MBB falls to Richmond, drops sixth straight

Peter Boettger | Staff Writer | Duquesne’s Kevin Easley Jr. attempts to break out of a double team set up by Richmond’s Grant Golden and Nick Sherod. Easley had six points, eight rebounds and three assists in the defeat.

Brentaro Yamane | Layout Editor

Feb. 3, 2022

After the Duquesne men’s basketball team lost its final five games in January, February afforded the squad with the opportunity to get a fresh start heading into the season’s final stretch.

Entering Tuesday night’s home contest against Richmond, the Spiders had won their previous three Atlantic 10 Conference road games (at Fordham, La Salle and Rhode Island). That provided the Dukes with a chance to snap Richmond’s streak.

Unfortunately, for Duquesne, things did not work out in its favor.

The Spiders fell behind early on the road but managed to come back and pull out a 74-57 win at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Although the Spiders committed 14 turnovers, they were able to make their shots. They were 13-of-24 (54.2%) from 3-point range and 26-of-52 (50%) overall.

One of the obstacles that Duquesne has had a tough time overcoming this season is keeping a lead.

Despite holding an advantage that was as large as nine points (26-17) during the first half, the Dukes let the Spiders creep back into the game. With just over two minutes remaining in the half,

Duquesne watched that nine-point edge turn into a two-point deficit when Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 15-4 run for the Spiders.

Duquesne’s Toby Okani hit a jumper with 1:20 left to even the score at 32, but Richmond grabbed the momentum right back before heading into the locker room at halftime.

Richmond’s Isaiah Wilson — a Pittsburgh native — stole the ball from Duquesne’s Primo Spears and dished it off to Tyler Burton, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Spiders a 35-32 advantage.

With game highs in both points (18) and rebounds (12), Burton finished the 17-point victory with a double-double.

At the beginning of the second half, it looked like Duquesne would stick around, as Tre Williams converted a layup just 19 seconds into the half to bring the deficit down to a single point.

After that scoring play, however, the Spiders used a 22-2 run that was not halted until the 11:24 mark to make the score 57-36 and put the game out of reach entirely. Richmond’s largest lead was by 22 points (60-38) at the 10:57 mark of the second half.

In Duquesne’s past five games, it has only averaged 55.8 points per game. Head Coach Keith Dambrot knows that the teams needs to score more points and hinted that the Dukes might need to add a player or two to provide more of a scoring surge.

“We got to keep developing guys. There’s no question about that, but we have to add to what we have. We clearly don’t have enough, right?” Dambrot said. “So clearly we don’t have enough because this [Richmond] was the same team that we beat last year in the [A-10] tournament. Exactly the same team, right?

“And we played pretty close with them most of the time we played them, you know, but tonight we played pretty good for only 16, 18 minutes.”

With the Dukes having dropped their sixth in a row, the focus for Dambrot is shifting toward finding a way to get his players to overcome the adversity that they are dealing with.

“I thought we were better than this. Honestly, I really did,” Dambrot said. “But we’ve had a lot of stuff that happened. And I think [with] a lot of stuff, the mentality has affected us. When you lose as many of those close games as we lost in the way we lost them, emotionally, that’s hard now.”

After Tuesday’s night game, Dambrot now has a record of 71-60 (.542) during his Duquesne tenure. Although it seems that this season has been a roller coaster, Dambrot continues to enjoy his job and is determined to find a way to get the program back to a position in which it can win games on a consistent basis.

“The school’s been great,” Dambrot said. “They’ve been good to me. They understand what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s all you can ever ask for from the people you work for.

“Believe me, it’s not easy for them. They can get skittish. I get it. I wouldn’t even blame them, to be honest with you. I get it. That’s what this world is.”

Duquesne — currently 1-6 in A-10 action and 6-13 overall — will have a chance to break its losing streak on Saturday, when it travels to Richmond, Va., to take on VCU.

While things are looking tough for the team at the moment, Dambrot is committed to ensuring that the Dukes will continue to progress and refrain from relenting before the conference tournament begins in just over a month.

“Don’t quit because, again, we all know this,” Dambrot said. “We’ve all been through tough times, so you better learn, better learn how to handle them for the rest of your life because there’s going to be another one and another one.”