In the midst of a two-game winning streak in the ACC, Pitt traveled to Duke, looking to knock off the No. 5 Blue Devils.
Instead, Duke capitalized on 11 three-pointers and points off turnovers to give Coach K his 999th win of his career, 79-65.
Pitt was a 15-point underdog, which was rare under Jamie Dixon, but the Panthers just do not have the firepower this season.
This young Pitt squad clearly was outmatched by a team full of All-Americans, though Pitt continued to hustle and didn’t collapse in the second half.
Junior point guard James Robinson only scored 2 points and 3 turnovers, and senior guard Cameron Wright scored 4 points. Six points between your two upperclassmen is not enough. Walk-on senior Aron Phillips-Nwankwo scored 4 points off the bench.
For No. 5 Duke (16-2, 4-2 ACC), freshman guard Tyus Jones scored 22 points (4 of 6 from three-point line), freshman center Jahlil Okafor added 14 points, and junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon scored 13 points off the bench.
In the first two and a half minutes, Pitt fell into an early 7-0 hole, as freshman guard Tyus Jones knocked down a three-pointer.
Rasheed Sulaimon came off the bench and had his best game of the season, knocking down four three-pointers to extend the Duke lead to 30-18 with about five minutes remaining.
It’s hard to overcome a large deficit when players who have struggled scoring began to catch fire for Duke. Even Marshall Plumlee knocked down a hook-shot.
A pair of Quinn Cook free throws gave Duke a 17-point advantage, and the Panthers went into halftime facing a serious 41-25 deficit, as Duke shot nearly 50% from the three-point line.
In the second half, Pitt scratched and clawed, shot nearly 60%, but could not stop the Duke offense. Pitt outscored Duke 40-38 in the final half, but the first half deficit was too large to overcome.
A Tyus Jones jumper gave Duke a 62-42 lead, despite Pitt knocking down several shots. With three minutes to go, Michael Young made a lay-up to cut the lead to 75-65, but Pitt could not get any closer than that.
It was a frustrating game to watch, but Pitt is just not as talented as Duke. Freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor proved too powerful inside, and Pitt ran into a hot shooting Blue Devils squad.
The team showed heart in the second half, particularly in Jamel Artis who never gave up. Josh Newkirk had a highlight dunk late in the game, and these sophomores were taught a valuable lesson tonight.
Duke shot 48% from the three-point line (11 of 23). Good luck beating the Blue Devils when they do that. Give credit to Pitt for fighting back in the second half, when they could have folded and been blown out.
Pitt will host No. 10 Louisville next Saturday.