MBB falters down stretch, loses to Bowling Green

Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer | Despite a game-high 20 points from Leon Ayers III, Duquesne blew a late lead to Bowling Green in an eight-point loss on Wednesday. It was Ayers’ third-consecutive game with at least 20 points.

Luke Henne | Sports Editor

Dec. 2, 2021

Despite holding the lead for less than six minutes in the entire game, Bowling Green closed out Wednesday night’s meeting with Duquesne on a 12-0 scoring run to down the Dukes 78-70 at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

The loss was Duquesne’s fifth in eight games to start the campaign. The eight-point defeat also snapped the Dukes’ brief two-game winning streak.

With just under three minutes to go, Duquesne led 70-66, but would be kept off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest.

Bowling Green saw four of its players score in double figures, as Joe Reece and Kaden Metheny each recorded 15 points for the Falcons. Samari Curtis scored 14 points, while Daeqwon Plowden added 13 points of his own.

For Duquesne, 50 of its 70 points came from three players. Leon Ayers III scored a game-high 20 points, while Kevin Easley Jr. provided 18 points. Tre Williams also posted 12 points.

Head Coach Keith Dambrot was candid in describing his team’s late-game performance, citing this reality as a predominant theme early on in the season.

“This is the fourth game we’ve been in that we just didn’t make plays when it mattered,” Dambrot said. “We made no defensive plays and no offensive plays.”

Despite such dominance over the Falcons, out of the Mid-American Conference, during his prolonged tenure at Akron, Dambrot’s team came up short this time.

“Am I frustrated? My record against Bowling Green in my time at Akron was 25-2,” Dambrot said. “That’s a game we gotta win. We led the whole way. [In] the last four minutes, we did nothing.”

Williams explained that, as a team with so much roster turnover, the Dukes’ cohesion still doesn’t seem to be in place.

“It’s something we’ve got to get more comfortable with quickly,” Williams said. “We have to just know that we can trust everybody on the floor.”

Dambrot, no fan of moral victories, is still trying to use his slate of non-conference games as a way of evaluating what the best rotations are for his team moving forward.

“We’ve shown we can play close, and that we’re competitive, but we haven’t shown that we can win,” Dambrot said. “We’ve got to make some changes in order to try to win. Good teams go for the throat when you have chances. In the first eight games of the year, we’ve screwed up three, at least.”

Dambrot also said that his team was physically outmatched at points, evidenced by Bowling Green’s 49-39 advantage in total rebounds.

“They probably out-toughed us on the boards, too,” Dambrot said. “Part of that is tiredness.”

Ayers attributed the loss to a lack of mental composure.

“I think all of it is really mental at the end,” Ayers said. “It’s a discipline thing, locking in when it actually matters in the last four minutes because we’re 0-4 when we get in close games with teams.”

Ayers knows that if the first eight games have taught him anything, it’s that games that come down to the final minutes aren’t going away anytime soon.

“We just have to watch film, know what we’re doing wrong, and try to fix it for those next games,” Ayers said. “There’s gonna be way more close games that we’re gonna have to execute on. We just have to learn from it and move on.”

For the tide to turn, Dambrot echoed Ayers’ remarks about mental strength.

“I don’t know what to tell them, other than [they’ve] got to change [their] mindset,” Dambrot said. “It’s a mental toughness deal and a physical toughness deal. A lot of it’s mindset. Simple.”

Duquesne will embark on a two-game road trip. The Dukes will play at Marshall in Huntington, W.Va., on Saturday before heading to Chicago for a matchup with DePaul on Tuesday.

Saturday’s game will mark the Dukes’ third all-time meeting with the Thundering Herd. Duquesne bested Marshall in a home game in 2018-19 before falling in a neutral-site game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland the following season.