Men’s hoops off to rocky start in conference play

Photo courtesy of Luke Henne | Keith Dambrot meets with his team in the first half.

Jack Morgan | Staff Writer

Things haven’t exactly started as planned for the Dukes this season in Atlantic-10 Conference play, as they committed 18 turnovers and shot a measly 39.4% from the field in a gut-wrenching 72-67 loss to the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers on Saturday night at Gentile Arena.

The loss, coupled with a defeat in the A-10 opener at UMass, drops Duquesne to 9-5 overall and 0-2 in conference play.

After both sides traded turnovers early, Duquesne got going, and outscored the 10-5 Ramblers, 22-13 from 16:41 to the 5:30 mark of the first half. The highlight of this run was at the 10:44 mark of the half when Chabi Barre got his only 2 points of the game working hard on the glass for a put-back score. Even after Miles Rubin hammered it home on the other end, the Dukes responded with a highlight reel alley-oop pass from Kareem Rozier to David Dixon.

However, their lead evaporated in just over three minutes, as the Ramblers shot ahead with a 12-4 run. Duquesne was able to scrape together a complete final 2 minutes of the half to take a 40-36 lead into the break.

Dixon was a bright spot throughout this one for Duquesne, especially in the first half. He scored 12 of his career-high 19 points in the first half, and contributed seven rebounds in 26 minutes. He got into foul trouble, however, limiting him on defense in some situations in the second half.

The Dukes’ grip on the game slowly slipped away in the later stages. The Dukes and Ramblers exchanged blows, as the Duquesne lead bounced between 3 to 5 points often in the first 10 minutes.

However, that’s when things turned for the worse for Duquesne. Des Watson hit a 3-pointer for Loyola-Chicago to give them a 54-52 lead. The lead was on a seesaw, shifting back and forth six times between the 10 and 5-minute marks in the second half. Loyola took the lead for good after a Watson jumper. They outscored the Dukes 11-7 in the final 5:17 of the game to secure a narrow five-point victory.

Duquesne did not shoot well from three on the day, shooting six-of-21 beyond the arc. Loyola was not much better, however, shooting 25%. But the Ramblers were the superior team in the paint, outscoring the Dukes by 6.

Part of the reason why they held that advantage was because of the play by their big guys. Philip Alston, the 6-foot 6-inch 235 pound forward, was a big contributor on Saturday, scoring a team-high 17 points. He was a dominant force in the paint, pushing around Duquesne’s defenders and forcing them to commit fouls profusely. Dixon and Barre both had four fouls in the game. Dame Adelekun also was another forward force inside for the Ramblers. He had 10 of his 15 points in the first half.

Aside from Dixon’s production, Duquesne couldn’t rely on explosive scoring from the guards like normal. Jimmy Clark III had a rough second half that ended with several crucial turnovers in the waning minutes, and Dae Dae Grant’s 13 point-performance was far shy of the standard he had established in the early season.

He had a rough day in terms of efficiency, shooting 4-of-17 from the field and 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. Rozier pulled into double digits on the night, scoring 11 points and five assists.

Dusan Mahorcic did not play, despite having made his season debut against Santa Clara in late December. The graduate transfer is recovering from a knee injury, and adds further complications to the frontcourt situation. Despite starting the game, Barre did not play at all in the second half, perhaps an indication of Head Coach Keith Dambrot’s vision for the future of the frontcourt.

Duquesne has lost three straight games against Division I opposition, and perhaps their toughest test of the season comes on Friday. Duquesne will come back home for their A-10 home opener against Dayton. Non-student tickets are sold out, and the first 750 students will be admitted into the game.