebounds (37-26).
“Every time we cut it close, we gave up a 3, which is an issue,” Dambrot said.
“Playing too many guys too many minutes, too long,” he said. “Exerting a lot of energy, making mistakes because you’re tired.”
Carry, amazingly, scored 10 points and dished out eight assists on his surgically repaired knee.
Teammate Michael Hughes attributed Carry’s performance to a “warrior mentality.”
“Just to see him bounce back as quick as he did and be able to produce like he usually does is crazy,” he said.
But Carry wasn’t at his best, missing all four of his 3-point attempts as he tries to regain strength in his knee.
“The thing I like best about him is he doesn’t make any excuses,” Dambrot said.
But the coach admitted, “(Carry) is playing dead on his feet half the time.”
In the paint, Duquesne has little in reserve after 6-8 Hughes and 6-5 Marcus Weathers, who has a strained groin but still played 26 minutes
Dambrot brought football player Kellon Taylor (6-5) back on the team, but he has missed most of the season. He played only seven minutes with no points and no rebounds.
“We are so depleted inside, sometimes I feel like we’re a small high school team at times when we’re in foul trouble,” Dambrot said. “Which is frustrating to me because we were big and strong, and we could substitute at those spots (when healthy).
“We have a 6-5 guy at center (when Hughes is out), which, in modern basketball, that’s a tough deal. We have no rim protection.”
The result is Dayton’s leading scorers, Obi Toppin (19 points) and Ryan Mikesell (17), hit 15 of 24 shots, and Duquesne couldn’t counter with similar offensive punch.
“We have to win from the perimeter, which I can’t stand,” Dambrot said. “We’re not good enough to do that, especially with a point guard, who was out 2 1/2 weeks.”
Duquesne tried to stay in the game by hoisting up 26 3-pointers, but only seven found the mark. Eric Williams Jr. had two of them and finished with a game-high 21 points.
Dambrot thinks the answer might be for the team to forget its troubles and just focus on the game, no matter the circumstance.
“Forget about the refereeing. Forget about the bad play. Forget about bad shots. Forget about turnovers,” he said. “Put your raincoat on, and let the water drip off you and just play.
“When they get to that point, they’ll be better. Simple as that.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .