MBB orders up home victory, snaps skid

Peter Boettger | Layout/Multimedia Editor | Duquesne’s Austin Rotroff completes a dunk in the Dukes’ 72-58 victory over Loyola of Chicago at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse Wednesday night. Rotroff had 8 points and five rebounds in the win.

Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief

Jan. 26, 2023

The Duquesne men’s basketball team erased a 9-point halftime deficit en route to defeating Loyola of Chicago 72-58 at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse Wednesday night.

The Dukes trailed the Ramblers 40-31 at the break, but used a 41-18 second half to earn the double-digit victory, the team’s first win since defeating Saint Joseph’s Jan. 11.

One of the game’s biggest stories was not game-related. With 16:10 remaining in the game, a food delivery person walked onto the court with a beverage and a drink to be delivered, prompting an abrupt stoppage in play.

“Only at Duquesne can a guy deliver food on the court during the game,” Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot said.

Dambrot added that he didn’t notice the incident when it happened.

“I just saw the video after the game,” Dambrot said. “Our guys were dying laughing in [the locker room]. Guy had a job to do. He did his job well.”

Duquesne forward Austin Rotroff, who had 8 points and a team-high-tying five rebounds in the win, was in the action when it happened. However, he didn’t see it either.

“I know I was on the court because I had people texting me,” Rotroff said. “I checked my phone and I had a bunch of people text me about it because I was in the clip, but I didn’t notice it in the game at all. I’ll have to rewatch the footage and see what he could’ve done better.”

As for the game, the Ramblers led by as many as 11 points in the first half. The Dukes’ victory marked the 20th win under Dambrot in which the team erased a double-digit deficit.

“I give our guys a lot of credit because it was a rough first half,” Dambrot said, “but we did a great job defensively in the second half, and then made enough plays when it really mattered to win the game.”

Rotroff said that, coming out of the locker room for the second half, the team knew they just needed “to get the offense going a little more.”

“In the first half, we had stretches of really good defensive play, but the offense stagnated a little bit,” Rotroff said. “It was mainly about the offensive end and just to keep it up on defense, and I think we did a good job at the beginning of the second half … We chipped away at that lead and got our confidence up on offense, and were able to get it done.”

Loyola of Chicago did not score its first points of the second half until the 13:05 mark. Duquesne paired strong defense with a 10-0 scoring run to begin the second half to secure the win and snap a two-game skid.

Dambrot said that the key to the victory came in the aforementioned stretch that opened the second half.

“Had it gone the other direction, we lose,” Dambrot said. “Had the game gone from [9-point deficit] to 12 or 14, then that’s an issue. But, instead, we hit the 3 immediately, so we’re right in it. That changed the mental flow of the game.”

Although Rotroff only played 14 minutes in the game, Dambrot praised his fifth-year forward’s performance, saying that there’s “no better person in the world” than him.

“I know that sounds cliche-ish, so whatever, but he’s an unreal human being,” Dambrot said. “Everybody in the locker room loves him, regardless of whether they play the same position, freshman, sophomore, old. He’s a guy that’s hard not to like.

“So when he plays well, you feel good about it, because guys like him deserve to play well. They come to work every day. They put their work in. They’re great teammates. I can’t say enough good things about him. If he doesn’t exemplify what a top-flight student-athlete is, then I can’t think of anybody that could be better than him.”

Philip Alston, who transferred to Loyola of Chicago from nearby California University of Pennsylvania (Division II) prior to this season, had a game-high 25 points.

Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III both scored a team-high-tying 13 points for Duquesne, while Rodney Gunn Jr. (12 points) and Tevin Brewer (10 points) also scored in double figures.

The Dukes will return to action on the road Saturday, when they take on UMass.

The Minutemen were the only Atlantic 10 Conference team that lost to Duquesne last season.

UMass defeated Richmond Wednesday night. The Minutemen have not won back-to-back games since beating Harvard (Dec. 2) and Albany (Dec. 5).

*Note: Gabriel Welsch, Duquesne’s vice president of marketing and communications, later provided a statement regarding the food delivery incident. It reads as follows:

“We do not know the delivery driver’s identity presently.

“As you would probably expect, we strive to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for guests and participants at all events on our campus. We also rely on common courtesy and the civility of those in attendance to adhere to the guidelines that are in place.

“This was a prank, planned in advance, done for internet exposure. We determined that the individual was wearing a mic while someone filmed him as he walked onto the court during active play. While the incident may have seemed funny at the time, and no harm was done, we are mindful that incidents like this can put players and officials at risk.

“The university has reviewed its safety protocols and tightened its security measures to ensure conditions for our players and fans are safe and meet the standards for the highest level of competition in college basketball.”