The Pittsburgh Panthers (18-3, 6-2) needed a lot of things to go right for them on Monday night in order to defeat the Duke Blue Devils (17-4, 6-2). Senior forward Lamar Patterson having a good game was at the top of that list, and that didn't happen. Duke put sophomore guard Rodney Hood on him, and Hood's length bothered Patterson all night. Despite valiant efforts by several other players, Pitt's defense was poor all night and that caught up to them in their 80 - 65 loss.
The Panthers went into the first media timeout up 8 - 2, as they were able to get to the free-throw line and worked the ball inside. The Blue Devils were able to work themselves back into the game thanks to the three-pointer and freshman sensation Jabari Parker.
Parker's first two baskets of the game were dunks, and every time it looked like Pitt was going to go on a run, Duke made a timely basket. The Panthers got a rare triple from junior guard Cameron Wright that put them up 15 - 9 at the 11:34 mark. However, back-to-back triples by Parker and Hood put the Blue Devils in the lead for the first time, 19 - 17.
Hood also defended Patterson for a large portion of the first half and a bulk of second half. He really bothered Patterson with his length. Patterson wasn't able to penetrate and create for his teammates - perhaps his greatest strength.
When asked about how Duke defended him, particularly Hood, Patterson said, "They denied me the ball the whole game...he did a good job." Coach K praised Patterson, but was happy with how Hood defended him. He said, "They kind of cancelled one another out."
Both teams exchanged baskets over the next several minutes. Freshman forward Jamel Artis made his second triple of the half to give Pitt a one-point edge with just 1:37 remaining in the half. But, a three-pointer by Hood to end the half saw the Blue Devils heading to the locker room with the lead, 34 - 32.
Parker had 16 points and 5 rebounds in the first half. Artis led the Panthers with 8 points.
Duke still held a two-point lead going into the first media timeout of the second half. But, the Pitt defense, which was bad for the entire night, got even worse.
Senior guard Andre Dawkins scored 11 points during a 15-3 run by the Blue Devils that saw them take a 13-point lead with just 5:07 remaining in the game. The Panthers lost track of Dawkins several times at the end of the shot clock. When Patterson was asked if the team wasn't prepared for Dawkins, he responded, "No, we knew he could shoot."
Dixon took accountability for the defensive issues. He said after the game, "We have to get five guys defending as a unit." He went on to say, "We're still a work in progress."
Sophomore forward Amile Jefferson was also big for Duke in the second half. He was very active on the offensive glass, and converted quite a few and-one opportunities. Patterson said of Jefferson, "He killed us in his own way."
The energy got sucked out of the 'Pete' during the Blue Devil's run. Even the Oakland Zoo could barely muster any motivation as Duke made three-pointer after three-pointer. Pitt got shot out of the building in this one, 80 - 65.
Parker led all scorers with 21 points and had a team-high 11 rebounds. Jefferson also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hood added 13 points, including 3-7 from beyond the arc. Dawkins came off the bench to score 20 points, and was a sizzling 6-7 from long-distance. The team finished a combined 13-25 from beyond the arc.
Patterson led the Panthers with 14 points, but was only 4-14 from the field; he also had five turnovers and only one assist. Senior forward Talib Zanna finished the game with 11 points and 11 rebounds, but really struggled finishing around the rim.
In the post-game press conference, Coach K felt it was the biggest win of the season for the Blue Devils, "I think it's our biggest win, because the caliber of the team we played and the venue." Coach Dixon was frustrated with how poorly the defense played. When asked about Patterson's struggles, he replied, "I think we got to do a better job of getting him in position...that falls on me."
Pitt will have six days to prepare for the Virginia Cavaliers at home on Sunday (15-5, 6-1). They have yet to get a win against an opponent in the top-50 of the RPI. I doubt the Panthers will lose back-to-back games at home, but they are going to have to play a lot better defense than they did tonight. Duke will travel to Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) for an ACC showdown on Saturday.