Keith Dambrot almost never stopped moving Friday morning at practice.
Duquesne’s coach was continually pushing his players to “play hard,” and “pay attention to details.”
“We just have to focus more, do more little things,” he said. “Our margin of error is small, so we have to be perfect.”
The season has reached a critical point, and the Dukes (18-10, 9-6) must confront it without point guard Sincere Carry, who had arthroscopic knee surgery this week with no timetable for his return.
In the first game since getting the news on Carry, Duquesne suffered its worst loss since the Pitt game Dec. 1 — 68-47 at St. Bonaventure. The Dukes try to recover against UMass (10-18, 3-12) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Palumbo Center.
Dambrot said he doesn’t think about seeding for the Atlantic 10 Tournament that begins March 13, but more victories mean a more favorable matchup and a better chance to advance.
Coincidence or not, Dambrot appeared a little more intense at practice Friday. Dambrot wasn’t sure about that, but he said, “(players) thought I was.”
The Dukes, sixth in the A-10, finished February with a 3-4 record, but March is where the contenders separate from the pretenders.
“You can’t massage people on a continual basis,” Dambrot said. “Sometimes, you have to give them a little spice.
“I’m not here to be warm and fuzzy. I’m here to make them better people, better players, better students. Just like parenting, you can love them too much and you can hurt them if you don’t tell them the truth and you don’t discipline your kids.”
Dambrot is well aware that without Carry, the offense has changed dramatically.
“When you lose your best defender, your best passer, your best creator, your best scorer, that’s hard for any team to overcome,” Dambrot said, “but this team especially.
“So what I’m trying to get them to do is pay attention to details so they can overcome it.”
Offensive fluidity has suffered, with the Dukes totaling only 16 assists in their two most recent games Carry missed, but getting 16, 12 and 16 in three previous with him.
“Our assist totals will never be what they were with him out of the game,” Dambrot said.
There was hope Carry could avoid surgery until after the season, but the pain became too much for him.
“Earlier in the year, yes, but once the (bone) chips broke off, we didn’t have any choice,” Dambrot said. “Once the fragments were in there, he was too irritated to play. The fragment was attached to his knee before and it broke off.”
UMass will offer the Dukes no sympathy after losing leading scorer Luwane Pipkins (16.6 points) for five of the past six games with hamstring and concussion issues. Dambrot wasn’t sure if Pipkins will play Saturday.
“We can’t be feeling sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We have to move forward.”