Chameleon Dukes snag signature win over Rhode Island

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Duquesne guard Frankie Hughes handles the ball versus Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2018. Hughes scored 20 points in the Dukes’ 75-72 win over Rhode Island on Jan. 30, with all of his points coming in the second half.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

Jan. 31, 2019

The Duquesne men’s basketball team put forth a miserable effort in the first half of its game Jan. 30 against Rhode Island. In fact, it was arguably the least inspiring the Dukes have looked all year long.

Shots wouldn’t fall and passes sailed out-of-bounds for the majority of the half as the Rams worked their way to a 41-22 lead by the halftime break.

This Duquesne team isn’t new to climbing back in games. In fact, the Dukes are 7-4 this season when trailing at halftime. But this was different — it was listless.

Throughout the half, the Palumbo Center crowd, save for a few moments, was quiet. The thrashing put forth by Rhode Island felt reminiscent of the Jim Ferry era, or something like it. The Dukes’ swagger, evident throughout most of conference play up to this point, was nonexistent.

For the last 5:49 of the first half, Duquesne didn’t score, and turned the ball over seven times.

Then, Assistant Coach Carl Thomas, among others, lit into the team at halftime. Apparently, whatever the mild-mannered coach said worked.

“I went in calm at halftime, and I hear all these coaches yelling at people,” Dambrot said. “It’s kind of nice to hear somebody yelling besides me.

“I think Carl Thomas just challenged our competitiveness, and he never … I’ve never seen him raise his voice,” Dambrot continued. “He’s probably the calmest guy we have, and he went nuts. Lost his mind. Give our guys credit — they went from bad to good. Chameleons.”

Duquesne began the second half on a 7-0 run, ignited by a corner 3-pointer from Tavian Dunn-Martin, who started the half in place of Frankie Hughes.

After a Rhode Island timeout, the Dukes continued to claw their way back. Minutes later, Hughes, who was scoreless in the first half, nailed a 3-pointer to bring the gap to single-digits.

Duquesne didn’t stop there, and neither did a raucous crowd of 2,345.

A Lamar Norman Jr. dunk following the eight-minute-mark media timeout tied the game for the first time since early in the first half, and from then on, it was back-and-forth basketball.

In the end, it was Duquesne pulling out a wild victory, 75-72.

Two of the biggest reasons the Dukes were able to finagle their way back into the game were Hughes and Sincere Carry, who missed the VCU game Jan. 26 with knee discomfort.

At halftime, Hughes and Carry combined for two points.

By the game’s end, they would combine for 36.

Hughes caught fire from downtown in the game’s latter 20 minutes, sinking five 3-pointers on 10 attempts.

Carry, meanwhile, led with defensive effort that turned into points on the offensive end. The rough-and-tumble freshman guard made all eight of his second-half free throw attempts, including two with under a minute left in regulation, to help seal the victory.

The win ties Duquesne’s best comeback win in 21 years, dating back to a 1997-98 contest versus Radford when the Dukes came back from a 19-point deficit. This year alone, Duquesne now possesses five double-digit comeback wins.

Perhaps more importantly, the win ended a streak of eight straight Rhode Island wins at the Palumbo Center, with the Dukes last beating the Rams in Pittsburgh on Jan. 10, 2001.

Historically speaking, and within the context of Duquesne’s current season, it was one hell of a win.

“I’ve coached close to 700 games … I’ve never seen one like that,” Dambrot remarked.

Neither have any Duquesne fans — at least, since the 1997-98 season.

The win caps off a 2-1 homestand for the team over Atlantic 10 pedigree programs Saint Louis, VCU and Rhode Island, catapulting the Dukes into a Feb. 2 showdown at Dayton (14-7, 6-2 A-10).

After that, the 15-6 Dukes (6-2 A-10) will return home on Feb. 6 to face St. Bonaventure (8-12, 4-3 A-10).

While a 6-2 start to conference play is definitely something for Duquesne to be proud of, it can’t stop winning now if its to reach its full potential.

Dambrot echoed that sentiment postgame.

“I probably want Duquesne to win worse than anybody just because I know the history,” Dambrot said. “I told our guys … I didn’t come here just to be good. Let’s quit messing around, and let’s try to win championships.”

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