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Pitt comeback against Duke falls short as Panthers lose, 79-67

Pitt made a game of things but simply ran out of gas against No. 9 Duke, losing 79-67 on Tuesday night.

Pitt (13-8) hung with Duke (17-3) for a good chunk of the first half. That was despite (another) slow start that saw them get behind 9-2. But later in the half, the wheels started coming off the track. Pitt went another few minutes without scoring and if you blinked, you might have missed the lead balloon into double digits. The decisive stretch there came as Duke knocked down five three-pointers in the last six minutes before hitting a sixth right out of halftime. That turned a three-point game into one that saw Pitt trail by 14.

The lead would grow even bigger than that but Pitt fought back late in the second half, cutting the lead to three with about four minutes to play. But Duke made shots down the stretch after that and Pitt just couldn’t keep up. Fittingly, the Panthers ended the game as they began it — with a major scoring drought, with only one field goal in the last four minutes.

The star for Pitt tonight was clearly Au’Diese Toney, who had a career-high 27 points. That’s his second really strong game out of the past three as he had 16 points in the win against Boston College. But, again, it’s about finding consistency across the board. One guy plays well and others struggle. Trey McGowens (0-7 with two points) laid an egg. Xavier Johnson scored nine points but was only 3-10 from the field. Ryan Murphy was scoreless and only took one shot. Just not nearly enough for a game like this and without Toney tonight, Pitt’s not even competitive tonight.

Putting the actual result of this game aside, one thing I just love about this team is how they don’t give up. You get down 18 on the road in the second half to a top ten team and still manage to come back like that? The Panthers just have a way of getting down big but not giving up, which is hard not to appreciate. The flip side, of course, is that, well, it’d be nice to avoid those big deficits altogether.

I can’t get upset about a game like this. Maybe you look at how close they got and are frustrated about that. But really, it’s one of those games you chalk up as an ‘L’ at the beginning of the season and, coming in tonight, you just didn’t expect to win, anyway. If you tell me Pitt could be down only three under five minutes left, you take that. Close, but just not enough, and it’s hard to be too upset here.

Next up for Pitt is a home game against Miami on Sunday.

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