Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief
March 23, 2023
The Duquesne men’s basketball team ended its season Sunday with an 84-78 loss to Rice in the first round of the Discount Tire College Basketball Invitational.
Although the Dukes — the No. 5 seed in the postseason tournament — improved from six wins in 2021-22 to 20 wins in 2022-23, they also dropped three games in a row to end this season.
Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot — rounding out his sixth season at the helm — said that his team competed, saying that was “the best thing we did.”
“We tried to win, we tried to give our best effort,” Dambrot told Mid-Major Madness. “Obviously disappointed with how we played the last three games. I think that’s something we have to really work on.
“I think it was the first time for a lot of these guys playing deep into the season with meaningful games, and we just have to learn to get through the grind of it. We certainly didn’t play our best basketball at the end of the year, which is something that we’re going to have to really analyze and understand and see why.”
The Dukes played from behind for much of the game, never leading by more than 4 points against the No. 12-seeded Owls. Duquesne’s Dae Dae Grant led all scorers in the game with 28 points.
Duquesne — picked to finish last in the 15-team Atlantic 10 Conference at the start of the season — finished sixth in the conference, bowing out to No. 11-seeded La Salle in the second round of the conference tournament.
Despite the end-of-season struggles, the Dukes participated in a postseason tournament for the first time since 2015-16, when they also competed in the CBI.
“We took a step up, there’s no doubt,” Dambrot said. “I was proud of the step we took. I wish we would’ve finished it a little stronger, but again, you have to look at the big picture of things.
“This is probably the first time for most of these guys that they’ve ever been in big games in February and March. We didn’t react well to it, but I think the next time we have the opportunity, we obviously will be a little more prepared for it.”
Dambrot relied heavily on transfers this season. His top three scorers (Grant, Jimmy Clark III and Joe Reece) all transferred to Duquesne prior to this season.
“I think, with another good recruiting class, that we can take another jump,” Dambrot said. “We’ve got good people in the locker room. We’ve got high character.”
Dambrot emphasized the perspective that comes following a season-ending loss, especially in a postseason tournament.
“I guess there’s a couple different ways you can look at it,” Dambrot said. “If you win the tournament, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be great next year. And if you lose the tournament, it’s not like losing an NCAA Tournament game or an NIT game.
“Obviously we try to win every time we go out, but really, it probably is going to have very little effect on next year’s team. So we just have to learn how to play a little bit better at the end of the year.”
The Dukes went on multiple scoring runs throughout the game, but couldn’t maintain the momentum for prolonged stretches.
“I think that’s probably our biggest issue, is that we’ve been a little bit inconsistent,” Dambrot said. “We’ve been consistently inconsistent. Sometimes we play really good, and then other times we make mistakes.
“We had opportunities to win the game and just didn’t make enough plays when it really mattered. But we have to really work on our consistency next year. And that’s discipline. That’s defensive toughness.”
Some players like Reece and Austin Rotroff (among others) are set to graduate and move on. Some standout contributors like Grant and Clark III have remaining eligibility and, barring anything unforeseen, will return to Duquesne next season and will project to be key veteran players.
Dambrot complimented Grant’s growth this season, and he expects more to come.
“I’m proud of Dae Dae,” Dambrot said. “He’s competed. He’s been a good leader all year. I think his game jumped this season from when he was at Miami (Ohio).
“I still think he has a lot of upside to really improve. I think he can get stronger. I think he’ll get better with a lot of different areas, but he tried to do what we asked on a consistent basis.”