The Pitt Panthers men’s basketball team fell 80-65 to Duke in a battle of top-20 ACC foes on ESPN’s Big Monday.
Leading the way at Petersen Events Center was Duke freshman Jabari Parker, who had 21 and 11 rebounds while teammate Andre Dawkins added 20 points in 15 minutes.
Pitt (18-3, 6-2 ACC) was led by Lamar Patterson’s 14 points while Talib Zanna had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Blue Devils (17-4, 6-2 ACC) outscored the Panthers in the paint 28-16, on second-chance points (20-7) and bench points (29-12).
“We won a hard-fought game and I have a lot of respect for Pitt, not just this team but their program is off the charts,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’ve established themselves as one of the premier programs in the country and they have a heck of a team this year.
“I thought we really cared for the ball with seven turnovers and 19 assists. I think Andre [Hawkins] was the difference. When you go 6 for 7 from three, it’s pretty darn good.”
Pitt opened the game on an 8-2 run, however Duke recovered to trail 15-13 at the 10 minute mark. The Blue Devils took their first lead when Rodney Hood made a three point shot.
The Blue Devils made 13 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from beyond the arc. This was another difference maker in the game.
“Obviously, our guys didn’t recognize that they could shoot the ball as well as they did,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “You have to be able to get the message across to them and I simply didn’t. If they felt we were going to win by playing defense like that, I obviously didn’t get the point across like I wanted to.”
From there, there teams battled back and forth, but at the half it was Duke on top 34-32.
Another key for Duke was controlling Patterson who shot 4 for 14 from the field and had just one assist in comparison to five turnovers.
“Well, he’s one of the premier players in the country,” Krzyzewski said of Patterson. “Rodney [Hood] is a heck of a player too. They’re two of the best players and they kind of cancelled one another out. Both of those kids have to be exhausted. Thank goodness we have a player of Rodney’s caliber to guard him.”
“He’s [Patterson] had like a player-of-the-year type of year, but tonight we were able to hold him down a little bit and Rodney was the main reason for that.”
Pitt tried to respond with timely shooting in the second half; however, every time it scored, Duke seemed to have a response. Since they’re used to their Cameron Crazies cheering section at home, the Blue Devils were unfazed by the Oakland Zoo, although Krzyzewski is a fan.
“It’s the first time I’ve coached here and I was just really impressed with everything,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a beautiful arena, the crowd is terrific and there’s a great spirit. What an addition to the ACC. Until you experience it, you don’t know, but it’s great.
“For me, my mom grew up in Western Pennsylvania near Uniontown in a little village called Keisterville and we have a lot of respect for the people here. There are good people in this region. I mean really good people. I was so impressed when the Star-Spangled Banner was being played with the crowd.
“I felt, you know, like ‘Go U.S.A.!’ It was really good. Their program, this university, the crowd and everything and what they’ve built is a great, great addition to what I think will be the best basketball conference in the country.”
Up three midway through the second half, Duke found Quinn Cook in the corner for a 3-point shot. This was in the early stages of what became a 15-2 run.
“We didn’t execute on defense the whole second half,” James Robinson said. “We were able to keep it somewhat close but for the whole second half we didn’t play defense. Once we stopped trading buckets, we didn’t get any stops.”
Time then ran out on Pitt, giving Duke what Krzyzewski called the team’s “biggest win.”
“I specifically didn’t think our defense was good early in the first half,” Dixon said. “Obviously we got down two by halftime and I thought we would come out and defend better and we simply didn’t. Give them credit, they got themselves into a rhythm and made shots, specifically threes.
“They out-rebounded us and when they missed shots they were able to get to those long rebounds. They played well and I don’t think we did, so that is the result that we end up with.”
A total of 12,944 people attended the game which is an on-campus and Petersen Events Center record.
Pitt will next host Virginia (15-5, 6-1 ACC) Sunday at 12:30 p.m.