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Crowd watching Creighton/Akron game at PPG Paints Arena distracted by Duquesne’s victory in Omaha

For several moments Thursday afternoon, the crowd at PPG Paints Arena divided its attention between the Creighton/Akron game and what was happening 839 miles away in Omaha, Neb.

During a timeout while Creighton was defeating Akron, 77-60, in an NCAA Tournament first-round game, arena officials used the overhead scoreboard to show the telecast of the final moments of Duquesne’s 71-67 upset of BYU in Omaha.

After the timeout, the Duquesne game came off the scoreboard, triggering a round of boos from the crowd before it returned almost immediately in a smaller window.

Then, when the Dukes’ victory was final, pockets of fans, including some from Creighton, gave Duquesne, the host school, a standing ovation.

“It was a little strange to play the game with that going on,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “because the cheers and the oohs and ahs didn’t really match up to what was going on on the floor in front of us. So, that was somewhat challenging for our guys.”

Longtime friends, McDermott and Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot competed against each other when McDermott was at Northern Iowa and Dambrot was the Akron coach.

“What a great way for him to go out as his career is winding down,” McDermott said of Dambrot, who will retire at the end of the season. “He’s tremendously respected in our profession, and good things happen to good people sometimes, and he deserved that.”

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AP

Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot signals to his team as they played against BYU in the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Omaha, Neb.

 

On the opposing bench, coach John Groce, who replaced Dambrot as Akron’s coach in 2017, said he planned to speak to his former rival later Thursday night. Groce, who formerly coached at Illinois and Ohio University, competed against Dambrot when both men were in the Mid-American Conference.

“A big reason why I ended up coming to Akron was because of Keith and all the success that he had had (there) and the battles we had had when I was at Ohio,” Groce said. “I was attracted to that (job) in large part because of Keith.”

Groce said Wednesday that he hired some support staff people at Illinois based on Dambrot’s recommendation.

“Great respect for him as a coach, person,” he said. “You know, Keith is a huge part of Akron, the city, the university, what he did there. You know, he’s one of ours. We’re excited for him and his team and what they’ve done this year … very thankful for what he means to Akron basketball and our program and always will (be).”

Jerry DiPaola is a TribLive reporter covering Pitt athletics since 2011. A Pittsburgh native, he joined the Trib in 1993, first as a copy editor and page designer in the sports department and later as the Pittsburgh Steelers reporter from 1994-2004. He can be reached at [email protected].



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