Michael O’ Grady | Staff Writer
Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot might not like it when his team “mud wrestles,” but Wednesday night he conceded Duquesne’s dogfighting style of play was necessary in order to beat a tough Chicago State team at Cooper Fieldhouse, 65-60 — and to keep afloat his own team that is struggling offensively.
“Their quickness bothered us,” Dambrot said, “We just hung in there and mud-wrestled. We were good enough defensively to win and made plays when it mattered, but I think all our games are gonna kinda be like that until we start making a couple.”
It was not a game that was easy on the eyes. The Dukes and Cougars combined for 28 turnovers, many of which were on transitional errors in no-man’s land. Duquesne had a second straight stinker from behind the arc, making three-of-20, including an 0-for-nine second half. Both teams rebounded well at both ends, but possession was decided by tips and deflections rather than clean catches.
Dae Dae Grant, coming off the bench as he recovers from a concussion, reminded everyone who he is with a team-leading 17 points in 30 minutes and a share of clutch plays down the stretch. Jimmy Clark was right behind him with 16 points, and Fousseyni Drame bounced back from a rough first half defensively to finish with a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds. On the losing side, Chicago State’s Jahsean Corbett put in an enormous effort in nearly 37 minutes. He finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and shot 11-for-16. He was one of just seven Cougars to see playing time.
“We did a good job, we kinda played two guys on him,” Dambrot said of Corbett. “We’ve had trouble with bigger, stronger guys, and they played half the game with Corbett at the five. That’s a tough matchup, because he’s a perimeter guy that can maul you inside as well.”
Duquesne started the game holding the Cougars in check, but continued their trend of having trouble offensively in the first half. The Dukes scored on a steady diet of free throws and layups, and didn’t hit a jump shot until Clark drained a three 12 minutes in. Chicago State found points cutting inside and challenging Drame, yet at the first half buzzer, the score was a lowly 28-28.
When asked about the recent string of low-scoring starts, Dambrot insisted his team could ascend to a higher gear but praised the defensive effort. “I think we’re better offensively than we’ve shown, I do. I don’t think we’re as bad as we look right now, but at least we have an identity right now.”
The scoring ramped up in the second half, and seemed to explode after Chicago State’s Cameron Jerrigan threw down a thrilling one-handed dunk six minutes in. From there, the game resembled a normal basketball game. As the teams traded leads, it was Grant and Drame who found their games midway through the half, Drame especially. Their combined effort put the Dukes ahead down the stretch.
“Credit to Fous,” Clark said. “Coach got on him at halftime, and he ended up with a double-double.”
The Cougars, avoiding Drame’s newfound net presence, got hot from three and tied it at 57 with two minutes left. Drame scored in response, and Clark iced the game when he forced a steal and scored on the ensuing possession. Free throws from both teams would make up the final score of 65-60.
Two telling stats of the game were Duquesne’s 18-9 advantage in second-chance points and their 41 bench points compared to Chicago State’s 4, 37 of those points coming from Grant, Drame and David Dixon.
“Well, Dixon’s one of our best players,” Dambrot said of the bench’s impact. “He certainly is a starter and the only reason we don’t start him is because he fouls so much that I’m scared to death we won’t be able to get him in. But you figure you’re playing Drame, Dixon and Dae Dae off the bench, it’s almost like three starters, so you should score more off the bench.”
With the win, the Dukes move to 12-8 and finish their non-conference schedule, going an impressive 10-3 in those games. They resume their Atlantic-10 Conference schedule on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Rhode Island, and they return home on Wednesday night for Davidson, who they are 1-11 against since 2015.