Duquesne beats 1st-place Saint Louis, extends A-10 winning streak to 5
The coaches and media of the Atlantic 10 conducted their preseason poll back in September, when few people were giving Duquesne a second thought.
Four months later, the vote that projected Duquesne as an 11th-place team and Saint Louis as the conference champion mattered to Duquesne sophomore Marcus Weathers.
Especially after the Dukes (14-5, 5-1) defeated Saint Louis, 77-73, on Wednesday night before a crowd of 3,011, the largest of the season at Palumbo Center.
“Of course we knew that,” said Weathers, eager to talk about the poll and what it means to his team. “Every time we come out, we come out with a chip on our shoulder, and we come out to make a statement. A lot of people are going to be surprised by us. We’re not going to see it as a surprise because we envisioned everything that’s happening right now.
“We’re trying to let everybody know in the league that Duquesne is something serious.”
The immediate result of Duquesne’s victory is a five-game winning streak, the Dukes’ longest in league play since starting 8-0 in 2010-11. Also, Duquesne is 14-5 for only the second time since 1980. Saint Louis dropped to 14-5, 5-1.
Coach Keith Dambrot said he is the shortest member and worst athlete in his family, so he embraces the “us vs. them” mentality.
“I came here because I thought the reward was way more than the risk,” he said of accepting Duquesne’s job offer two years ago when he turned it down previously.
“I felt like Duquesne was a sleeping giant with the right commitment, which I didn’t think the commitment was great five years previous,” he said, “and that’s why I stayed (at Akron). For me to leave my hometown, I had to believe I could win.
“I felt like it was the right time for me to come.”
Speaking of good timing, Weathers, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), is picking up his game at the right time. He led the Dukes with 19 points, including 11 of 13 from the foul line after entering the game shooting 54.7 percent on free throws. He has scored at least 11 points in each of the past six games after reaching double digits only four times in the first 12.
Eric Williams added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman point guard Sincere Carry had 10 points and seven assists.
“We get better every day at practice and in the games,” Carry said. “We’re starting to trust each other. We used to cry about minutes. Now, it’s more if we get called out, we just go out because we trust the next person.
“It makes the game much easier. We’re making great progress. I think it even surprises Coach Dambrot.”
Neither team could assert dominance throughout the game, but when Saint Louis took an eight-point lead with 3 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first half, the Dukes rallied to within 36-35 at halftime.
First, Carry hit a foul shot and threw an alley-oop to Williams. A pair of 3-pointers from reserves Tavian Dunn-Martin and Gavin Bizeau put Duquesne back in the hunt.
Seventeen seconds into the second half, Michael Hughes scored to give the Dukes a lead they would not relinquish.
“The conversation (at halftime) was just to out-tough our opponent,” Weathers said.
That didn’t exactly happen because Saint Louis grabbed 54 rebounds to Duquesne’s 31, but the Billikens also missed 18 of 20 3s. The Dukes were 6 of 29 from beyond the arc, and those extra points made a difference.
Dambrot said he was surprised when Saint Louis played a zone defense most of the time.
“They must think we stink (at shooting),” he said.
“I give our guys credit because that’s an old team,” said Dambrot, noting four of the Saint Louis players are fifth-year seniors.
Duquesne’s roster is comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
Dambrot couldn’t name a favorite in the A-10, especially now with the Dukes, Saint Louis and Davidson at 5-1, a half-game behind George Mason (6-1).
“I think it’s wide-open,” he said. “The key is going to be how far we can go from now until March. Do we have the practice fortitude to get better because we have to get better.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .