Pittsburgh squared off with No. 4 Duke at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday night in front of the largest crowd the venue had seen all season. But despite the show of support, much of which was for the Blue Devils anyway, the Panthers, who entered the game as 14.5-point underdogs, were beaten 86-56.
As Pitt has made a habit of over its last few games, the team fell behind early, allowing Duke to shoot out to a commanding 16-3 lead less than four minutes after the tipoff. That charge was led by former blue chip Paolo Banchero, who scored seven early points and capped off that run with a dunk.
Pitt’s only three points during that run would come from Jamarius Burton, who knocked down a long-range shot about a minute into the action, and it would be Burton who finally stopped the bleeding by hitting a two-point jumper to make it 16-5 after Jeff Capel called a timeout to settle the team down. John Hugley and the rest of the Panthers would come alive and begin to contribute as well. But with the Blue Devils already far ahead, the Panthers would trail 36-19 at the halftime break.
The Panthers would look more competitive early in the second half, as they did not permit Duke to go on an early run. However, the Blue Devils were unwilling to take their foot off the gas, and as a result, the 17-point lead they had built in the first half remained intact just over five minutes into the final frame, with the score 49-32 at the 14:53 mark.
By the midway point of the second half, Pitt would trail Duke 58-42 despite a 14-point outburst from Hugley after a quiet start to the game. And as the minutes continued to tick away, the Panthers continuously failed to stifle the Blue Devils, allowing their lead to swell to 68-44 by the 8:00 mark. With about three minutes left, Pitt would be behind 82-49. And by the final buzzer, they had lost 86-56.
Pitt was led in the losing effort by John Hugley, who had 19 points and six rebounds. The only other Pitt player to reach double figures was Jamarius Burton, who had 13 points. However, he was limited to four in the final half. Duke saw four players hit double figures but was led by Trevor Keels and Paolo Banchero, who both topped 20 and combined for 48 points.
With the loss, Pitt fell to 11-19 on the season and 6-13 in conference play. Meanwhile, Duke improved to 26-4 overall and 16-3 in the ACC. That leaves just one more game on Pitt’s regular-season schedule, as it is set to face Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday.