Dambrot Hopes Win Continues to Awaken ‘Sleeping Giant’ Duquesne

Dukes take down Atlantic 10’s top team at Palumbo

Josh Rowntree
January 24, 2019 - 12:56 am
Duquesne Dukes head coach Keith Dambrot gestures on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at PPG Paints Arena. Pittsburgh won 74-53.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Keith Dambrot hopes this is just the start. He hopes others begin to take notice, as well.

Duquesne overcame an eight-point deficit to topple the Atlantic 10’s top team, Saint Louis, 77-73, on Wednesday night at the A.J. Palumbo Center. 

“I give our guys credit, because that’s on old team,” Dambrot said of a Billikens squad that features four fith-year seniors. “We played against a very mature, solid group and just did enough to win.”

Duquesne’s win improves the Dukes to 14-5 this season, just the second time the program has had this good of a start since 1980. More importantly, Duquesne is now 5-1 in the A10, moving into a three-way tie for second place in the conference. 

“We’re just trying to let everyone know in the league that Duquesne is something serious,” said sophomore forward Marcus Weathers, who scored a a team-high 19 points. “We’re trying to surprise a lot of people and playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

That’s a mentality that Dambrot has tried to fully embrace, even if his team plays with more confidence than perhaps some think they should.

“I don’t know if they really care,” Dambrot said about the underdog mentality. “Our guys are so loose, I don’t know if half the time they think we’re playing at home or away. They don’t really know, they just play. So, in a lot of ways, that’s a really good thing. They don’t get nervous.”

And the most welcomed sight at all for Duquesne? A lack of empty seats. The 3,011 people were the largest to take in a Duquesne game at the Palumbo Center this year. It outdrew the Dukes’ game at PPG Paints Arena against Penn State. Only the City Game, against rival Pitt, drew more as far as games played in Pittsburgh.

“The crowd was terrific,” Dambrot said. “I’m a perfectionist, so I’m not going to be satisfied with 3,000 people in the building. At the same token, why should they come at this point, until we prove we can win? I get that. 

“I remember when I first came, these fans said to me, ‘look, I had season tickets for 35 years but couldn’t do it anymore.’ What am I supposed to say to that? I don’t blame them. They hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament. So, until we prove our worth, that’s what we’re going to get.”

So, while Dambrot appreciates the crowd, he and his players are wanting more. 

“It was great,” said freshman guard Sincere Carry, who scored ten points, dished out seven assists and helped contribute to a defensive effort that forced 23 turnovers on the night. “We feed off the energy that the fans brought today. We loved it. If we keep winning games, we hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Dambrot’s impact was gaining focus a year ago, when the Dukes went 16-16. But, after being picked to finished 11th in the Atlantic 10, a win over a previously unbeaten-in-conference opponent, like Saint Louis, is another massive step. 

“I came here because I thought the reward was way more than the risk,” Dambrot said. “And I felt like Duquesne was a sleeping giant… For me to leave my hometown, I had to believe that I could win.

“We’re better than we were when we started. Now the key now is, how far can we go from now until March and do we have the practice fortitude to get better. Because we have to get better.”

Duquesne still has more to prove and will get the chance. The Dukes next play perennial A10 contender VCU on Saturday, followed by a matchup with Rhode Island, a team that was an at-large NCAA tournament team a year ago. Sneaking up on teams is no longer feasible. 

“A lot of people are going to keep being surprised by us, but we’re not going to see it as a surprise,” Weathers said. We envisioned everything that’s happening right now.”

Hear all of what Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot had to say following Wednesday’s win over Saint Louis.