Dukes have much to play for following victory over UMass

Jacob Hebda | Staff Writer

March 4, 2019

Duquesne earned a crucial victory Saturday at home against the Massachusetts Minutemen. It lifted the Dukes to 10-6 in the Atlantic 10 and 19-10 overall, tying the program’s highest win total since the 2010-11 season.

The final tally of 80-73 suggests a more comfortable win than it was in reality. Duquesne led for less than seven minutes in what was yet another thrilling double-digit comeback victory for the 2018-19 Dukes.

In many ways, this was the sort of game we’ve come to expect from Duquesne. After a stagnant first half, the Dukes responded late, making clutch shots down the stretch and ultimately getting enough defensive stops to win. That sentence could describe any of a number of Duquesne games this season, this one included.

An unsettling trend continued Saturday — poor rebounding. The Minutemen doubled up the home team on the boards, 49-24. Rashaan Holloway, listed at 6-foot 11 and 310 pounds, was particularly troublesome for the Dukes as he scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

However, Duquesne’s streaky yet potent offense again proved capable of reducing almost any deficit, no matter the size.

On Saturday, much of that offense came from Tavian Dunn-Martin. With standout freshman guard Sincere Carry missing games recently due to continuing knee issues, Coach Keith Dambrot has called upon the 5-foot-8 sophomore to fill the void left in his absence.

He may not be as tall as most of his counterparts, but that hasn’t stopped him from lighting up the floor with his skilled, passionate play.

On a day where the Dukes looked relatively unenthusiastic for long stretches, it was Dunn-Martin who kept the team afloat until they eventually found their footing.

One week after he scored a much-needed 22 points against George Mason, Dunn-Martin put up 30 against UMass. He went 9-12 from the field and converted seven of his nine three-point attempts.

Two of his makes came during a critical span in the second half. Down by three with five minutes to go, Dunn-Martin drilled a 3-pointer to knot things up at 67 points apiece.

Less than a minute later, he hit another shot from behind the arc to give Duquesne a 70-67 lead that it would not again relinquish.

Even after the outcome was clear, Dunn-Martin kept hustling. With seconds left, he stole an inbound pass by the Minutemen to run out the clock and seal the game.

The play of Dunn-Martin looked to be infectious for his team. A number of fellow Dukes made big plays in crunch time as well.

Mike Hughes, much like Dunn-Martin, effused energy when it mattered. A steal on an inbound pass and subsequent slam cut the UMass lead to five with just under seven minutes remaining. He finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Eric Williams Jr., who posted 12 points and seven rebounds, tipped in an alley-oop pass from Dunn-Martin to extend the Dukes’ lead with only 3:30 to go.

Marcus Weathers, not known for his outside shooting, nailed a three-pointer late. Then, with about thirty seconds left, he completed a dunk in transition that all but put the game away.

It may have been a sloppy win, but it was a win nonetheless. As a result, Duquesne is still very much in the mix for a much-coveted double-bye in the A-10 Tournament.

The Dukes will travel to Missouri on Wednesday to face the Saint Louis Billikens before returning home to host the Dayton Flyers on Saturday. Both opponents are also in contention for a double-bye, making these matchups even more compelling.

Furthermore, if Duquesne were to win both games, it would tie the program’s highest win total (21) since the turn of the century.

As Duquesne’s regular season comes to a close against Dayton on March 9, so does the team’s time in A.J. Palumbo Center. The facility will be undergoing extensive renovations this offseason as it becomes the UPMC Chuck Cooper Fieldhouse, likely making this the last time the men’s program will play in Palumbo.

So, suffice it to say, this week will be replete with intriguing storylines for Duquesne. It will be fun to see how it all plays out.