Duquesne hoops team drops key game at La Salle

Luke Henne | Asst. Sports Editor

Feb. 25, 2021

Sloppy and careless play — headlined by a season-high-tying 17 turnovers and a Michael Hughes second-half ejection — were detrimental to Duquesne in an 85-65 loss to La Salle at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

One would imagine it would take a lot to frustrate Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot, who is currently coaching in his 19th season at the Division I level. Dambrot, however, certainly did not hold back following the loss.

“We were just no good. It’s probably as poorly as I’ve ever had a team play. We can’t make any excuses. It’s probably one of the worst games we’ve ever played,” Dambrot said in his postgame press conference.

The loss — Duquesne’s sixth-consecutive road defeat at La Salle — may serve as a wake-up call for the Dukes (7-8, 6-7 Atlantic 10), who were brought together for a postgame teaching moment by their head coach.

“We talked about trust, loyalty and commitment. We defined those terms. Because when things go poorly, you find out who’s really committed. We just have to be more mature. We weren’t very mature tonight,” Dambrot said.

Perhaps the immaturity Dambrot was referencing was best displayed just under six minutes into the second half, when Hughes swatted a ball out-of-bounds and proceeded to taunt La Salle’s David Beatty, prompting the refs to issue Hughes his second technical foul of the evening, which subsequently resulted in his ejection.

Dambrot knew that Hughes’ departure, which came when the Dukes trailed 46-38 and were still within striking distance of the Explorers, was particularly consequential.

“Emotionally, you can’t get technical fouls and get kicked out of the game. That hurts us. I love Mike Hughes, but we just have to quit talking,” Dambrot explained.

From there, the Explorers (9-14, 6-10) never faltered, outscoring the Dukes 39-27 down the stretch. La Salle, led by Beatty’s 22 points, shot 47.8% from 3-point range and connected on an impressive 81.5% of its shots from the charity stripe.

Dambrot took responsibility for his team’s performance, being careful to not make excuses, but also clarifying that “it’s hard to judge anything” based off one outing and that “nothing surprises [him] this year.”

The loss, which was Duquesne’s second-consecutive defeat following an 18-day, COVID-induced layoff, was certainly littered with poor individual performances, but to Dambrot, it is just another quirk in an unprecedented season.

“It’s just a weird year. You can’t judge what layoffs do to different teams. We played decent against Richmond, and we were no good tonight. Once we lost Mike [Hughes], we went in the toilet,” Dambrot said.

Marcus Weathers led the Dukes with 23 points — one shy of his season-high — while also adding a team-high-tying four rebounds. With 11 points each, Toby Okani and Andre Harris were the only other Duquesne players to score in double figures.

“He [Weathers] tries every night. We had some guys try pretty hard. We just ran in mud and then we played really dumb, too. Fast and dumb and inconsistent. We just played like it was the first game we’d ever played together,” Dambrot remarked.

For Duquesne, there is no time to waste in regrouping. The Dukes will host Rhode Island at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Saturday night — their final regular-season contest — prior to heading to Richmond, Va., for next week’s A-10 Conference Tournament.

Duquesne defeated the Rams on Jan. 20 at La Roche University’s Kerr Fitness Center by a 71-69 score. Due to scheduling adjustments recently made by the conference, Rhode Island will come to Pittsburgh for the second time in just over a month.

“Each game is a mutually-exclusive event and so is each practice,” Dambrot said. “Maybe a good old-fashioned ass-kicking might be good for them. Or maybe it won’t be.

“We’re gonna find out how much fight they really have.”