Duquesne knew it was in for some running with Marshall coming to town, but the Dukes got it done with an all-hands-on-deck effort.
Eleven Dukes players hit the floor by the midway point of the first half, and 10 of them played at least 10 minutes to keep things fresh as Duquesne went up and down the floor with Marshall for a 93-82 win Wednesday night at Palumbo Center.
It was the perfect bounce-back for the Dukes' loss in the City Game against Pitt, as four players scored in double-figures, led by the career-high-tying 20 by sophomore center Michael Hughes. Freshman point guard Sincere Carry added 19 points, and junior guard Mike Lewis II began to break out of a season-long slump with 15 points, 11 of which came in rapid fashion during a 2 minute, 14 second stretch of the first half that helped the Dukes (5-2) open up an 18-point lead.
But even the players who didn't have big scoring games were contributing. Nine Dukes scored, seven of them had assists, and every player who saw the floor for Duquesne grabbed at least one rebound.
"To be honest, it all came down to those young guys, the bench," Hughes said. "Guys bodies are feeling a certain way, getting bumps and bruises throughout this stretch, and what picks that energy back up is the bench, the guys filling those minutes coming in when we're not feeling at our best all the time."
The Dukes did plenty of things well against a Thundering Herd (5-3) team that reached the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament and was averaging 87 points per game entering the contest. Duquesne shot 33 for 57 (57.9 percent) from the floor, a full 12 points better than the 28 of 61 for Marshall, which is known for its offensive prowess.
To accomplish that, the Dukes worked the ball inside. Apart from Hughes' strong night, forward Marcus Weathers added 11 points, and freshmen bigs Austin Rotroff and Amari Kelly chipped in with six and five, respectively. That took advantage of the Thundering Herd's four-guard lineup, caused foul trouble for Marshall's big men and led to a 37-31 edge on the glass.
"If we're playing all those big guys — we didn't play small one time tonight — so, if we're going to play all those big guys, then we need to rebound the ball, and we still have to do better than that," Dukes coach Keith Dambrot said. "And the other thing is, when you get the ball close to the rim, it gives you more offensive rebounding advantages, whether you're driving it to the rim or throwing it inside."
The full team effort from the Dukes included sophomore Eric Williams Jr. coming off the bench after sitting for the early portion of the game for a disciplinary reason on which Dambrot declined to elaborate. Williams delivered nine points, four rebounds and two assists in a lower-than-normal 17 minutes.
Getting productive play from so many players is something Dambrot is happy to see with up-and-downs sure to come from a young group. And as long as his players show they can handle the moment, he doesn't sound like he intends to shorten his bench.
"Kellon Taylor's going to play, too. I think all of them," Dambrot said when asked who would see time in conference play, mentioning Taylor, who just rejoined the team after the Dukes' football season ended.
The coach continued: "(Brandon) Wade, Lamar Norman, Amari, Rotroff... they all played the same pretty much, other than Sincere (33 minutes). I don't think that's going to change much. I'm still trying to figure out who the best guys are. When I say that, you guys understand that it's not necessarily the best five guys, it's the best five that play as a team the best."
So far, the deep bench is working. The Dukes now have quality non-conference wins over Marshall and handed the lone loss entering the week to Radford — which won at Notre Dame and Texas already this season — and their only losses are to two ACC teams, Notre Dame and Pitt.
With a game against Penn State at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 22 as their lone remaining major conference game before Atlantic 10 play begins, Dambrot should have time to develop his rotation further, and the Dukes could enter conference play on quite a roll.
THE BIG THREE
My top performers ...
1. Sincere Carry
Duquesne point guard
Carry stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points (on 6-for-9 shooting), seven assists, five rebounds and five steals, all without once turning the ball over.
2. Michael Hughes
Hughes has been on a roll over the past three games, scoring 59 points on 24-for-30 (80 percent) shooting from the field and bringing energy to both ends of the court.
3. C.J. Burks
The senior for the Herd led all scorers with 26 points, and he was the only Marshall starter to shoot better than 50 percent on the night — 10 for 15, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
Carry's play was outstanding, and he bounced back well from a poor shooting night (1 of 9) against Pitt last Friday.
The freshman point guard was a steady hand on the ball against Marshall's pressure, and defensively, he made life miserable for Marshall leading scorer Jon Elmore — the player who scored 27 in the Herd's tournament upset last season of No. 4 seed Wichita State — who managed 10 points on a 2-for-11 shooting night. When Dambrot made his opening comments, point guard play was the first thing on his mind.
— Matt Grubba (@Matt_Grubba) December 6, 2018
"I was trying to speed (Elmore) up and not let him play at his own pace," Carry said. "I watched a lot of film on him the last couple of days with the coaches, and he looked pretty good on tape. I just tried to make him uncomfortable. ... I could tell — as I kept pressuring him, he kept passing the ball up. He was kind of scared to bring it up."
While 19 points is nothing to shrug at, Carry did have a 32-point game already this season. But having seven assists and no turnovers seemed to be what made him happiest.
"I don't care about points. I just want to win. I'm more of a pass-first type of guy, so I wish I could get more assists to my teammates," Carry said.
While 82 points was five under Marshall's season average, the Dukes said after the game they thought their defense could have been better.
"We had a lot of mental errors throughout the game. They didn't capitalize on them, so we were lucky there, but we did not guard as well as we thought we were going to," Lewis said. "It's still a good enough job to get the win, but there's a lot we have to clean up going forward."
Dambrot got into more specifics.
"I don't want to sound negative. The last time we played them, they got 85 on us, and we were a pretty old team," Dambrot said. "They're hard, because that point guard puts severe pressure on you, and the three guards they have are all good. ... Early in the game, I think we got our hands on a lot of stuff, but then I thought — like Marcus got back-cut twice tonight, and that's ridiculous. (Marshall forward Taevion) Kinsey is a great athlete, but there's no way you should let him back-cut you because he can't score. So we just made a lot of mental mistakes, really."
Marshall made a couple pushes in the second half, closing a 48-38 lead at the break to as close as five points.
The Dukes led 89-82 with 2:10 left and the ball in their hands, trying to close out the game against increased pressure from the Herd. Carry did much of the ball handling before Williams got away a contested 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock. The shot was long, but Weathers crashed the boards hard at the back side to grab the Dukes' 10th offensive rebound of the game, giving them a fresh shot clock.
Not only did Duquesne get a chance to run more time off the clock, they finished the possession with Weathers feeding Hughes for a dunk with 1:11 left — two more points and 59 seconds taken away in crunch time.
While benching one of two returning starters from a year ago is never easy, Dambrot made the move to sit Williams for the start of the game, and while he didn't name the infraction, he hopes the message gets through to both the player and the rest of the team.
"Obviously, something happened, and that's confidential between me and him," Dambrot said. "The key to all this is having great discipline and having discipline in your program and understanding what's important and building this for the long term. You can't just let guys do what they want, period. I'm going to discipline my team when they need to be disciplined, just like I'm going to discipline my son and daughter when I don't like what they do."
Frankie Hughes got the start in place of Williams and finished with six points in 20 minutes.
THE OTHER SIDE
The Herd will go home empty on their two-game road trip north after losing Saturday at Ohio, 101-84. Their only other loss on the season was to a ranked Maryland team, and the Herd will certainly be battle-tested when they begin Conference USA play in January — Marshall still has road games at Texas A&M and Virginia this month.
The Dukes host Longwood (6-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Lancers already have one win over an Atlantic 10 team this season, having made the hour-long road trip from Farmville, Va. to pick up a 63-58 win at Richmond.
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