The Dukes lost by 23 on the road to the Blue Devils and dropped a 78-51 decision to Pittsburgh Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.
Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, in his third season on the Bluff, believed the two national powers had several similarities.
"The one constant with both teams is that they're very well-coached, and they play extremely hard,'' Everhart said. "I think with both teams, you certainly get effort on every play, but Pitt's effort comes in a little different area than where Duke's does. Duke spends a little more time in pressure defense and tries to take you out of it early on offense.
"I think Pitt's intensity really comes as soon as the ball leaves somebody's hand. They're on the glass like nobody's business. (And) even though they're two different styles the intensity level on the court makes a huge difference and clearly indicate that these teams are two of the best in the country. And it wouldn't surprise me to see both of them in the Final Four.''
Pitt (8-0) certainly didn't play like a Final Four team early on against the Dukes. After getting the opening points on two DeJuan Blair free throws, Duquesne (4-2) scored six straight, including a long-range 3-pointer by guard Jason Duty. The score was tied twice during the first half, and there were eight lead changes, as the Panthers turned the ball over 10 times and made just 40 percent of their shots.
Pitt steadily pulled ahead, however, as Blair and the Panthers front court dominated the boards. Blair made just 4 of 11 first-half shots, while junior guard Jermaine Dixon canned just 3 of 9. He and senior forward Sam Young missed both their first-half treys. Pitt was 1-for-10 from behind the arc during the first half, but still led 36-28 at the intermission.
"We started off a little slow in the first half, but we came out in the second half with a little bit of fire,'' Blair said. "Everybody wanted to turn it up, and we did a good job responding. I don't know why we came out slow. Maybe we didn't have enough energy at the beginning of the game, but Duquesne played good defense. We played bad on offense, but they played hard, too.''
In the second half, Pitt quickly improved its advantage to double figures, as Young got going on offense. He made was 2-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with 23 points. Blair had 14 points and 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end, as the Panthers out-rebounded Duquesne 44-31 overall.
"I thought that we would be able to play with these guys had we been able to score offensively and get good shots,'' Everhart said. "I think we came out of the locker room and turned the ball over three of our first five possessions, and that kind of set the tone for the second half.
"I'd like to think that was us not doing what we were supposed to do, but I'm sure that Pitt had a lot to do with it. They're a very good basketball team that's ranked No. 3 in the country for a reason. They were very technical tonight and executed very well and turned our turnovers into easy baskets.''
At one point in the second half, after Young and sixth-man Gilbert Brown picked up their third personal fouls, Pitt went with a youthful lineup for some three minutes. Freshman Travon Woodall ran the point, while Dixon was at the two. Sophomore Bradley Wanamaker played small forward, and freshman Nasir Robinson was at the four. Sophomore Gary McGhee was the center.
"We got some good performances from some young guys, and we were able to get them a lot of minutes,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We came out in the second half and played a lot better, and that was good to see. ... The turnovers were a little disappointing to me.
"And I felt like we played more of their game in the first half than ours. In the second half, I thought we were a little more patient on defense. And because of that we forced more turnovers. We can force turnovers just from being in the right position, so that's what we talked about doing at halftime.''
Senior point guard Levance Fields scored eight points, primarily since he was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. But he was just 2-for-7 from the field and missed all three treys, as Pitt went 4-for-16 overall from behind the arc. Fields also had 11 assists and four of the team's 18 turnovers.
Blair also had five steals and played tight defense, along with Dixon, for the Panthers. Senior Tyrell Biggs tallied eight points and seven rebounds, but is relatively quiet for a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder. Dixon's shooting has been poor all season, as he has shot 42.9 percent from the field and made just 4 of 22 treys. Among the young guys, Robinson played a little more when Young and Brown got into foul trouble, but freshman guard Ashton Gibbs did not play at all.
Coach Jamie Dixon said that somebody will have to be the odd-man out each game because he can't play 11 guys. Pitt used a 10-player rotation against the Dukes. Dixon added that between Woodall, Wanamaker and Gibbs, neither has separated themselves from the others to earn a permanent spot.
Wanamaker appeared to be tentative, even though he scored eight points and had five rebounds. He was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line, but made just 2 of 5 shots from the field and had three turnovers with no assists. Woodall also did not have an assist and had two turnovers. McGhee doesn't really provide much at either end of the court and is only useful to give Blair a brief break. The Big Fella played 30 minutes to earn his double-double against the Dukes.
Pitt returns to action against Vermont Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Pete.
No. 3 Pitt 78, Duquesne 51
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