Last year, Duquesne fans were coming off an all-time high following a City Game victory over Pitt when they went into the County Game with Robert Morris on December 6. Morale was high amongst the fanbase and for good reason. The Dukes had beaten the guys from up the street for the first time since 2000 when Aaron Lovelace’s putback pushed the Dukes over the Panthers. There was another threat looming after the City Game though, and it was a team that has been Duquesne’s kryptonite for the better part of a decade: Robert Morris. The Dukes fell to the Colonials 64-60 four days after winning the City Game. Now, the Dukes come in with a different mindset.
Moving into a new era, Duquesne basketball has increased the fanbase’s urgency to get the better of RMU on a yearly basis. Duquesne continuously dominates the rivalry on the gridiron, and with the leaves changing, are primed to take over the rivalry on the hardwood as well. This will be no easy task for the Dukes, as the colonials are very well coached by Andy Toole.
While Toole’s teams are always disciplined, the 2017-2018 version of the Colonials is inexperienced with almost a brand new roster. RMU only returns three players from last year’s roster, two of which played in games.
The Colonials started the season 0-3 after a trip to the West Coast. Will jet lag be a factor for the colonials? Possibly. But as with any rivalry game, the competitive juices will get going and both teams playing at 100% effort.
This week I got the chance to talk with sophomore guard Mike Lewis II, and I was very interested to know what the feeling around the program is for this game and going forward with the City Game coming up as well. I asked Lewis if this is a game that he and his teammates feel like they must win.
“I wouldn’t say a game we have to win. We want to win every game. Everybody wants to be king of the city so beating each other is the quickest way to do that. Of course, you’re excited because it’s another rivalry game and another game that the school cares a lot about.”
With the struggles of the past now in the rearview mirror, I wondered if any more stress had put on this game under Coach Keith Dambrot and staff.
“Coach Dambrot gets after it with everybody we’re playing against. He’s not going to make this game more stressful. We’re going out and watching some film, going over plays and he’s getting us prepared.”
As far as possibly being the kings of Pittsburgh, Lewis says, “It’s cool to hear people say that the times are changing, but of course at the end of the day, we still have to go out there and play the game and beat those guys and after that get ready for our next game. Of course, we have the City Game coming up as well. All of us are competitors, and we want to beat everybody.”
Lewis is right. It’s definitely cool to hear people around the city get excited about Duquesne basketball for the first time since Ron Everhart was the coach. People know Keith Dambrot and the amazing job he did at Akron. The first two games at Duquesne have inspired more confidence with increased stress on playing 40 minutes on the defensive end and taking care of the ball.
You know what would make people talk more and get even more excited about Duquesne basketball? A win over Robert Morris and then a repeat win in the City Game in December.
Pittsburgh loves winners.
They fell in love with the Pitt teams of the Howland/Dixon era and even to a lesser extent the Robert Morris teams under Mike Rice and early into the Andy Toole tenure. Winning the county game is the necessary first step in winning the hearts and entertainment money of the people of Pittsburgh.
Kings of the city?
With Dambrot, Lewis and company in the driver’s seat, I wouldn’t put it past them to be just that.