Duquesne beats Rhode Island to stop 2-game losing streak

Jerry DiPaola, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·4 min read

Feb. 28—With one hour of practice, a bit of film study and more time on a bus than on a basketball court, Duquesne went from a 20-point loser Wednesday to a decisive winner Saturday.

The impressive reversal didn't surprise coach Keith Dambrot at all.

After defeating Rhode Island, 86-75, in only the second game at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, Dambrot admitted this has been a "strange season."

But he also knows that how the Dukes played in the bright, shiny confines of their new home can be repeated in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The games start Wednesday in Richmond, Va., but the Dukes (8-8, 7-7) don't play until Thursday by virtue of Saturday's victory.

The seedings and matchups won't be finalized until Monday, but Dambrot said they don't matter. "As long as we're not playing on Wednesday," he said.

Duquesne defeated Rhode Island (10-14, 7-10 ) for the second time this season, something the Dukes haven't done since 1995. The result is the ability to take some momentum and confidence into the tournament.

"We played with a little more emotion," Dambrot said. "It's amazing when you play at home in a nice building what can happen."

The Dukes lost at La Salle on Wednesday and didn't return to campus until 5 o'clock Thursday morning. Only two days later, their performance (other than the 15 turnovers) was close to how they played while winning three games in a row earlier this season. Then, they endured a 17-day covid shutdown, returned Feb. 20 and lost two in a row before Saturday.

"Every time we've had a pause, we stunk," Dambrot said.

"It's all mindset. We're good enough to win. If we feel like playing and we feel like things are going well, we're pretty good. Some days we've had trouble being motivated."

The Dukes led almost from start to finish. Rhode Island scored the game's first basket, but had no answer for Duquesne's trio of seniors: Marcus Weathers, Michael Hughes and Tavian Dunn-Martin.

Weathers scored a career-high 28 points and tied his personal best with 14 rebounds. Hughes, who's been playing with a sore back, looked healthy during his 30 minutes, putting together a stat line that included 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Dunn-Martin, a shooting guard turned into a point guard by circumstance, added 14 points, hitting 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also contributed six assists and came out of the game for only two of the 40 minutes.

All three were honored on senior night, but they will be eligible to return in 2021-2022 because the NCAA has ruled that this season doesn't count against eligibility due to the covid-19 disruptions.

"Maybe they'll have two senior nights," Dambrot said.

That's a story for another day.

For the moment, Dambrot is happy that he was able to bring along three players from the Mid-American Conference when he took the Duquesne job in 2017. Hughes and Dunn-Martin played at Akron for Dambrot; Weathers is a transfer from Miami (Ohio).

"They've done a lot for our program, all three of those guys," Dambrot said. "They pretty much made Duquesne competitive again, and a lot of the credit goes to those three guys. Hopefully, they'll play again here."

Dambrot said Dunn-Martin is the key to Duquesne getting good flow on offense.

"If he plays at a really good level like he's capable of, we have a good chance to win," he said. "When he doesn't make shots and doesn't play at a good level, we're in trouble."

Weathers was aggressive with the ball in his hands and hit 12 of 20 shots in 36 minutes.

"That's a lot of shots for somebody on my team," Dambrot said, "but he was efficient. I can't complain too much.

"He can play better defensively. I know that. We didn't get him enough rest, really.

"But he did a lot of good things. He's a hard matchup. If you put him in the right spots, he becomes very difficult."

The Dukes' 86 points were tied for their best scoring display of the season while they set season highs for overall field-goal percentage (53.4) and 3-point shooting (52.9).

"That's a boatload (of points) for us," Dambrot said.

Also, Chad Baker scored 21 points, including some late foul shots that prevented a Rhode Island comeback. The freshman from the Dominican Republic also was called for his fourth technical foul of the season after chirping at an official.

"I told him to quit speaking English, just talk Spanish," Dambrot said.

"Sometimes, we have to corral that in," Weathers said. "It gets a little toxic sometimes. But he's a fiery one."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@triblive.com or via Twitter .