Three impressions from DU MBB’s 94-67 win over Princeton

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Dom Errico, pictured in between Keith Dambrot and Baylee Steele, working a Duquesne game at PPG Paints Arena in 2019.
Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Keith Dambrot greets Baylee Steele as he comes off the court on Tuesday.

Adam Lindner | Staff Writer

Nov. 7, 2019

The Duquesne men’s basketball team got off to a slow start in its first regular season game against Princeton on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena, but midway through the second half, the Tigers’ promising first half of play seemed like a distant memory. The Dukes outscored Princeton 57-25 in the second half, jump started by a 25-4 run that gave Keith Dambrot’s team a comfortable advantage.

Graduate transfer center Baylee Steele had a stellar debut in a Duquesne uniform, scoring 19 points and earning a number of new fans in the process. Sophomore guard Sincere Carry hit three 3-pointers en route to a 23-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist outing, while several of the team’s newcomers showed flashes of potential throughout the night’s contest.

The team couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to the new season.

After the game, Dambrot touched on a number of topics, most notably an inactive-yet-healthy James Ellis.

Here are three main takeaways from Duquesne’s dominant opening-night showing.

1.  Sincere Carry is healthy, and he looks better than ever

It’s a small sample size, but Carry’s showing on opening night should have DU fans ecstatic for what could be in store for the second-year guard this season.

Matched up against top Princeton guard Jaelin Llewellyn for large portions of the evening, Carry looked determined on both sides of the court in 31 strong minutes of play.

His jump shot — something he worked to improve upon this summer — looked smooth, and he got to the rim with ease for most of the game against the Tigers.

He consistently hounded Llewellyn from the moment the highly-touted guard touched the ball, limiting the Mississauga, Alberta, native for much of the latter part of the game.

More importantly, though, Carry both says and looks to be 100% healthy.

Already without redshirt junior Frankie Hughes (had season-ending knee surgery in October to repair a torn meniscus) and sophomore forward Amari Kelly (still recovering from a torn ACL in March), the Dukes will need to maintain their health from this point forward if they want to scratch their ceiling. Carry’s health is especially paramount to this team’s potential this season.

2. Several newcomers will contribute in major ways this season

Steele, the fourth graduate transfer in program history, had a fantastic debut in Pittsburgh, nailing three 3-pointers after going for 2-for-11 from downtown across 68 games with Eastern Michigan and Utah Valley. He also had a career-high in steals (five) to go along with four rebounds and three blocks.

Freshman guard Maceo Austin hit back-to-back corner 3’s to begin Duquesne’s monstrous run, and figures to contribute in big ways once he settles into the college game. The guard — who selected Duquesne over VCU, Northwestern and Penn State — will be relied upon to replace Hughes’ and Eric Williams’ production on the wing.

Additionally, both Carry and Dambrot endorsed freshman guard Evan Buckley’s skillset postgame. The praise was warranted.

Carry put it accurately, saying Buckley’s efforts would probably go largely unnoticed unless you actually watched him play throughout the game. Through 13 minutes of play, Buckley shot 0-for-3 with one rebound, one assist and one steal, but played an intense brand of on-ball defense in the full-court, and fit in seamlessly with the team’s offensive efforts, even though he doesn’t seem to necessarily be a world-beating scorer.

Ashton Miller, who missed the team’s exhibition contest against West Virginia on Nov. 1 due to injury, played for five minutes on Tuesday. The freshman guard had a pretty move to the rim plus the finish, and should see his playing time grow as he regains his health.

3. James Ellis is healthy, but not playing at Dambrot’s discretion

James Ellis, the freshman that sat out last season due to academic eligibility issues, remained on the pine for the full 40 minutes of Duquesne’s opener. It was a curious sight, as walk-ons Caleb Davis and Jake Harper played out the game’s final stretch, while the 6-foot-11 Pittsburgh native Ellis remained on the bench.

Postgame, Dambrot confirmed Ellis isn’t hurt. Instead, he’s not playing at the coaching staff’s discretion due to off-the-court issues.

“My job as a coach is to make sure that I make people better students, better people and better basketball players,” Dambrot said. “So, until James does what I want him to do off the court, I’m not playing him.

“Not that I don’t love him. I like him. But I’m going to play hard-ball until I get what I want from him. Because I really like him as a person, and I want him to become what he should become. … He’s going to have to stand up and do the right thing.”