MBB beats VCU, wins second in a row

Peter Boettger | Layout/Multimedia Editor | Kareem Rozier, Tevin Brewer and Jimmy Clark III gather during Wednesday's 79-70 win over VCU at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Clark posted a career-high 26 points in the victory, while Brewer had a game-high four assists.

Luke Henne | Editor-in-chief

Jan. 05, 2023

Behind a career-high and game-high 26 points from Jimmy Clark III, the Duquesne men’s basketball team earned a 79-70 victory over VCU on Wednesday at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

The game was Clark’s first against his former team. Clark played two seasons with the Rams before spending last season at Northwest Florida, a junior college. For him, Wednesday’s game wasn’t just any other game.

“If I’m being honest, I had this marked on my calendar since the day I committed,” Clark said. “This was a big game for me. I got here way earlier than I normally do, got a couple shots, got warm and trusted in my teammates for the rest of the game … ”

His performance on Wednesday, which saw him score in double figures for the ninth-straight game, was highlighted by an emphatic dunk with 5:01 left, in which he alley-ooped the ball off the backboard to himself and slammed it home to put the Dukes up 75-59.

The dunk brought the crowd to its feet, something that also happened with nine seconds left in the game, when Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot pulled Clark so that he could receive a standing ovation.

“People might not believe it, that’s something I practice a lot,” Clark said. “The crowd was great, so I loved it. I just fed off the energy

Dambrot was complimentary of Clark’s performance at both ends of the floor. Clark also had a career-high five steals in the win.

“He plays with such freedom, both offensively and defensively, that I think if you try to limit some of the things he did, I think you would hurt him,” Dambrot said. “He couldn’t play for every coach, but he’s good for me because he’s such a freak athletically that you have to let him loose.

“He makes some plays defensively that I’ve never seen, really. He’s so instinctive.”

With the score at 7-6 at the 17:20 mark of the first half, Duquesne went on a 13-0 run to balloon the lead, and while VCU got the deficit back to within 7 points, the Rams couldn’t come any closer.

The Dukes led by as many as 22 points (30-8) in what was just their second win in 10 tries since VCU joined the Atlantic 10 Conference prior to the 2012-13 season.

Dambrot stressed that while this was not a complete game, he was happy with how his team weathered the Rams’ pushback efforts.

“The thing I’m most proud of is the resiliency we showed again when they came at us, because we knew they were going to come at us,” Dambrot said. “VCU has [had] so many years of winning that, at some point, we knew they were going to come at our throat a little bit.

“We kind of popped them in the mouth again after they got it close, and then we kind of let them back in it again. We’re still a developing team. We’re not all the way there yet, but you could see some growth.”

One area of growth he’d like to see in his team is learning how to play with a large lead.

“We’re so new that sometimes it looks like it’s a three-ring circus out there, both ends,” Dambrot said. “Other times, we look like we’re the Harlem Globetrotters. We’re going to have our inconsistencies until we really totally figure it out.

“It’s a strange team because sometimes we look so bad, and sometimes we look so great, but somehow they know how to win.”

The Dukes held the lead for 38:52 of the game’s 40 minutes, and it was Duquesne’s first-ever win over VCU in Pittsburgh.

Now sitting at 12-4 overall and 2-1 in A-10 play, Duquesne has now doubled its win outputs both in conference (one) and overall (six) from a season ago.

The Dukes will be in action on Saturday, when they begin a three-game road trip with a contest against Richmond.