Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Key to Success for Dukes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Key to Success for Dukes

Article excerpt

The Atlantic 10 Conference has no teams ranked in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll. But the level of Duquesne's competition in league play will rise significantly from its soft non-conference schedule.

The Dukes head into conference play at home Saturday against Dayton, with a 9-4 record after splitting two games last week in Las Vegas. They are only one victory away from their win total from a season ago (10-22), a year in which the Dukes went 3-15 in the Atlantic 10 and were eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament by Saint Louis.

This season, Duquesne, which ranks 340th out of 351 Division I teams in Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), is holding opponents to 63.8 points per game and 29.4 percent from 3-point range. But the Dukes only shoot 41.2 percent from the field. They know defense will be the key to any success they have, and that was evident in the two games in Las Vegas.

In a 67-65 win Dec. 22 against San Francisco, Duquesne led by nine at halftime before poor defense and shooting droughts helped the Dons take the lead three times in the final five minutes.

"We acted like we had never guarded anybody in our life," first-year coach Keith Dambrot said Thursday.

One day later against Southern Illinois, Duquesne wasn't so lucky. The Salukis outscored the Dukes, 9-0, in the final 1:40, dealing Duquesne a 74-64 loss in its final non-conference matchup.

"We feel like we're going to be in 12 or 14 close games in the last eight minutes," said Dambrot, who hopes to keep pace with opponents by keeping them out of the 70s. "And we have to do a better job from the 10-minute mark to the four-minute mark in order to win.

"We're going to have to grind it out and sort of be the ugly duckling in order to win."

Sophomore guard Mike Lewis II, who leads the team with 16.5 points per game, said defense will have to carry the Dukes down the stretch if shooting dries up. …

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