PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Among the things the University of Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1) did well in their 80-69 win over the Duquesne Dukes (4-3) in last night’s City Game, two of them in a back-to-back sequence, were agreed by all parties involved to be the dagger that would be the one that killed. The piercing of the skin was the already known and glaring disadvantage for Duquesne, a rebound, and the shove into the gut was an uncontested three.

Fast-forward quickly to the second half.  The Dukes cut the game to within four at the 12 minute, 44 second mark, the closest they would get all night not counting their five point lead, five minutes into the game. Pitt senior guard, Nasir Robinson missed the free throw on an and-one attempt in their next possession, but Pitt got the offensive rebound, one of their 16 to Duquesne’s three, and in that same trip down the floor the ball ended up in an open Ashton Gibbs’ hands beyond the arc, where he converted one of his four threes for the night.   In that 42 seconds—which seemed like about 10—the game went from a four to a nine-point lead for Pitt, and hump where the Dukes just could never see the other side.

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“We have a double-dribble, we have a rebound fall out of our hands, we have a pass that went too long we saved back to them for a dunk. It was that kind of tuning of the tide where we had the ball in what we would consider an advantageous scoring position, and we came away with nothing.  In some cases, gave points back to them.  We would have had a pretty decent chance had we been able to convert on some of those opportunities,” said Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart.

Looking at the stats sheet it seemed the outcome could have been worse for the Dukes, had they not played to their strengths of hustle and pressure defense, forcing 23 turnovers, nine steals and 19 fast break points.  Their 11 point loss seemed like a small disadvantage with Pitt out-rebounding the Dukes 39 to 15, scoring 18 points on second chance shots and having a deep bench that gave them valuable minutes and 34 points.  While shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 52.4 percent from the arc, Pitt, who is ranked 13th in the country in field goal percentage, saw the hoop well.

Junior forward Dante Taylor, who came off the bench for Pitt in his first game back after sitting out the last two with migraines, shot 100 percent for the night, in field goals and his free throws, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.

“It was definitely great to come back after two games and have a game like this,” Taylor said.

Gibbs led the Panthers with 18 points, and Travon Woodall dished seven assists.  Freshman guard John Jonson had a career high nine points, going three for three from beyond the arc, two of which were in the final three minutes of the game.

For Duquesne, junior guard Sean Johnson had a game high 19 points—15 coming in the second half.  Sophomore guard T.J. McConnell played 38 minutes and finished with 15 points,four assists and four steals.  The Dukes, who are averaging over 16 assists per game, only had 13.  They shot just 61.9 percent from the foul line, where they haven’t been consistent, going 13-21.

“We’re going to keep fighting until the end of the game. They made plays down the stretch that took it away from us but we’re going to fight, regardless, every game,” said Duquesne senior B.J. Monterio, who finished the game with nine points, six below his average.

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When Robinson was asked after the game if he thought Duquesne was the smallest lineup they’ve faced so far, he thought for a second and brushed over the direct answer to make sure he gave the guys, who he plays against all summer, credit where it’s deserved.

“Probably so,” he said. “But they play hard. They have a small lineup, but they do a good job.”

Pitt had too many open shots, but Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart knew that there was a chance the help defense the Dukes were playing wouldn’t allow them to recover in time, all of the time.

“When they’re gambling and they leave you, we want to attack and make plays and get some quick shots, some quick threes,” said Pitt head Coach Jamie Dixon.

And that the Panthers did, converting 11 of 21 three pointers, a handful of which were uncontested.

“I thought our kids fought hard. We’ve got really good kids and they work really hard. I didn’t think we played as tough or as intelligently tonight as we’re capable, but in the big picture I liked our effort,” said Coach Everhart.

Some people will want to say this was a good learning experience for Duquesne, a positive thing, and then there will be some who question their ability and program.  I will say, however, the Duquesne players might not have said it outright in a postgame press conference, but they don’t play these games hoping to come close or get positive takeaways.  The only positive takeaway for them is a win, and that speaks volumes, no matter what anyone wants to say.

In case you wanted to know…

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  • This is the 11th straight year Pitt has won The City Game.  They are 49-31 in the matchup over the past 80 years.
  • Last night was a record attendance for The City Game, at 15,880. The previous record was 15,824.
  • This was the third year the two teams played on a neutral site.
  • Dukes sophomore Jerry Jones went 3-3 from the field in 13 minutes of play.
  • Duquesne is back in action taking on Tennessee Tech on Saturday, December 3rd at the A.J. Palumbo Center at 7PM.

Aly Cohen
The Aly Way