The 2017-18 Duquesne Dukes experienced a resurgence under first year head coach Keith Dambrot, finishing with 16 victories, including a Palumbo Center record 13 at home. Along the way, Dambrot’s Dukes proved they could hold their own with any team in the Atlantic 10 Conference in finishing with seven league wins.
Dambrot, who inherited a team coming off a 10-22 season (3-15 in the A-10), guided DU to seven consecutive December wins, including a 67-65 victory over CBI runner-up San Francisco at the Las Vegas Classic.
The Dukes were 5-2 in the A-10, before a number of hard-luck losses prevented an upper half of the conference finish.
Duquesne rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to force overtime in a 77-73 loss to Richmond. DU led by 15 with 15:51 left, then rallied from a six-point deficit with 2:10 to go to tie it at #24 (AP) Rhode Island, only to see URI - the A-10 regular season champion - hit a 3-pointer at the final horn for the win. Duquesne erased a 13-point first half deficit versus second-place St. Bonaventure, before Jaylen Adams - the A-10 co-Player of the Year - hit a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to send the Dukes to a three-point defeat. In the rematch, DU trailed by two with 1:08 left at Reilly Center only to fall 73-67.
The season was highlighted by the play of A-10 All-Rookie Team member Eric Williams Jr. (14.3 ppg., 8.8 rpg. freshman record 67 3-pointers), grad student guard Rene Castro-Caneddy (13.3 ppg., 3.4 apg.), sophomore guard Mike Lewis II (14.4 ppg., 89 3-pointers) and junior guard Tarin Smith (12.4 ppg.), who came off the bench to become the second player in school history to be named Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year.
Tarin Smith - Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year
Eric Williams Jr. - Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team; four-time A-10 Rookie of the Week
Williams Jr. was the third-leading freshman scorer in the conference (14.3 ppg.) as well as the conference’s top freshman rebounder (8.8 rpg.). He posted six of his 11 double-doubles in league play. Smith (12.4 ppg.) came off the bench in DU’s last 28 games. He scored in double digits 12 times in conference play in becoming the second player in school history - joining Kevin Forney (2003) - to be named the A-10’s top sixth man.
• Duquesne, picked to finished 14th in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, ended the regular season tied for 10th with a 7-11 conference record. The seven league victories were the program’s most since 2011-12 (7-9). DU went 5-4 at home and 2-7 on the road in league play.
• This was the third time in 41 A-10 seasons that the Dukes opened conference 3-0 or better. The Dukes, who were 3-15 in conference play last year, went 4-1 in their first five A-10 games under first-year head coach Keith Dambrot.
• Keith Dambrot came to the Bluff after 13 highly-successful seasons at Akron, where he led the Zips to a 305-139 record (23.5 wins per season) including 10 postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 5 NIT, 1 CBI & 1 CIT). Dambrot’s 16 wins in 2017-18 were the most by a DU first-year coach since Dudey Moore went 17-5 in 1948-49. Moore coached Keith’s father, Sid, from 1952-54 during his highly-successful 10 seasons on the Bluff. There were 10 coaches between Moore and Dambrot.
• Duquesne eclipsed last year’s win total (10-22) in its 15th game - a 69-52 win over George Washington on Jan. 3 - in posting the school’s seventh-best single-season improvement in overall record (from 10-22 to 16-16).
• Duquesne held opponents to .335 from the 3-point arc. It was DU’s best 3-point defense since 1999-00 (.333).
• The Dukes held opponents to 70.2 points per game, it was the lowest opponent scoring average since 2010-11 (68.0 ppg.). It was just the second time in the past 32 years that DU held opponents under 71 points per game.
• DU had three wins when shooting under 40%. To put that in perspective, Duquesne won just three times in the previous five seasons (45 games) when shooting under 40%.
• Duquesne held three opponents under 50 points, something that was done a total of three times in the previous 18 seasons. The three opponents under 50 were the most in a season since 1979-80 (4).
• Duquesne held Fordham to 41 points in a 64-41 win at Rose Hill Gym on Jan. 6. The 41 points were the fewest by a DU opponent since a 34-33 loss to Saint Peter’s in a March 10, 1980 NIT game at Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
• Duquesne, led by Tydus Verhoeven’s freshman record nine, tied the school record for blocks in a game with 15 vs. George Mason. The 15 blocks tied the third-most in a game by a D-1 school in 2017-18.
• Duquesne ranked among the top 50 nationally in offensive rebounds per game (43rd at 12.09 rpg.) and blocked shots per game (45th at 4.38 bpg.). The blocks/g. average was the best by a DU team since 2011 (5.31).
• Duquesne went 12-2 when holding opponents under 70 points, 14-4 when leading at the half and 15-1 when leading with 5:00 left.
