Duquesne knew the challenge it was facing. It’s very hard to travel to VCU and defeat the Rams. Even harder when you consider that Duquesne had never defeated them up to that point. And when the Dukes trailed by 12 with a little over 8 minutes to play, it seemed almost a certain defeat.
But, as Duquesne has shown so many times throughout this season, they are resilient. They took the challenge full steam, kept fighting, and found themselves leaving with an 11th victory in A-10 play, a school record.
The game on Tuesday was in a way a microcosm for this entire Duquesne season, a season that was not set up to be a successful one. It started in the off-season, when the Dukes lost their leading scorer from last year Eric Williams Jr., who transferred to Oregon. Duquesne has also, as most already know, found themselves playing their home games in three different locations this year too. Certainly not an ideal situation.
And let’s keep in mind Duquesne was picked 8th in the preseason poll.
Yet, with just one game left in the regular season, Duquesne finds themselves with one of the best seasons the program has had in the past 50 years.
The Dukes have achieved so much this season that it is hard to pick which stats to share. Their 21-8 record is the best the program has had through 29 games since 1962. The eleven A-10 wins they currently have are the most in a season ever for the program. And their 6 road wins in conference play are additionally a program record.
The stat that I cling to though is that under coach Keith Dambrot, the Dukes are 8-1 in overtime games. They are 3-0 this season in such games, two of which were on the road against St. Bonaventure and VCU. That’s pretty impressive.
For some, this could be an opportunity to look ahead to next season. To acknowledge that all of the starters and a majority of the role players will return for Duquesne next season. That they have a strong recruiting class coming in. That the situation will be perfect.
But for Dambrot and this Duquesne team, they are fully focused on the present, and they know that this is the time to give everything they can.
“It’s time now, we gotta go, because we are capable of winning and playing better.” Those were the words of Dambrot before the VCU game.
What Dambrot expects of his team is to play as hard as they can, and to battle through the adversity. When that happens, as seen on Tuesday, winning is usually the byproduct.
So as the Dukes get ready to play their final game of the regular season, and prepare for the A-10 tournament, they will be keeping those words of Dambrot close. They know what they are capable of doing. They know who they are capable of being.
Seeing Duquesne near the top of the standings, and seeing them compete for a double-bye in the A-10 tournament are not things that we usually find ourselves saying. But with the direction this program is going, and the culture Keith Dambrot is building, Duquesne is set for many years of success. What we are witnessing now is just the beginning.