Luke Henne | Sports Editor
Jan. 27, 2022
The Duquesne men’s basketball team progressed through its Atlantic 10 Conference portion of the schedule with a pair of games this past week.
The Dukes hosted St. Bonaventure at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Friday night before traveling to Hagan Arena in Philadelphia for a road contest with Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday night.
Friday night’s home contest saw the Dukes fall to the Bonnies 64-56. Despite trailing by as many as 16 points (23-7) during the first half and 11 points (33-22) at halftime, Duquesne rallied to trim St. Bonaventure’s lead to three (42-39) with 12:12 left in the game. The Dukes then got as close as five (57-52) with 4:10 remaining.
When it mattered most, however, Duquesne only converted on two of its final seven field-goal attempts. This stretch of misses included four unsuccessful attempts from beyond the arc.
After losing by 20 points (72-52) to Dayton on Jan. 15, Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot said there were some positives to take out of the loss against St. Bonaventure — his team’s third in a row.
“You’re looking at a very inexperienced team against a very experienced team [in St. Bonaventure],” Dambrot said. “We showed a little bit better fight, and I certainly thought we played a better brand.”
Dambrot cited his team’s first-half performance and the inability to make shots in the game’s final stretch as the main factors that led to defeat.
“When it mattered, we didn’t make,” Dambrot said. “We showed some progress. In my heart of hearts, I don’t think we’re that far away. I don’t think we’re good, right now, but I don’t think we’re that far away from being a competitive team.”
Primo Spears, who scored in double figures (18 points) for the 11th time in 16 games this season, said that he believes the key to success moving forward is sustaining momentum for an entire game, not just in brief stints.
“I thought we played good in spurts,” Spears said. “We’ve just got to focus on playing a solid 40 minutes of basketball.”
Wednesday’s game provided Duquesne with an opportunity to secure a road victory against a Saint Joseph’s team that had lost five of its prior six games following an 83-56 dismantling of Richmond on Dec. 30.
Despite trailing 54-53 with just under nine minutes to go, Saint Joseph’s used a 19-7 run to close out the game and earn a 72-61 win. The win helped the Hawks snap a brief two-game skid against the Dukes, which dated back to Jan. 8, 2020.
The Dukes trailed by as many as 16 (36-20) with 2:21 remaining in the first half, but found themselves up by as many three (46-43) with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game.
“I thought we made a good comeback,” Dambrot said. “[But] we haven’t shown that we can consistently close anything though, so you can’t feel too good about yourself until you can consistently close something.”
With the loss, Duquesne has now lost 22 of its 26 all-time road games against Saint Joseph’s. The loss also pushed Duquesne’s losing streak to four-consecutive games, which is tied for the team’s longest this season (from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20).
After scoring a combined two points in Duquesne’s last two games prior to Wednesday, Jackie Johnson III bounced back with a 19-point effort. Eleven of Johnson’s 19 points came in the second half, but he was kept off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game following a successful free-throw attempt with 12:41 left in the contest.
After a made layup from Spears cut the Hawks’ lead to three (59-56) with 6:39 remaining, the Dukes were able to muster just two made field goals for the remainder of the game. One of those was a 3-pointer from Tre Williams with 25 seconds left.
“I feel like we kind of lost our mental toughness, our will to win,” Dambrot said.
While nursing a six-point lead with just under five minutes remaining, Saint Joseph’s turned to Ejike Obinna, who made a layup and three dunks to help push the Hawks’ lead back into double digits for good.
The Hawks used a balanced scoring attack in the 11-point victory. All five of the team’s starters scored in double figures, with Jordan Hall pacing the lineup with 18 points.
“I’m just disappointed that we just couldn’t finish the job,” Dambrot said. “I mean, we’ve just got to do better.”
Duquesne will return home to take on Saint Louis at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
The Dukes have won 10 of their last 15 meetings against the Billikens. That stretch began on Feb. 27, 2014, when Duquesne won a road game against a Saint Louis team that was ranked No. 10 in the nation.
The two teams were scheduled to meet last season on Dec. 30, 2020, in St. Louis, Mo. However, the game was postponed and ultimately never played due to Covid-19-related issues.