• DU’s three overtime games in 2017-18 were its most since a school record six in 2009-10. The 3OT win over La Salle (101-94) on Jan. 13, tied the longest game in school history (it was the fourth triple-overtime game on record and first since an 80-76 win over Notre Dame on Feb. 25, 1993).
• Duquesne’s seven-game win streak from Dec. 4 through Dec. 22 was its longest since 2010-11 (that streak was 11 in a row).
• Duquesne went 8-2 in December. The eight wins were the most in the month since the 1971-72 team went 8-0.
• DU’s 13 home wins were the most in 30 seasons of play at the Palumbo Center.
• Duquesne hit a school record 18 3-pointers (in 34 attempts) in its 97-48 win over Delaware State on Dec. 9.
• Duquesne played a school record 19 home games this season - all at Palumbo Center. The Dukes broke the Palumbo Center record for home wins (12) by going 13-6.
• Duquesne’s 23-point win at Fordham on Jan. 6 (64-41) was the school largest margin in an Atlantic 10 road game. Fordham’s 41 points were the fewest by a DU opponent since a 34-33 loss to Saint Peter’s in a March 10, 1980 NIT game at Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
• This was the first time since 1979-80 that Duquesne held at least three opponents under 50 points in a game (Delaware State 48, Mississippi Valley State 49 & at Fordham 41).
• Eric Williams Jr. finished eighth among the nation’s freshmen in rebounds per game (8.8 rpg.) and tied for tenth among Division I freshmen in double-doubles with 11. His 14 double-digit rebound games & 11 double-doubles - including six in 18 conference games - ranked second in the conference in addition to tying the DU freshman record in both categories set by Bruce Atkins in 1978-79.
• Williams Jr. (14.3 ppg., 8.8 rpg.) finished one-tenth of a point shy of becoming the second freshman in school history to lead the Dukes in both scoring and rebounding. Williams Jr., whose 14.3 points per game were second to Mike Lewis II’s 14.4 ppg., just missed joining Wayne Smith (16.6, 6.2), who accomplished the feat in 1998-99.
• Williams Jr. broke the freshman record for 3-pointers in a season 67-of-184, .364), eclipsing the old mark of 63 set by teammate Mike Lewis II last year.
• Williams Jr. finished tied for second on DU’s freshman total points list with 458. His 280 rebounds were 11 shy of passing Dick Ricketts (290 in 1952) for most by a DU freshman.
• Rene Castro-Caneddy, who entered the season with a 5.0 ppg. career scoring average, finished the year at a 13.3 ppg. He scored in double digits 21 times, and totaled 20 or more eight times. His 13.6 ppg. scoring average in conference play ranked second on the team.
• Tarin Smith, who entered this season with 21 3-pointers in 63 career games, hit 39 3-pointers in 32 games on the way to earning A-10 Sixth Man of the Year honors. Smith, who entered the season a .256 career 3-point shooter (.212 at Duquesne), shot .333 from the arc this season.
• Mike Lewis II finished the season 7th DU’s career 3-pointers list with 152. Lewis II’s 89 “3s” in 2017-18 were the third-most in school history. Lewis II needs 88 points to become DU’s 39th 1,000-point scorer.
• Tydus Verhoeven, who led the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots (71, 2.19/g.), broke the DU freshman record for blocks in a season set by Derrick Alston in 1991 (54). Verhoeven’s 71 blocks - in addition to being the fifth-highest single-season total - rank 8th on DU’s career list.
RECORDS TIED OR SET
Team Single Game
Longest Game - (tied) triple-overtime 101-94 win over La Salle on Jan. 13
Margin of Victory in A-10 Road Game - +23 (64-41) at Fordham on Jan. 6
3-Point Field Goals - 18 vs. Delaware State (18-34) on Dec. 9
Blocked Shots - (tied) 15 vs. George Mason on Jan. 20
Individual Single Game
3-Point Field Goals - 9 by Eric Williams Jr. (9-15) vs. George Mason on Jan. 20
3-Point Field Goal Attempts - (tied) 15 by Eric Williams Jr. (9-15) vs. George Mason on Jan. 20
Points - 34 by Eric Williams Jr. vs. George Mason on Jan. 20
Rebounds - 16 by Eric Williams Jr. vs. Stetson on Dec. 6
Blocked Shots - 9 by Tydus Verhoeven vs. George Mason on Jan. 20
3-Point Field Goals - 67 by Eric Williams Jr. (old record 63 by Mike Lewis II in 2017)
Double-Doubles - (tied) 11 by Eric Williams Jr. (tied mark set by Bruce Atkins in 1979)
Double-Digit Rebound Games - (tied) 14 by Eric Williams Jr. (tied mark set by Bruce Atkins in 1979)
Blocked Shots - 71 by Tydus Verhoeven (old record 54 by Derrick Alston in 1991)