PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cameron Wright scored a career-high 20 points and Pitt pulled away in the second half for a 84-67 victory over Duquesne in the City Game on Saturday afternoon.
Wright added five assists and five rebounds in 36 minutes for the Panthers (7-0). Talib Zanna had 13 points and six rebounds and Lamar Patterson chipped in 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Pitt beat its crosstown rival for the 13th straight time.
Ovie Soko led Duquesne (2-3) with 17 points but the Dukes couldn’t keep pace over the final 15 minutes. Pitt put together a 15-1 run early in the second half to break it open. The Dukes made 9 of 18 3-pointers but shot just 18 of 35 (51 percent) from the free throw line.
The result was a competitive game but one with a familiar outcome.
The Panthers have dominated the series between the two schools located just 2 miles apart. Pitt has now won 32 of the last 35 meetings and all but one this millennium, with 11 of those victories coming by double digits.
This one, however, was tougher than usual.
The Panthers used a quick 12-0 run to take control early, but the Dukes eventually settled down in what second-year coach Jim Ferry calls a “measuring stick” game for his program.
Soko led the way. The UAB transfer looked rushed while missing a series of shots at the rim but once he found his footing, the Dukes took off.
Duquesne used a 22-7 surge midway through the first half to take the lead. Soko had little trouble getting whatever look he wanted no matter who the Panthers threw out to guard him. When pitted against Zanna, Soko broke down the bigger center off the dribble. When facing Michael Young or Jamel Artis, he used his strength to the lane.
Soko’s resiliency produced the kind of back and forth play the Panthers have largely avoided while sprinting to the eighth 6-0 start in the last 12 years. Pitt needed a dunk from Patterson and a putback by Artis to take a 39-35 lead at the break, the closest any opponent has been to the Panthers at the break all year.
It didn’t last.
Tra’Vaughn White hit a 3-pointer to put the Dukes up 44-41 less than 3 minutes into the second half, earning a quick timeout from Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. White’s jumper appeared to get the Panthers’ attention, and they responded behind Wright. He scored seven points during the game-turning run, including a difficult layup in traffic in which he absorbed a massive blow to the ribs from Duquesne’s Darius Lewis.
Josh Newkirk followed with a jumper, and Patterson converted a layup and the ensuing free throw off an inbounds play to make it 56-45.
The Dukes never got closer than eight the rest of the way, though the first 25 minutes were proof that Jim Ferry’s rebuilding project is well under way in a game he called a measuring stick for his young program, which features just two seniors and 11 freshmen or sophomores.
Ferry is optimistic about the future, though it may be awhile before he gets a sense of what he has on his hands. Guard Micah Mason is out 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in right hand. Freshman forward Isaiah Watkins is still recovering from left knee surgery in October and freshman forward Jordan Robinson is waiting to be cleared to play by NCAA.
Duquesne had just nine scholarship players on the roster Saturday and the Dukes wore down under the relentless play from the suddenly up-tempo Panthers, who are averaging nearly 82 points a game this season.
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