While his players couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, Keith Dambrot showed he could be a good comedic straight man.
“I hate ’em,” Duquesne’s coach deadpanned about his players after another come-from-way-behind win. “Seriously, I hate them. Can’t stand them. I’m gonna choke about six of them.”
For the eighth time this season, the Dukes overcame a double-digit deficit Saturday. This time, they rallied from down 11 (first half), 10 (second half) and nine (with 7 minutes to play) for an 80-73 victory against Massachusetts.
Duquesne (19-10, 10-6 Atlantic 10) has trailed at halftime in 10 of their 19 victories.
“We were a little bit juice-less, but we found enough to win,” Dambrot said. “I give our guys credit: They find every which way to fall behind and then figure out a way to win.
“I don’t know, man, something wrong with these guys. I never have seen anything like it in my life.”
Sophomore point guard Tavian Dunn-Martin had 19 of his career-high 30 points in the second half, making 9 of 12 shots and seven 3-pointers in lifting the Dukes to a win that hit some milestones.
In the final season at Palumbo Center, the Dukes set a new wins record at the three-decade-old venue, winning a 14th home game for the first time since 1981. Duquesne also tied the school record for conference wins in a season with 10 (also in 1980-81, 1990-91 and 2010-11). It clinched a winning record in Atlantic 10 play for the sixth time in 42 seasons.
Duquesne trailed for a stretch of 30 minutes, 7 seconds that spanned from from the early stages of the game until a tying 3-pointer by Dunn-Martin with 4 minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation.
“Coach hates it,” Dunn-Martin said of his team’s comeback ways. “He hates it. Hates it.
“But we just try to fight hard, no matter how much we’re down. The comebacks are something we’re getting used to, so we just try to do it every game.”
Duquesne has won by overcoming deficits of 19 (twice), 18 (twice), 11 (twice) and 15.
The Dukes closed the first half on a 12-4 run and finished the game on a 26-11 run. Dunn-Martin had 19 points over those two spans that covered 10 minutes, 18 seconds of game action.
“Honestly, I felt (the momentum shift) in the first half whenever we started to come back,” said forward Michael Hughes, who had 17 points, five blocks and nine rebounds. “And then we got away from ourselves a little bit, but we got ourselves together and composed ourselves and got ourselves back into it.”
Duquesne rebounded after a blowout Wednesday at St. Bonaventure that dropped the Dukes to 1-2 without freshman point guard Sincere Carry. Carry had arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the week and is out indefinitely.
Carl Pierre had 15 points and Rashaan Holloway 14 for UMass (10-19, 3-13), which has a 15-game Atlantic 10 road losing streak that dates to last season.
The Minutemen entered Saturday 13th in the 14-team Atlantic 10, having lost six of their previous eight. They also were without four injured players, three of whom started at least half the games they played, including leading scorer Luwana Pipkins. Pipkins, a junior guard who averages 16.6 points, missed his sixth game over the past four weeks because of a hamstring injury.
Duquesne won despite UMass holding a 49-25 edge in rebounds.
“Look bad and win, right?” Dambrot said. “I think that’s better than looking good and losing.”